31 Jan. 2008

Brendan Nelson's Head Explodes


This is pretty funny. Suddenly the Conga Line of Suckholes is a diverse collection of independent minds:
Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says it "beggars belief" that Labor is totally united on the question of an apology to the indigenous stolen generation...

Dr Nelson said there were a range of views in the coalition, which reflected the breadth of opinion in the community.
I suppose it also "beggars belief" that everyone in the government might oppose sex with animals, or Holocaust denialism, or illegal wars of pre-emption based on lies and greed, but no doubt the more open minds in the Coalition are prepared to give such things a fair hearing. Right?

30 Jan. 2008

One Million Dead Iraqis

NOW DO YOU BELIEVE ME????!!!
A new study estimates that more than 1 million Iraqis have died because of the war in Iraq since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

Data compiled by London-based Opinion Research Business (ORB) and its research partner in Iraq, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS) reveals a fifth of Iraqi households lost at least one family member between March 2003 and August 2007 due to the conflict.

The study based its findings on survey work involving the face-to-face questioning of 2,414 Iraqi adults aged 18 or above, and the last complete census in Iraq in 1997, which indicated a total of 4.05 million households.

Respondents were asked how many members of their household, if any, had died as a result of the violence in the country since 2003, and not because of natural causes.

"We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been in the order of 1,033,000," ORB said in a statement.

The margin of error for the survey was 1.7 per cent, making the estimated range between 946,000 and 1.12 million fatalities.
Seriously, what does it matter if the number is 30,000 (as Bush would pretend) or even 2 million? The scale of death is horrific, and the lies that lead to such wholesale slaughter MUST be exposed.

The Australian government, and hence the Australian people, are complicit in this murder. You wanna talk about Stolen Generations? We just massacred another million people in Iraq. You wanna talk about owning up to the mistakes of "history"? History is being written today!

29 Jan. 2008

Money Talks, But Who's Listening?

Australian cricket has just confirmed that the international game is a total farce:
At Cricket Australia's urging, the charge was downgraded from the level-three offence covering racial abuse to a level-two offence covering obscene language. The move was initially met with fierce resistance by the five Australian players involved in the hearing, all of whom were intent on seeking the maximum punishment for Harbhajan. But all begrudgingly agreed to the downgrade after taking legal advice from Cricket Australia's lawyer, Dean Kino.

The decision was made by mutual consent between Cricket Australia and the Indian board.

It appears to have saved the tour, scheduled to continue with the Twenty20 International at the MCG on Friday night, and the triangular one-day series involving Australia, India and Sri Lanka...
It's time for Australian cricket fans to vote with their pockets. Boycott the games, switch off the tele, and let them know who's boss.

And hey! If you are looking for sports entertainment, why not switch to soccer?

"This story no longer exists"

What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?

SIBEL!!! A MUST READ!!!

Gary Leupp:
I am not one to easily embrace conspiracy theories, and in particular have found the idea that 9-11 was somehow an inside job too incredible for serious consideration. On the other hand, there are some very fishy aspects to some officials’ behavior pertaining to the attacks. Justin Raimondo has made a very good case for the fact that Mossad agents posing as “Israeli art students” were tracking al-Qaeda operatives in the U.S. before 9/11.

Over 120 Israelis were detained after 9/11, some failing polygraph tests when asked about their involvement in intelligence gathering. But they were not held or charged with any illegal activity but rather deported. As former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds has revealed, there was a curious failure of the government before 9/11 to act upon intelligence pertaining to an al-Qaeda attack. Most importantly Edmonds, defying the gag order that former Attorney General Ashcroft imposed on her in 2002, is implicating Marc Grossman, formerly the number three man in the State Department, in efforts to provide US nuclear secrets to Pakistan and Israel. She suggests this was done through Turkish and Pakistani contacts, including the former head of Pakistan’s ISI who funneled funds to Mohamed Atta! Now there’s a conspiracy for you.

Edmonds claims that during her time at the FBI (September 20, 2001 to March 22, 2002) she discovered that intelligence material had been deliberately allowed to accumulate without translation; that inept translators were retained and promoted; and that evidence for traffic in nuclear materials was ignored. More shockingly, she charges that Grossman arranged for Turkish and Israeli Ph.D. students to acquire security clearances to Los Alamos and other nuclear facilities; and that nuclear secrets they acquired were transmitted to Pakistan and to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father of the Islamic bomb,” who in turn was selling nuclear technology to Libya and other nations.

She links Grossman to the former Pakistani military intelligence chief Mahmoud Ahmad, a patron of the Taliban, who reportedly arranged for a payment of $100,000 to 9/11 ringleader Atta via Pakistani terrorist Saeed Sheikh before the attacks. She suggests that he warned Pakistani and Turkish contacts against dealings with the Brewster Jennings Corp., the CIA front company that Valerie Plame was involved in as part of an effort to infiltrate a nuclear smuggling ring. All very heady stuff, published this month in The Times of London (and largely ignored by the U.S. media).

She does not identify Grossman by name in the Times article, but she has in the past, and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi does so in an extremely interesting article in the American Conservative. From that and many other sources, I come up with the timeline that appears below.

But first, some background on Grossman. A graduate of UC Santa Barbara and the London School of Economics, he was a career Foreign Service officer from 1976 when he began to serve at the US embassy in Pakistan. He continued in that post to 1983, when he became the Deputy Director of the Private Office of Lord Carrington, the Secretary General of NATO. From 1989 to 1992 he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Turkey, and from 1994 to 1997, US Ambassador to Turkey. As ambassador he strongly supported massive arms deals between the US and Ankara.

Thereafter he was Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, responsible for over 4,000 State Department employees posted in 50 sites abroad with a program budget of $1.2 billion to 2000. In 1999 he played a leading role in orchestrating NATO’s 50th anniversary Summit in Washington, and helped direct US participation in NATO’s military campaign in Kosovo that same year. As Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from the beginning of George W. Bush’s administration to January 2005, he played a bit role in the Plame Affair, informing “Scooter” Libby of Plame’s CIA affiliation.

Grossman is close to the American Turkish Council (ATC) founded in 1994 as a sister organization to the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Its founders include neoconservatives involved in the Israel-Turkey relationship, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, as well as Henry Kissinger, Brent Snowcroft and former congressman Stephen Solarz. (Perle and Feith had earlier been registered lobbyists for Turkey through Feith’s company, International Advisors Inc. Perle was at one point making $600,000 per year from such activity). Edmonds says this is “an association in name and in charter only; the reality is that it and other affiliated associations are the US government, lobbyists, foreign agents, and Military Industrial Complex.” (M. Christine Vick of Grossman’s Cohen Group serves on the Board of Advisors.) Grossman is also close to the American Turkish Association (ATA), and regularly speaks at its events.

Both ATA and ATC have been targets of FBI investigations because of their suspected ties with drug smuggling, but Edmonds claims she heard wiretaps connecting ATC with other illegal activities, some related to 9/11. The CIA has investigated it in connection with the smuggling of nuclear secrets and material. Valerie Plame and the CIA front group Brewster Jennings were monitoring it when Bush administration officials leaked her identity in July 2003. Edmonds, Giraldi, and researchers Christopher Deliso and Luke Ryland accuse him of suspiciously enriching himself while in government service. Nevertheless he was awarded the Foreign Service’s highest rank when President Bush appointed him to the rank of Career Ambassador in 2004, and received Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award the following year.

A dual Israeli-American national, Grossman has promoted the neocon agenda of forcing “regime change” in the Middle East. “[T]he time has come now,” he declared on the eve of the Iraq invasion, “to make a stand against this kind of connection between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. And we think Iraq is a place to make that stand first . . . the great threat today is the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.” But he has not been as conspicuous a war advocate as Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Libby, Bolton, and some others. (Perle and Feith, one should note, were also deeply involved in lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey as well as Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Edelman was ambassador to Turkey 2003-05 where, chagrined by the Turkish failure to enthusiastically support the US occupation of Iraq, he deeply offended his hosts.) Grossman seems less an ideologue driven to make the world safer for Israel than a corrupt, amoral, self-aggrandizing opportunist. Anyway, here is an incomplete chronology of his alleged wrongdoing, along with other relevant details.

2001

As newly appointed Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Grossman assists Turkish, Israeli and other moles — mainly Ph.D. students — godfathering visa and arranging for security clearances to work in sensitive research facilities, including the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico. FBI taps his phone 2001-2, finds he is receiving bribes (one for $15,000). Edmonds states: “I heard at least three transactions like this over a period of 2½ years. There are almost certainly more.”

Between August and September: Grossman warns his Turkish associates seeking to acquire nuclear secrets that Brewster Jennings (for whom CIA agent Valerie Plame works) is a CIA front.

Sept. 4: Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad, the chief of Pakistan ’s intelligence service (ISI) arrives in US, meets with Grossman and other U.S. officials.

Sept. 10: Report by Amir Mateen in Pakistani newspaper Dawn ( Karachi ): “[Ahmad] also held long parleys with unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon. But the most important meeting was with Mark Grossman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. US sources would not furnish any details beyond saying that the two discussed ‘matters of mutual interests.’”

Sept. 11: Gen. Ahmad is having breakfast in Washington with Congressman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) and Senator Bob Graham (D) when attacks occur.

(Goss had had 10 years in clandestine operations in CIA and later — September 22, 2003-May 5, 2006 — heads the organization. Graham and Goss later are the co-chairs of the joint House-Senate investigation that proclaimed there was “no smoking gun” as far as President George W. Bush having any advance knowledge of September 11.)

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, FBI arrests people suspected of being involved with the attacks — including four Turkish and Pakistani associates of key targets of FBI’s counterintelligence operations. Sibel heard the targets tell Grossman: “We need to get them out of the U.S. because we can’t afford for them to spill the beans.” Grossman facilitates their release from jail and suspects immediately leave US without further investigation or interrogation.

Sept. 12-13: Meetings between Ahmad and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage threatens to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” unless it cooperates in US attack on Afghanistan. Ahmad also meets Secretary of State Colin Powell. Agreement on Pakistan’s collaboration is secured.

Sept. 20: Sibel Edmonds, a 32-year-old Turkish-American, hired as a translator by the FBI.

According to Edmonds, she overheard an agent on a 2000 wiretap discussing with Saudi businessmen in Detroit “nuclear information that had been stolen from an air force base in Alabama,” and stating: “We have a package and we’re going to sell it for $250,000.” She also claims she listened to recordings of a high official (Grossman) receiving bribes from Turkish officials.

Early October: Indian intelligence reports that Gen. Ahmad had in summer of 2001 ordered Saeed Sheikh (convicted of the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl) to wire US$100,000 from Dubai to one of hijacker Mohamed Atta’s two bank accounts in Florida. FBI confirms story, reported on ABC news.

Oct. 7: US-led Coalition begins air strikes against Taliban.

Oct. 8: Gen. Ahmad, Taliban supporter and an opponent of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, forced to retire from his post as director-general of ISI.

Late Oct.: Pakistani government arrests three Pakistani nuclear scientists, all with close ties to Khan, for their suspected connections with the Taliban.

2002

Early March: Edmonds sends faxes to Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy on the Judiciary Committee, is called in for polygraph test; Department of Justice inspector general’s report states “she was not deceptive in her answers.”

March: Grossman keynote speaker at ATC conference.

March 22: Edmunds fired, allegedly for shoddy work, security breaches.

Oct. 27: Edmonds appears on CBS’ 60 Minutes program.

Dec: Grossman visits Turkey, approves $3 billion US aid to Turkey for the Iraq Cooperation deal.

2003

March 3: In interview for Dutch television, Grossman says, “[T]he time has come now to make a stand against this kind of connection between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. And we think Iraq is a place to make that stand first . . . the great threat today is the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.”

May 29: Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff “Scooter” Libby asks Grossman for information about news report about the secret envoy sent by the CIA to Africa in 2002. Grossman requests a classified memo from Carl Ford, the director of the State Department’s intelligence bureau, and later orally briefs Libby on its contents.

Mid-June: Powell and his deputy secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy of the Grossman memo.

June 10: Grossman asks the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) for a briefing on the Niger uranium issue, and specifically the State Department’s opposition to the continuing White House view that Iraq had tried to buy yellow cake. The resulting memo is dated the same day, and drawn from notes on the February 19 meeting at the CIA on the Wilson mission and other sources. Memo is classified “Top Secret,” and contains in one paragraph, separately marked “(S/NF)” for “Secret/No dissemination to foreign governments or intelligence agencies,” two sentences describing in passing Valerie “Wilson’s” identity as a CIA operative and her role in the inception of the Wilson trip to Niger. This June 10 memo reportedly does not use her maiden name Plame.

June 17-July 9: Senate Judiciary Committee holds unclassified hearings on Edmunds’ allegations.

June 19: letter from Senior Republican Senator, Charles Grassley, and Senior Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy to Inspector General Glenn A. Fine concerning Edmonds’ allegations.

July 14: Robert Novak reveals Plame’s CIA identity.

July 22: Edmonds files suit against the Department of Justice, the FBI, and several high-level officials, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated from the FBI in retaliation for reporting criminal activities committed by government employees.

Aug. 13: letter from two senators to Attorney General Ashcroft concerning Sibel Edmonds’ allegations.

Aug. 15: 600 victims of the 9/11 attacks file suit (Burnett v. Al Baraka Investment & Dev. Corp.), request from Edmonds deposition providing evidence for US government foreknowledge of 9-11 attacks.

Sept. 22: Goss made CIA Director (resigns May 5, 2006).

Oct. 18, 2002: Attorney General John Ashcroft invokes the State Secrets Privilege (requested not by Justice Department but by State department) in order to prevent disclosure of the nature of Edmonds’ work on the grounds that it would endanger national security, and asked that her wrongful termination suit be dismissed, in effect placing Edmonds under a gag order.

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) expresses outrage at gag order, promises that a Democratic majority in Congress would conduct hearings. (This has not been done.)

Oct. 28: Letter from two senators to FBI Director Robert Mueller concerning Sibel Edmonds’ allegations.

Dec. 11, 2003, Attorney General Ashcroft again invoking the State Secrets Privilege, files a motion calling for Edmonds’ deposition in Burnett v. Al Baraka case be suppressed and for the entire case to be dismissed. The judge, seeking more information, orders government to produce any unclassified material relating to the case. In response, Ashcroft submits further statements to justify the use of the State Secrets Privilege.

Dec: Grossman back in Turkey to approve Turkey ’s eligibility to participate in tenders for Iraq’s reconstruction.

2004

Grossman achieves Foreign Service’s highest rank when President Bush appoints him to rank of Career Ambassador.

Patrick Leahy calls for investigation; Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republican Chairman of the Senate, blocks it.

May 13: Ashcroft retroactively classifies all material that had been provided to Senate Judiciary Committee in 2000 relating to Edmond’s lawsuit, as well as the senators’ letters that had already been posted on-line by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

June 23: POGO files lawsuit against Justice Department for classifying material it had published; Justice Department fails to get the case dismissed.

July 6: Edmonds suit dismissed on state secrets grounds.

July: Edmonds files appeal. On same day, Inspector General releases unclassified summary of a highly classified report on an investigation that had concluded “that many of her allegations were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services. . . Rather than investigate Edmonds’ allegations vigorously and thoroughly, the FBI concluded that she was a disruption and terminated her contract.”

August: Edmonds founds the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) to address US security weaknesses.

December: Grossman the key speaker at an ATC Conference held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

2005

Grossman receives Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award.

January: Grossman quits his government job. Eric Edelman, another former ambassador to Turkey, takes job of Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

January: Pakistani nuclear engineer A.Q. Khan confesses to having been involved in a clandestine international network of nuclear weapons technology proliferation from Pakistan to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Feb. 5: Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf announces he has pardoned Khan. US response is mild.

March: Grossman made vice-chairman of Cohen Group.

Feb. 18: Justice Department under new attorney general backs away from claim that documents posted by POGO were classified.

April 21: In the hours before the hearing of her appeal, three judges issued a ruling that barred all reporters and the public from the courtroom. During the proceedings, Edmonds was not allowed into the courtroom for the hearing.

May 6: Edmonds’ case dismissed, no reason provided, no opinion cited.

May 14: In open letter, Edmonds states the governments wants to silence her to “protect certain diplomatic relations” and to “protect certain U.S. foreign business relations.” Says the “foreign relations” mentioned in the gag order “are not in the interest of, or of benefit to, the majority of Americans, but instead serve and protect a small minority.”

June 20: Edmonds writes: “(In) April 2001, a long-term FBI informant/asset who had been providing the bureau with information since 1990, provided two FBI agents and a translator with specific information regarding a terrorist attack being planned by Osama Bin Laden. For almost four years since September 11, officials refused to admit to having specific information regarding the terrorists’ plans to attack the United States. The Phoenix Memo, received months prior to the 9/11 attacks, specifically warned FBI HQ of pilot training and their possible link to terrorist activities against the US. Four months prior to the terrorist attacks the Iranian asset provided the FBI with specific information regarding the ‘use of airplanes’, ‘major US cities as targets’, and ‘Osama Bin Laden issuing the order.’ Coleen Rowley likewise reported that specific information had been provided to FBI HQ.”

July 20: Unidentified as a “retired state department official” Grossman tells AP that a classified State Department memo disputed the legitimacy of administration claims that Iraq sought to acquire uranium from Niger, also contained a few lines about Plame Wilson’s CIA employment, marked as secret.

August 5: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) petitioned for the Supreme Court of the United States to review the lower courts’ application of the State Secret Privilege in both lawsuits. The ACLU claims that the courts conflated the State Secrets Privilege and the Totten rule.

Sept. 28: Washington Post cites unnamed former administration source (Grossman) as stating that the outing of Plame was “Clearly . . . meant purely and simply for revenge.”

Oct. 28: In Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Grossman is the Under Secretary of State mentioned as giving information about Plame to Libby.

November: Grossman attends lavish Turkish Ottoman Dinner Gala, receives award from Turkish lobby group, the Assembly of American Turkish Association (ATAA) in Chicago.

Nov. 28: the Supreme Court declined to review the decisions made in the Edmonds case.

2006

March: Grossman the key speaker at the ATC annual conference.

June: Grossman key speaker at MERIA Conference, discussing Turkey’s importance to US and Israel.

Sept. 2006: a documentary about Sibel Edmonds’ case called Kill The Messenger (”Une Femme à Abattre”) premiers in France. (watch film here)

2007

January 24: Grossman first to testify in Libby trial. Says he informed Libby of Plame’s involvement “in about 30 seconds of conversation” in June 2003.

November: Grossman subpoenaed by defense in AIPAC trial.

Nov. 26: Grossman, now Vice Chairman of the consulting firm the Cohen Group, attends a major Security Conference in Riga, Latvia.

2008

January: Edmonds posts, without comment, photos of current and former officials and Turkish associates on website: Richard Perle, Eric Edelman, Marc Grossman, Brent Snowcroft, Larry Franklin, Ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Roy Blunt (R-Mo), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Tom Lantos (D-Ca.), Bob Livingston (ex-House Speaker, R-La.), Stephen Solarz (D-NY), Graham Fulle (RAND), David Makovsky (WINEP), Martin Markovsky (WINEP), Yusuf Turani (president in exile of Turkmenistan), Prof. Sabri Sayari (Columbia University, WINEP), Mehmet Eymur (former head of Turkish counter-terrorism).

Jan. 6: The Times of London carries story, “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets.” States that a high official “was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.” Claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials — including household names — who were aiding foreign agents.

“If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials.”

Jan. 22: White House issues statement declaring its intention to approve sale of nuclear secrets to Turkey; Joshua Frank writes on January 25, “It appears the White House has been spooked by Edmonds and hopes to absolve the US officials allegedly involved in the illegal sale of nuclear technology to private Turkish ‘entities’.” Frank identifies Grossman as one of these officials.

* * * * *

Edmonds is tirelessly and fearlessly campaigning for Congressman Waxman, now chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to hold hearings. She says that FBI agents and even former Turkish intelligence officials are willing and able to validate her charges. But the congressman hesitates, perhaps fearing the storm of indignation that explosive evidence will produce in a country sick of its politicians, the lying neocons, and the war. Should they discover that, while disseminating disinformation about foreign nukes in order to fearmonger and build support for aggressive war, some of these officials were actually peddling nuclear secrets — committing treason while receiving honors for their patriotic service — the response could be explosive.

The Office of Special Plans under Abram Shulsky and Douglas Feith cherry-picked the intelligence vetted through the New York Times to terrify people into supporting an attack on Iraq. Democratic leaders have in the past urged an investigation of that spooky office, but furnished the opportunity since November 2006, they have declined to hold hearings. The Italian parliament conducted a study of the Niger uranium hoax, fingering neocon Michael Ledeen as a key suspect in forging documents designed to provide a casus belli before the Iran attack. Congress does nothing to follow up. In effect they are saying that the administration has a right to lie to the people. The presidential pardon granted Libby is a clear statement that it’s okay to punish whistleblowers like Joseph Wilson. The Supreme Court refuses to hear Edmonds’ appeal. It seems that all three branches of government compete to coddle the most unscrupulous and lawless officials, while marginalizing or punishing honest citizens who expose the rot.

The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate undercutting the administration’s case for attacking Iran indicates that there are in the US intelligence community persons alarmed by the administration’s lies and efforts to justify more aggression based on lies. It enrages the neocons who, with Norman Podhoretz in the lead, have been praying for Bush to bomb Iran. The arrest and conviction of Feith subordinate Larry Franklin shows that within the FBI there are forces disturbed at the close connections between the neocons, Israeli intelligence, and the Israel lobby and are willing to take action against lawbreaking. But Feith and Perle have both been investigated before, Perle for discussing classified information with Israeli Embassy staff in an FBI-monitored phone call in Washington in 1970. But the cases dropped for apparent political reasons. Perhaps the Grossman story will gain some traction. Maybe it will prove egregious enough that the tide will turn. Maybe Bush’s last year of office will see the neocons’ thorough exposure, humiliation and defeat.

Or maybe Waxman, Rep. Conyers and others in positions to honestly confront this most mendacious of administrations will continue to dither, feeding the assumption of the most vicious, cynical and corrupt that they are indeed above the law. And earning the contempt of those naïve enough to expect serious congressional oversight of a rogue regime.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu.

28 Jan. 2008

On the face of it, this story looks like just one more example of Howard's pitiful descent into farce:
FORMER prime minister John Howard attempted a comeback to the Liberal Party within weeks of his defeat in November's election, senior Liberals have revealed.
Several party sources have confirmed Mr Howard put himself forward as the next Liberal Party president to replace outgoing Chris McDiven.

"Howard contacted people to make it known he wanted the presidency," one source said.

But Mr Howard's candidacy was immediately scoffed at by senior Liberals. They were amazed he seemed to want a role so soon after the Liberals' worst defeat, senior sources said.

"They told him: don't be ridiculous," a source said.

"Howard wanted the presidency so that he could control the review process the party was conducting into why the Howard government lost and what needed to be done," one source said.

"He wanted to control the way the history of the Howard Government was written."
There is another explanation, of course: perhaps Howard is so fearful of what lies ahead for him that he is desperate to cling to power by any means. Perhaps it's not so much a case of writing the history books as staying out of jail?

Wanker Of The Day

It's a toss-up of tossers: who can fawn over the dead dictator best? Murdoch's Greg Sheridan and the Australian government's former front man, Richard Woolcott, go head-to-head.

For more informed discussion, see Prof. Quiggin and especially John Pilger:
In 1993, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian Parliament reported that "at least 200,000" had died under Indonesia's occupation: almost a third of the population. And yet East Timor's horror, which was foretold and nurtured by the U.S., Britain, and Australia, was actually a sequel. "No single American action in the period after 1945," wrote the historian Gabriel Kolko, "was as bloodthirsty as its role in Indonesia, for it tried to initiate the massacre." He was referring to Suharto's seizure of power in 1965-1966, which caused the violent deaths of up to a million people.

To understand the significance of Suharto, who died on Sunday, is to look beneath the surface of the current world order: the so-called global economy and the ruthless cynicism of those who run it...
ICH hosts Pilger's video, Death Of A Nation. Sometimes you wonder why people like Pilger have not been killed, and then you realise the mistake that dictators like Suharto tend to make: overstretch has a killer backlash effect.

Would the Bali bombings have happened if Australia had not supported Suharto and Bush?

Howard Wrote His Own Citizenship Test

It looks like former PM John Howard was using the royal "we" when he said that "we will decide who comes to our country, and the circumstances in which they come." The ridiculous Donald Bradman question is just one of many in the new citizenship test that was apparently personally written by Howard:
The Bradman question asks prospective citizens to name Australia's greatest cricketer of the 1930s and the answers give them a choice between Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Hubert Opperman and Walter Lindrum...

"Then there's a whole set that John Howard wrote," the source said.

"They are focused on things that aren't necessarily critical to become a citizen."
It beggars belief to think that any PM would dedicate his energies to such outright twaddle. What an arrogant, out-of-touch racist bastard.

UPDATE: Kevin Rudd says the Bradman question will remain. Sigh! We still have a populist PM, it seems.

UPDATE 2: Immigration Minister Chris Evans says a review will be undertaken after the cricket season ends.

Crash Test Dummies

Perhaps it's a sign of just how truly bad things are around the world that Australia - along with NZ and Brasil - is now being seen as a good place to park your money.

Meanwhile, the US neocon dream is over:
At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing — and losing — in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules — their own rules — without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.

The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.
Errgh, there's that military analogy shit again. Can't we frame things in any more civilized terms?
While America fumbles at nation-building, Europe spends its money and political capital on locking peripheral countries into its orbit. Many poor regions of the world have realized that they want the European dream, not the American dream. Africa wants a real African Union like the E.U.; we offer no equivalent. Activists in the Middle East want parliamentary democracy like Europe’s, not American-style presidential strongman rule. Many of the foreign students we shunned after 9/11 are now in London and Berlin: twice as many Chinese study in Europe as in the U.S. We didn’t educate them, so we have no claims on their brains or loyalties as we have in decades past. More broadly, America controls legacy institutions few seem to want — like the International Monetary Fund — while Europe excels at building new and sophisticated ones modeled on itself. The U.S. has a hard time getting its way even when it dominates summit meetings — consider the ill-fated Free Trade Area of the Americas — let alone when it’s not even invited, as with the new East Asian Community, the region’s answer to America’s Apec.
What's that? Funny, I haven't read much about this new "East Asian Community" in Teh Australian... (Yes, Australia is included). Here's something else the Murdoch prss doesn't much highlight:
Every country in the world currently considered a rogue state by the U.S. now enjoys a diplomatic, economic or strategic lifeline from China, Iran being the most prominent example.
The author of this NYT article, Parag Khanna, is a senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation. This essay is adapted from his new book, “The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order". There's another 7 pages of it online - well worth a read.

Come to think of it, I don't think anyone in the US media has published anything as interesting for quite some time. If this means there's less column space for foolish ideologues like Bill Kristol, bravo. Hat tip to Atrios for the link.

Change is fun, isn't it?

23 Jan. 2008

The Bulletin Gets The Bullet


Just in case Kerry Packer wasn't already turning in his troubled grave, The Bulletin magazine has ceased publication. Lucky I didn't buy my Mum an annual subscription for Christmas.

It seems quite a waste, doesn't it?

I know we bloggers are supposed to be rabidly anti the Dead Tree Press, but I can't help wondering if The Bulletin might not have "reached out" to bloggers for some (cheap) content, and basically reinvented itself (particularly as an online magazine, where it never made much effort or impact).

I wonder where Patrick Cook's cartoons will turn up?

UPDATE: Reuters global coverage gives an idea of the significance of this event:
The Bulletin published some of Australia's greatest writers, such as Andrew "Banjo" Paterson who penned the iconic Australian poem "The Man From Snowy River", and in its heyday often broke news that shook the Australian political and business world...

The Bulletin was once the flagship news magazine of one of Australia's major media moguls, the late Kerry Packer. But Packer's son James hived off a controlling share of the family's media business to private equity in late 2007...
Isn't it rather sad that Rupert Murdoch is prepared to financially support publications which pump our his vile brand of propaganda, even if they do not turn a profit, while James Packer quickly dumps a potentially enlightening alternative into the hands of private equity vultures?

I guess the good news is that it leaves the market more open to even better alternatives. Like, um... THIS BLOG!

What If Sibel Is Right?

Let's just think for a minute about exactly what Sibel Edmonds says:
She says the FBI was investigating a Turkish and Israeli-run network that paid high-ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets. These were then sold on the international black market to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Now, ignoring all the official silence and water-muddying, let's just assume that Sibel's allegations are 100% correct. What does it MEAN?

Let's break the story down into its constituent parts:

1. There are highly placed US officials leaking important secrets about nuclear weapons (and other things too, presumably).
2. These officials are being "controlled" (paid) by Israel and Turkey. So both those governments (and others?) have infiltrated the top levels of US government and intelligence agencies.
3. These nuclear (and other?) secrets are being sold on an "international black market".

But surely the most damning fact of all is this:

4. The FBI, the Bush administration, the US Congress and even the US media have all conspired to silence Sibel's allegations.

If you are wondering how far the tentacles of corruption reach, that last one spells it all out, doesn't it?

Now, it would be one thing for spies to betray their country by leaking information to another nation because they felt some compassion or loyalty to that other nation, for whatever reason. But these appear to be corrupt officials who are basically just cashing in on their positions of privilege, and not giving a damn about the consequences. The same can be said for the Israeli and Turkish folks who are on-selling these secrets to the highest bidder. The network does not appear to be motivated by anything other than profit-making. The fact that these secrets are being sold to unstable nations further belies this lack of morality.

But wait a minute, I hear you say - what about the War On Terror? Isn't this exactly the sort of thing that the Bush administration and it's intelligence agencies are most committed to stopping? Hasn't this been their top priority since 9/11/01?

Well, no.

In fact, the entire Bush administration has been complicit in this greedy corruption. The entire War On Terror has been a hoax foisted upon the citizens of the USA (and the world) in order to fill the coffers of Bush's friends in the military-industrial complex.

And these allegations from Sibel Edmonds confirm that. And the more the FBI tries to gag her, and the more they hide the evidence, the more they confirm our worst fears.

The US government has been bought up by corrupt profiteers, who have taken the people of the USA for all they can get. And they are not going to stop until - and unless - you can stop them.

Rank Order

Here's a fun little game to play! See if you can guess where Australia ranks on a global list of 164 countries' current account balances.

HINT: China is #1 with $+363,300,000,000.00, while the USA is #164 with $-747,100,000,000.00. Yeah, that is NEGATIVE...

Wanker Of The Day

Miranda Devine must have had a sad childhood...
How do you tell a women her child needs a good smack?
You don't.

22 Jan. 2008

NATO: Nukes R US

NATO has embraced the Bush Doctrine:
Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a “grand strategy” to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument” since there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”.

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views.
Well, no wonder. These people are all in the pockets of the military-industrial establishment.

Wither Ozblogistan?

US bloggers are still influencing the political discourse, including the media and even individual politicians and policies. But Aussie bloggers have never reached that level of influence and probably never will.

Since the election, Ozblogistan has been nearly dormant. I cannot help wondering if blogs are set to go the same way as all those cable TV shows (think Wayne's World).

Two Tales Of Thailand

I've always thought Thailand's former billionaire prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was a scoundrel and a Big Business stooge. But this article in The Canberra Times paints quite a different picture:
... what is going on in Thailand is not really a military-civilian power struggle. It is a struggle between the city and the country.

It was only Thaksin's great wealth that enabled him to rise so fast in politics, for he was not a member of the traditional political class.

The country's politics has long been dominated by a Bangkok-based elite that has close ties to the bureaucracy, the military and the monarchy.

Local political bosses in the provinces delivered the peasants' votes in return for cash and favours, but Thailand was governed by and for the urban middle class.
Thaksin, the great-grandson of a Chinese immigrant, came from the north of the country, and made his money in mobile phones.

He was the ultimate outsider, and when he won the 2001 election (the cleanest in Thailand's history), he really upset the insiders.

He started spending the Government's money on the villages where the majority of Thais still live: everything from a debt moratorium for farmers to micro-credit, better schools and, above all, universal health care.

During his five years in office the proportion of Thais living in poverty dropped by half, and health insurance even became available to the country's two million foreign workers.

But of course this meant diverting some money from the traditional concerns of the urban middle class.

The Thai economy grew strongly through all this, allowing Thaksin to pay off the country's debt to the International Monetary Fund two years early.

He was always a populist and sometimes an outright demagogue.

He had a nasty authoritarian streak that came out in actions like his "war on drugs" that saw 2700 people killed in seven weeks (the police deny that they were operating death squads, but then they would, wouldn't they?) and his clumsy and brutal attempts to quell the insurgency in Thailand's three mostly Muslim southern provinces.

But he won the 2005 election with an even bigger landslide than 2001...

The poor have spoken, and it will be difficult for the military to ignore what they have said. Real politics has reached Thailand at last.

What will happen next is a series of mini-crises, as the army and the middle class struggle to come to terms with the fact that they have lost control of the country.
It may even blow up into a major crisis and a new military intervention.

But it is much more likely to end up with a permanent change in the nature of Thai politics.

The country is leaving the South-East Asian model military interventions, downtrodden peasantry, elite dominance and moving towards the welfare-state style of democracy that prevails in most of the developed world.

And a good thing, too.
I'm not able to ignore Thaksin's violent excesses and pandering to international Big Business quite as easily as Gwynne Dyer, but it's interesting to hear the story from that angle. It will be interesting to see where the country goes from here.

NB: I'm off to Phuket for holidays later this year, my first real holiday in a very, very long time.

Wanker Of The Day


Given the global financial meltdown afflicting markets today, resulting directly from Bush's inane "trickle down economics", it's hardly the time to be waxing lyrical about Ronald Reagan. But John O'Sullivan does just that in a nauseating piece of News Ltd drivel. I mean, this is just total crap:
The collapse of Soviet communism underlined Reagan's shrewdness and strength, and the worth of his principled anti-communism.

Reagan's domestic legacy has been equally impressive: a political structure constraining government in which his Democrat opponents have been more or less compelled to follow his trajectory... Both Clintons have thus had to adopt a nervously favourable attitude to the Gipper. Anything less would be ingratitude.

Historical scholarship has limped along behind these developments. But recent studies of the Reagan presidency, including some by political liberals such as Richard Reeves, have conceded that Reagan was a successful and historically important president. As Reeves argued, it is simply implausible to imagine that the "amiable dunce" of earlier liberal imaginings could have racked up such impressive achievements.

More important, however, has been one trend utterly impossible to predict. Reagan refurbished his own reputation while suffering from, first, Alzheimer's and, second, death.
O'Sullivan "proves" his points by quoting "conservative intellectuals" like um... David Frum (National Review) and err... William Kristol (The Weekly Standard). Intellectual giants, I tell you! Puh-lease!

And just in case you have not barfed your breakfast yet, O'Sullivan goes on to (predictable or what?) laud Thatcher and Howard as equally "courageous and principled leaders applying practical conservative solutions to the problems of hyper-inflation, economic over-regulation and the Soviet advance that had been thrown at them by history".

Oh really? So let's look at the true legacy we have from all these brilliant conservative leaders, shall we? A global economic system on the brink of collapse, where the rich have got richer and richer and richer and richer, while earnest platitudes about improving global poverty go nowhere. A global environmental disaster conjured from reckless industrial excesses. A bloated US military-industrial complex, still threatening the planet with nuclear Armageddon. A resurgent post-Cold War Russia, exhibiting the worst signals of authoritarian regression...

Need I go on?


O'Sullivan says:
History is throwing different problems at America today: the sub-prime mortgage crisis, Iran and Afghanistan among them.
Bullshit. The sub-prime crisis, Iran, Afghanistan, and especially the Iraq War are all directly related to the Reaganomic GOP conservative logic that George W. Bush and his father have pursued. The result has been an unmitigated disaster on multiple fronts.

Consider the whole "War on Terror" nonsense. That's Reagan meeting with the Taleban in 1983 in that photo above, BTW. The same year Rumsfeld was kissing Saddam Hussein's ass and selling him chemical weapons. Didn't THAT turn out well?

Worse yet are the squandered opportunities for real, positive change. Over $2 trillion wasted on Iraq alone! Just think what else could have been done with that money:
It's hard to comprehend just how much money $2 trillion is. Even Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world, would marvel at this amount. But, once you begin to look at what that money could buy, the worldwide impact of fighting this largely unpopular war becomes clear.

Consider that, according to sources like Columbia's Jeffrey Sachs, the Worldwatch Institute, and the United Nations, with that same money the world could:

Eliminate extreme poverty around the world (cost $135 billion in the first year, rising to $195 billion by 2015.)

Achieve universal literacy (cost $5 billion a year.)

Immunize every child in the world against deadly diseases (cost $1.3 billion a year.)

Ensure developing countries have enough money to fight the AIDS epidemic (cost $15 billion per year.)

In other words, for a cost of $156.3 billion this year alone – less than a tenth of the total Iraq war budget – we could lift entire countries out of poverty, teach every person in the world to read and write, significantly reduce child mortality, while making huge leaps in the battle against AIDS, saving millions of lives.

Then the remaining money could be put toward the $40 billion to $60 billion annually that the World Bank says is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, established by world leaders in 2000, to tackle everything from gender inequality to environmental sustainability.
Instead of such real change, we now have billions of dollars being wiped from stock markets. What a waste! The champions of Reaganomics have looted the US taxpayers for all they can get, the economic shit has now hit the fan, and as Dave Lindorff says, the Fed is caught in a trap:
It cannot cut interest rates much more without causing a collapse in the dollar, which, because of the huge US trade imbalance, and all those consumer goods and raw materials--especially oil--that are imported--would lead to serious and politically dangerous inflation. And there is another constraint: with the current rate cut, the US now has the third lowest interest rates in the world. If the Fed makes another cut, as it has hinted it might in a week or so, only Japan would have a lower interest rate environment than the US. That makes the dollar a very undesirable currency for foreigner investors, which means they won't want to hold dollars, and they won't want to hold US stocks.

Yet if the Fed doesn't cut interest rates even further, the stock market will continue to plunge, which again discourages foreign investors from pouring their money into the U.S., which in turn puts downward pressure on the dollar.

This was all predictable.
Yes, folks: it was all predictable - ever since way, way back in 1980.

21 Jan. 2008

The US Economy Is Dead

Mike Whitney has a message for Kevin Rudd:
As the stock market continues its inexorable downward plunge, foreign central banks and investors need to reevaluate the present situation and aggressively pursue legal alternatives. They should initiate a boycott of all US financial products until an appropriate settlement for the hundreds of billions in losses due to the “structured finance” swindle can be negotiated. That is the best way that they can serve their own national interests and those of their people.

Deregulation has annihilated the credibility of US markets. There is no oversight; it's the Wild West. The assets are falsely represented, the ratings are meaningless, and there's a clear intention to deceive. That means that the stewardship of the global economic system is no longer in good hands. There needs to be a fundamental change. As the “nightmare scenario” of global recession continues to unfold; we need new leaders in Europe and Asia to step up and fill the void.

Wanker Of The Day

By the end of today, the Australian share market will have lost 20% of it's value since November 1st. 36 other countries are already in that "bear market" territory. And that is all thanks to the disgracefully irresponsible "trickle down" economic politics of a certain Mr George W. Bush.

You might think that the head of a rightwing thinktank in Australia, a man who has loudly cheered every foolish step of Bush's long march to ignominy, would have something interesting to say about this situation. But instead, Gerard Henderson is still busy spreading anti-Muslim memes:
Evidence has been heard that Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, considered her a whore for associating with Muslim men and that Diana believed she would be killed in an accident...

Meanwhile, the man who many regard as Diana's real love, the cardiologist Hasnat Khan, apparently told his father that such a relationship would never have lasted since: "She is from Venus and I am from Mars." Meaning, presumably, that Diana was part of the British establishment and he was from Pakistan. Or something like that.
Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

Henderson ridicules the latest inquest into Diana's death as a media soap opera, "Fool Britannia", whose conclusions cannot be trusted. In fact, he has already reached his own conclusions about "Henri Paul, who was certainly reckless behind the wheel and who had been drinking". In fact, latest reports suggest Paul's blood alcohol reading may not be reliable, while suggestions that a mysterious car might have clipped Diana's vehicle in the tunnel would absolve Paul of driving error too.

Sure, Diana should have been wearing a seatbelt, but one assumes she felt safer in Al Fayed's car than an official British government vehicle. And the only reason we are still having an inquest after these years is that the official British government version of events was always full of holes, just like the US government's enquiry into 9/11.

So what's Hendo's real agenda here? His whole article reads like a rambling load of bollocks, skirting around the issues of monarchy and republicanism without reaching any meaningful conclusions. Again I ask you: why does Fairfax publish such crap?

20 Jan. 2008

Murdoch Bid For Packer Media

Is Lachlan just trying to impress his Dad?
Shares in James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd are in a trading halt amid rumours that the listed company could be privatised under a $2 billion deal involving Lachlan Murdoch.

The Australian website is reporting that Mr Murdoch, who quit his father Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in 2005, will become executive chairman of the company.
Don't we have media ownership laws to stop this sort of nonsense?

I Have A Cunning Plan


Liberal leaders are meeting in Melbourne today to address their party's flagging fortunes. But Brendan Nelson is not invited!
Baldrick : Don't worry mister B, I have a cunning plan to solve the problem.
Blackadder : Yes Baldrick, let us not forget that you tried to solve the problem of your mother's low ceiling by cutting off her head.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Turnbull continues waging his media war as if the elections had never finished. Funny, innit?

UPDATE: It gets better:
Federation Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson will be consulted in "due course" about Monday's meeting of state and territory Liberal leaders.

Victorian Liberal leader Ted Baillieu, who organised the meeting, said historically the way back to government had been through the states.

The Liberal Party is in opposition federally and in every state and territory of Australia.

"One of the things that has happened over the last 10 years is that while the party has had federal government we have allowed our resources and staffing and focus, in many instances, to focus on the federal effort," Mr Baillieu told ABC Radio.

"That has been a good thing.

"I don't begrudge that but..."
Oh no! I don't begrudge it! All praise John W. Howard! BUT... well,... we are now completely fucked as a result.

UPDATE 2: Hilarious! Mark at LP cites a Crikey article about how the QLD Libs leader declared a new United Conservative Party ... and then lost his job!
“One plan, one leader and one voice” sounds too much like “ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer”.
And on the other side of the political divide, here's my comment at Lefty's blog today:
The door is now wide open for The Greens to claim a place as the nation's leftwing alternative government. The good news is that there is no reason to vote Liberal ever again.
Whaddaya reckon?

Wanker Of The Day

"America is safer with George W. Bush as president."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger


Glenn Milne's column start out badly:
The great thing about visiting California is that it gives you a sense of where Australia is probably headed...
Milne is in California for an Australian government-sponsored trade show, imaginatively titled "G'day USA". Sponsors include Chevron, FedEx, Geothermal, Holland & Knight, Macquarie Bank and Woodside Petroleum. Milne's conclusions, albeit couched in blockbuster Hollywood hyperbole, are predictably in line with his sponsors' agenda:
Schwarzenegger is something of an environmental pin-up boy for Rudd... Schwarzenegger's thinking is crudely simple and effective... Schwarzenegger is using the sheer mass of the Californian economy and, critically, its venture capital base to crash through any resistance on the climate change front.
Got the message, folks? Rampant capitalism, which has brought our planet to the brink of environmental disaster, is the only answer to our environmental problems! Or as The Terminator puts it:
"Capitalism, interestingly enough long the alleged enemy of the environment, is today giving new life to the environmental movement. We have proven in California that we can protect both the environment and the economy."
And how does Arnie do this?
The strategy is to set mandated targets and then for the Government to simply get out of the way.
Got that, Kev? You set some ambitious targets and then you just "get out of the way". Rampant consumerism will set us all free!

Brilliant, innit? Just. Fucking. Brilliant.

UPDATE: Maybe the Murdoch media should just champion the Israeli government's solution to global warming, which is to cut off power completely. It also helps with population control:
The power cut sent already beleaguered Gazans to stock up on food and batteries in anticipation of dark, cold days ahead. Gaza officials warned the move would cause a health catastrophe while a U.N. agency and human rights groups condemned Israel.

"We have the choice to either cut electricity on babies in the maternity ward or heart surgery patients or stop operating rooms," Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said.

Four hours after the blackout, Hamas claimed that five patients died because of the cutoff of electricity in hospitals.
Whaddaya reckon, Glen?

16 Jan. 2008

Aussie Military In Damage Control After Kabul Blast


The Australian embassy in Kabul is being moved to a secure, isolated compound. Unless you just read this story in TIME, you probably heard it here first. The Australian media, like the military and the government, doesn't want to talk about it.

Has anyone else noticed the desperate post-bombing media campaign? The smoke had barely cleared from the blood-soaked rubble of the Serena hotel in Kabul (where Australia's embassy resided) and already the Aussie media was being blitzed with stories of a brave digger, Michael Lyddiard, who "lost an eye, half an arm, and his hearing when a roadside bomb exploded in his face during a tour of duty in Afghanistan last year".

That's right: last year. But suddenly this was front-page stuff, distracting the nation's military-loving readers from any disturbing analysis of what the hell is going on in Afghanistan these days.

So why was Lyddiard suddenly in the news? Because someone ordered him to go and stand in front of the cameras. And now we have co-opted support from a desperate USA, with General Petraeus making a quick trip down south to praise Aussie diggers in Iraq and hand out medallions. We are about the only nation on earth stupid enough to still be supporting these insane US wars, and they don't want us quitting Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

What's actually happening in Afghanistan today is that the resurgent Taliban have started targeting foreigners on the streets of Kabul, signaling a battle for the capital city. After pleading in vain for NATO to boost it's forces, the USA is now sending in 3,200 more of its own cannon fodder troops. A pissed-off US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has criticized NATO soldiers as not being up to the job:
"At this time, many allies are unwilling to share the risks, commit the resources, and follow through on collective commitments to this mission and to each other. As a result, we risk allowing what has been achieved in Afghanistan to slip away," he said.
Sounds like everything is going just fine, doesn't it? So what actually has been achieved in Afghanistan, anyway? Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....

UPDATE: The TIME article states:
As U.N. security officials and NGOs review safety regulations, the responsible response of many foreigners may be that the very venues that give Kabul its soul are off limits. Their freedom to roam the streets of Kabul, meet friends — both Afghan and foreign — at a restaurant or cafe, is likely to end. Already, the Australian embassy, which had been based at the Serena, has decided to move to a secure, isolated compound. This doesn't just limit fun for the foreigners; it walls off the understanding and communication that comes with spontaneous interaction. More barricades may bring the Westerners safety, but it also brings us one step closer to Baghdad.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has confirmed the move, but has not said whether it will be permanent.
"They (the staff) are currently in a secure location ... doing their jobs at a high and professional level in those most dangerous and difficult of circumstances."
Given that the Taleban have just declared a new tactic targeting restaurants and other conspicuous Western hangouts, one assumes this will be a permanent move. So much for the "oasis of calm" that was the Serena hotel.

15 Jan. 2008

George "The War Monger" Bush Descends Into Self-Ridicule

From The Huffington Post via TPM:
"My image [is] 'Bush wants to fight Muslims.' And, yes, I'm concerned about it. Not because of me, personally. I'm concerned because I want most people to understand the great generosity and compassion of Americans," he said.

"I'm sure people view me as a war monger and I view myself as peacemaker," the president said. "They view me as so pro-Israeli I can't be open-minded about Palestinian peace, and yet I'm the only president ever to have articulated a two-state solution. And you just have to fight through stereotypes by actions."
OMFG.

Wanker Of The Day

Sigh! I thought Murdoch might have dumped her (it's been a while) but Janet Albrechtsen is back at Teh Oz, spewing more xenophobic bile. This time it's dressed up as an impassioned defense of the right of rightwing shrills to preach racial hatred. Or something.

14 Jan. 2008

I AM NOT A TOAD!


This does not sound good:
British security agencies have been in talks with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation over plans for a global database of major criminals and suspected terrorists, a UK police spokesman said.

The news comes after the FBI told The Guardian newspaper of its proposed "Server in the Sky" program, which would link the policing networks of the United States' allies in the so-called "war on terror".

The newspaper said Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would all be involved.

The spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police said that discussions were at an early stage, and that Britain's Home Office (interior ministry) had also been involved, but declined to give further details on the programme, which may include exchanges of biometric information.

A spokesman for the Home Office also confirmed the discussions.
I see no reason at all why Australia would want to be involved in such a program.

The UK government has repeatedly lost confidential citizens' data, while the US government has repeatedly spied on its own citizens to compile massive databases of illegal data. There is no reason to suppose that either the US or UK governments can be trusted to maintain the confidentiality of any personal data supplied by our government.

And let's not pretend that "only criminals will be on the database", so innocent people have nothing to worry about. This is all about identifying suspect persons, and recent experience shows that anybody and everybody is suspect.

Back home, the Australian government still has a serious credibility problem of its own, having repeatedly failed to safeguard the civil rights of its own citizens over the past decade. True, we finally have a new government in place, but there are still no signs that anything has really changed (enquiries and accountability now please, Kevin).

Meanwhile, the latest attack on the Australian Embassy's host building in Kabul provides a perfect excuse for Rudd to pull out troops: if our NATO partners cannot provide adequate security, we should leave. It's not up to us to secure the country on our own, is it?

Let's start behaving like a responsible and self-sufficient nation, not a nation of militant toads.

"The Black Rudd"

So does Phillip Adams get his ideas and catchy headlines by reading my blogs?
gandhi said...

Americans don't like Losers. That's why I'm tipping an Obama victory. And I'm just seeing some silver lining in that cloud, that's all - I know Obama remains very much an Establishment candidate at this stage. All I'm saying is that there is a CHANCE he might not be what the Establishment thinks he is - we shall have to see, as with Rudd.


Blogger Bukko_in_Australia said...

That's it! "Obama, the black Rudd"...!
Hit him up for a hat-tip, Bukko!

Wanker Of The Day

Gerard Henderson would like us to believe that the reason why John Howard never did anything to help Aboriginal Australians is because the word "genocide" was used in the 1997 Stolen Generations Report.

And he quotes Andrew Bolt quoting Lowitja O'Donoghue as proof.

Or something.

Meanwhile Teh Oz says the global recession is great news for The Liberals. Suddenly all that brilliant economic stewardship is transformed into "external factors beyond the control of government."

13 Jan. 2008

Welcome To Hollywood, Kevin


It is interesting that Kevin Rudd dined with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman at Kirribilli House on Saturday night. Kidman and Jackman are in tight with the Murdoch mob.

Nicole is a close personal friend of Rupert's young wife, Wendi Deng, and Lachlan Murdoch is known to have killed stories critical of Ms Kidman's abyssmal acting.

Jackman hopped in a car with Rupert when the whole gang attended Kidman's wedding. Jackman lives near Murdoch's Manhattan apartment and "his children often visit for playtime dates with Rupert and Wendi's two children, Grace and Chloe".

This is more than just a case of movie stars sucking up to the man who owns the studio.

One can only wonder if the dinner at Kirribili House was business or pleasure.

10 Jan. 2008

Blame Howard For The Cricket Controversy


UPDATED BELOW.

Peter Roebuck makes a salient point in regard to the latest cricket controversy:
Now the Australians faced a critical choice. Already the match had been highly contentious. Already their opponents were feeling aggrieved. After the Haneef case, an entire community was feeling disaffected...
Indeed! I doubt the latest controversy would even have happened if we had not had a full decade or more of Howard-sponsored nationalism in this country.

Yesterday I saw a yound kid at the shops (14 maybe?) wearing an Aussie flag on his T-shirt with the words "If you don't love it, leave." Now why is a kid that age pushing such a ridiculous ideological agenda? Because he is just a kid, and he has been manipulated.

Today, driving to work, I saw a lady with an Aussie flag printed on her cloth shopping bag. And then I noticed that her bag also had "The Sunday Telegraph" logo, so presumably it was a free giveaway with that Murdoch paper. What's that all about? Manipulation.

Remember last time we had a big debate on an Australian Republic, how discussion of the flag was also a major issue? Remember all the designs that were drawn up? Remember the excited chatter from the media, push a new flag on every front page? It wouldn't happen now, would it?

That's where we are today. A backwards nation of nationalistic yobbos. At least we once had the good sense to cringe at our lack of culture. Nowadays we proudly wave the tattered flag of ignorance, arrogance and insular xenophobia.

As Roebuck says:
Australians like to think they play hard and fair. In fact, they define these terms domestically. Multiculturalists believe this lies behind the narrowness of the local game.
It's not just cricket, mate.
In related news, Aussie schools for Muslim and Jewish kids are now going to get bullet-proof glass, security cameras and 24-hour patrols:
Confirmation of the move follows unrest in the NSW town of Camden, on Sydney's southwestern outskirts, which has been the scene of angry protests by locals over a plan to establish an Islamic school.

Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported yesterday that tensions were so high that white supremacist groups had planned a rally at the proposed site of the school on Australia Day.
I guess it helps sell papers.

UPDATE: Obviously, this was a deliberately provocative post. Tim Blair took the bait and several hundred mindless sheep have followed the link from his site.

But it seems what really irked Blair was not my criticism of his beloved ex-PM, but my criticism of the Murdoch rag he now works for. That's right, Blair is now "inside the tent" and writing exquisitely crafted professional prose like this:
Roebuck isn't rating Ponting's captaincy; he's rating his application to study at prestigious St Tossingtons College, Wankfordshire.
Isn't that a great contribution to our national press? Keep up the great work, Timothy. I'm sure your mother is very proud of you.

CODA: Tim Blair has been diagnosed with cancer. Hopefully it will be a learning experience.

6 Jan. 2008

Winding Back The Bribes

Rudd pulls out the meat-axe and starts hacking away at Howard's pre-election bribes. The saving to taxpayers could be as much as fifteen billion dollars:
Some are obvious, such as the $285million provided to establish the Workplace Authority. Digital Australia, an organisation established to co-ordinate the shift from analog to digital television, will also be scrapped.

However, most of the vulnerable projects are small, such as the "Innovation Ambassador" program, under which the former government proposed paying for people to spread the word about entrepreneurialism among small businesses and young Australians.

Other commitments that could be axed include several sporting facilities in marginal electorates, a program to fund the design of an Australian semi-conductor chip, a $10 million contribution to a private company developing cloud seeding technology, and $12.5 million to support nuclear power research.
No! Not the cloud seeding technology! Malcolm Turnbull promised Rupert Murdoch's nephew $10 million, remember?
The Howard government embarked on a slew of projects, which individually were modest in cost but when combined add a total of $15 billion to budget costs over the next four years.

There were 175 separate spending proposals between last year's May budget and the mid-year budget update, which was ruled off on October 10, four days before the federal election was called.

Over the following seven days, a further 50 spending initiatives were announced, ahead of the government entering the caretaker period...
As with Brendan Nelson's disastrous Defense purchases, like the F/A-18 Super Hornets, the hard thing will be pulling out of binding contracts. Check out these "nightmare" legacy projects:
First is the FFG Anzac class guided missile frigates upgrade; so far 98 per cent of the $1.4 billion budget for these four fighting ships has been spent, yet not one of them is ready for war.

Insiders suggest the ships' combat systems may never be fully integrated.

Second is the Super Sea Sprite helicopters for the Anzac class frigates - $1 billion has already been invested and not a single machine is in service.

Third is the upgrade of the Army's 350 M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers.

Almost $600 million has been spent and not one of the upgraded Vietnam War-era vehicles is in service.
What a bloody waste. That's your money, right there, folks. Yours and mine.

3 Jan. 2008

Turnbull Turns On The Bull Again

So gold is up, the Chinese yuan is going up, oil is up over US$100 a barrel, petrol and food prices are up, NAB has raised their rates and other banks are set to follow, but if Labor scraps WorkChoices and then inflation goes up it will be all Rudd's fault.

And this is the sort of clever nonsense that is supposed to mark Malcolm Moneybags as a viable alternative Opposition Leader?

Howard Wins US Neocon's Top Award

How bizarrely fitting:
A conservative US think-tank has honoured former Australian prime minister John Howard.

The American Enterprise Institute has given Mr Howard its highest honour - the Irving Kristol Award...

Mr Howard will personally receive the award and deliver the main address to the AEI's annual dinner in March.
Who could possibly be more deserving of such a piece of crap?

The AID release says Howard was "his nation's second-longest-serving prime minister at the time of his retirement by the voters in last November's national elections." Heh.

One day we might learn a lot more about how US Neo-conservatives influenced the Howard government on economic matters and foreign policy. Is it really just a coincidence that Howard was in the USA, dining with Rupert Murdoch, on the eve of 9/11? Did he remain in lock-step with the neocons for six years purely out of personal conviction, or was he being closely advised of their plans and shifting agendas?

2 Jan. 2008

Blog Re-opened

OK, folks. After a long hard think I am going to keep this blog going for accountability purposes. We need a Royal Commission into how Australia was misled into war, just for starters, and I'm planning to stay on the case.

I'm also going to post a bit more at Bush Out over the coming year, with respect to the US elections in particular and international politics in general.

My "Riding the Juggernaut" blog has been deleted, as have a few other lesser blogs.

And yes, I am still working on that book...