28 Mar 2007

Plea Bargain: Terry Hicks Explains

"He knows that, in particular, the way the courts system worked against him and against his lawyers that he's not going to be found not guilty, they are going to nail him to the wall," Mr Hicks told reporters at Adelaide airport.

"So what David has done, in his best interests ... is to plead guilty.

"After the conversations we had with David you could see all he wants to do is get home.

"If any of you put yourself in David's situation ... most of you would be pleading guilty to something just to get out of the place.

"You would not want to stay in that place any longer than David has, otherwise you will never ever get out." ...

Compared with Guantanamo, "Yatala will be a five star hotel", Mr Hicks said.
Still, it's annoying how all the media talk excitedly about Hicks coming "home". I doubt he would really want to call call Yatala Prison home.

Aussies, This Is Your Life

SMH has details of a new report:
A fat, satisfied workaholic who enjoys spending and technology, and who wouldn't trust oil companies as far as they could throw 'em. That's the latest snapshot of the average Australian...

According to the Eye on Australia report, married people are more satisfied with their lives than single people, while the pre-baby boomers (those aged over 62) are the happiest age bracket.

But four out of five Australians say life is getting more stressful, with worries about increasing debt, saving money for the future, environmental problems and racism...

Eighty-four per cent think the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider, possibly explaining why federal politicians are placed third-last in a list of trustworthy groups.

Petrol and oil companies are considered the least trustworthy group, followed closely by telemarketers, state pollies, and real estate agents, while major charities have been named the country's most reliable.
I wonder who decided to put the questions about oil companies in the survey, and why.

UPDATE: This post has been linked at Club Troppo, so just to show the kinda guy I am, I have tracked down the report, which is from Sweeney Research and Grey Worldwide:
Over the past 13 years, Sweeney Research has conducted an annual study with Grey Worldwide that has seen us speak with more than 7000 Australians about advertising, shopping, finances, time, relationships, technology and many, many other things.

The insights and observations that emerge each year are invariably enthusiastically embraced by corporate Australia and major public sector organisations.
Sweeney Research was established in Melbourne in 1972 by Brian Sweeney (per BRW magazine, "Australia's Best Market Researcher"). Grey Worldwide's big honcho is Paul Gardner, "who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro". But such market research is generally funded by others, isn't it?

Wanker Of The Day

Miranda Devine.

Cold Comfort For Change

I was right again:
DAVID HICKS will be behind bars in Australia until after this year's election, but his stint in an Adelaide prison will be relatively short, under a plea bargain being hammered out between prosecutors and his defence counsel.

Government sources confirmed yesterday that Hicks's prospective sentence would take into account his five years and two months in Guantanamo Bay but would also include a short period to be served in Australia. That period is "not close" to the five years being mooted in some reports, one government official said. The Herald understands that additional time to be served in Australia is about a year.

The outcome, still to be approved by a panel of US military commission officials and its Convening Authority, is a bonus for the Federal Government, as Hicks will be unable to conduct potentially embarrassing interviews before this year's election.

Downer Pisses Himself

Alexander Downer is soiling himself with delight at Hick's sad predicament:
"He's guilty - he said he's guilty.

"Of course, if he said he was guilty and he wasn't guilty, he would be perjuring himself...

"You'll see over the next few days, Hicks will sign up a full admission of what he did.

"It's not just a question of a guilty plea but in the military commission process, the judge will go through allegation by allegation in relation to the facts of what he was doing and that will be made public."
Ruddock is not far behind, rejecting suggestions the plea was made under duress.
"I don't know what the duress is," he said.

Santoro Signs Off

Disgraced Liberal MP Santo Santoro's final speech to Parliament:
"Integrity never goes out of style."

27 Mar 2007

Gambling On Our Futures

This is how stupid I am.

I have been blogging for four years now, and yet I still did not really appreciate the fact that it is possible to bet on the next US Presidential Election.
Democrats 1.80
Republicans 1.90
You can even bet on the next Democrat candidate (GOP alternatives not yet available, for obvious reasons):
Hillary Clinton 2.10
Barack Obama 4.20
Any Other Candidate 5.00
John Edwards 6.50
John Kerry 11.00
How obscene is that? I admit, I knew such betting existed, but the fact is that it has only just now "hit" me. THIS IS WRONG! Why don't the bloggers cover this? Are they all busy placing their own bets?

Here's the latest betting on the Australian Federal election due later this year:
Labor 1.80
Liberal / National Coalition 1.95
And here is specific betting on the Australian Prime Minister's seat, which has been discussed by Crikey this week:
Australian Labor Party 3.50
Liberal Party of Australia 1.35
Any other Political Party/Independant Candidate 26.00
26 to 1? At those odds, I am tempted to put the house on my own Independent bid for Bennelong! Hey, I used to live there once myself!

But seriously, this is a very wrong and dangerous thing. It should not legally be possible to gamble on elections. It's just fundamentally wrong. We have enough corruption in politics already. Let's stop this now.

Howard to become a grandfather

Howard's ultimate baby photo moment looms just before the election:
The prime minister's only daughter married Rowan McDonald in 2003. Both work as lawyers.
Poor kid. Mum and Dad both lawyers, and grandpa's an asshole.

Whose Fault Is Hicks's Plight?

NB: The following post is assembled from comments I posted earlier at Oz Politics Blog.

Even antiwar websites have been reporting David Hicks's plea bargain using terms like “the Australian Taleban”. Howardistas in the media like Gerard Hendersen have successfully defined not just attitudes to Hicks, but also much of the language in this debate. Cliched tags like “Muslim convert” and “Al Quaeda sympathiser” leap out from all directions and are rarely subject to scrutiny.

We hear that Hicks is looking chubby, has dark circles under his eyes, cried when he met his father, was sodomized by US guards, has to grow his hair long to block out the lights which are rarely or never switched off. Are these things important? Sure, but the real issue is that an Australian citizen has been not only abandoned but actively vilified by his government, setting an extraordinary dangerous precedent which undermines the very fabric of our society.

We have become accustomed to such outrageously cynical abuses of power by the Howard government. We feel a certain familiar sense of numbness as we struggle to verbalise our outrage.

But I fear that the Australian public - who have repeatedly voted for a War Criminal - will soon be all to happy to forget about David Hicks.

The Hicks case covers the US and Australian governments in ignomy, but the Australian public must also bear it’s share of the burden of guilt. We abandoned Hicks. We let him rot. Even those of us who actively campaigned on his behalf for many years did not do enough. I know about the Amnesty campaign, GetUp campaign, etc. And sure, they all helped put pressure on Howard, and maybe without them Hicks would be in Gitmo another ten years. But this sure doesn’t feel like any kind of “victory”, does it?

When his Dad told Hicks about all the public pressure on the Howard government over his case, Hicks replied: “So why am I still here?” Hicks ultimately went for a plea deal not only because he had been abandoned by his government, but also because he was abandoned by the Australian people.

This is what we have become. John Howard is a reflection of US.

The New "New Matilda"

New Matilda has a new owner. Might be worth keeping an eye on.

Wanker Of The Day

Tony Abbott.

26 Mar 2007

Hicks Does A Deal

What an unforgiveable tragedy.

The looming Howard governement defeat at the polls will be without precedent in the history of Australia. These fuckwipes have nothing left.


My incandescent rage is beyond words.

Hicks declines to enter plea.

He also made a smart comment about speaking Australian, so it looks like there is still some fight in him.

Meanwhile, more utter, utter crap from Downer:
"Different courts and different jurisdictions have different practices and when you go overseas and you get seized overseas and taken before a court, you have to live within the jurisdiction within which you've found yourself," he said.
Tell that to those 15 British soldiers captured by the Iranians, Alex.

I am now planning to kidnap Alexander Downer and take him offshore in an old fishing trawler. Once we get into international waters, I will start poking him with kebab skewers and saying "Ni, ni, ni!" until he screams in agony. Who's with me?

Post Election Spin

Gerard Henderson purports to analyse post-election spin in NSW but actually ends up doing a heck of a lot of post-election (and even pre-election) spin of his own.

Virtually channeling Howard, he dismisses the WorkChoices issue and tries to frame the federal election in McCarthyist terms:
Unions would survive a federal Coalition victory in late 2007. However, their influence would be substantially - perhaps even permanently - diminished. In other words, many union officials regard 2007 as their last stand.
Oh, really? And then what? Is a 2008 Coalition government going to ban unions forever?

Henderson says the criticism of WorkChoices is a campaign "run by the ACTU with the support of Labor" which "enjoys the support of many journalists and academics who cover industrial relations". Goodness, me! Six months out from an election and already blaming the media?

If Howard and his media shrills want to keep ignoring reality, that's their funeral.

They think they can run this spin for another six months and drag voters across to their viewpoint. They will spend millions of taxpayer dollars in slick advertising campaigns to promote WorkChoices and other unpopular government policies. They sold us the GST, they sold us the Iraq War, who is to say they cannot sell us more nicely-wrapped bullshit?

How stupid are we?

UPDATE: Selling the union monster freak show is going to be a bit harder given that Rudd is now risking a showdown with his new economic policies:
The Labor leader's proposals, outlined in a draft policy blueprint, denounce passive welfare, embrace the casualisation of the workforce, boost business grants and formally bury Mark Latham's disastrous Tasmanian forests policy with support for logging.
That's from a draft policy document previewed in The Murdochian.

25 Mar 2007

Battle Lines Drawn

What is obvious depends on where one stands. To a person standing on top of a hill, the cliff below seems obvious. To a person slowly labouring up the other side of the hill, the precipice is completely obscured.

Today Crikey points out the seemingly obvious fact that Howard's WorkChoices policies are now "political poison". It details the conclusions of a report by Professor David Peetz of Griffith University:
The report emphasises that Australia currently has both low unemployment and many labour market shortages. Nevertheless, the wages share of GDP is "at a nearly 35 year low"...

No doubt Peetz’s study will be met with the same ad hominem attacks previously dished out with reference to his research from Costello and Hockey. But polling during the NSW election found that 30% of respondents knew someone personally whose conditions and/or wages had suffered through WorkChoices.

If the Federal Government is inclined to dismiss the importance of industrial relations on the NSW election, they’re free to do so, but there’s no doubt that they will be held to account one way or another in the federal election.
The warning is most certainly going to be ignored, unless Howard is dumped as leader.

The economy is really the only "trump card" Howard has left to play, and yet the ipact of his disgraceful WorkChoices policy totally repudiates whatever other economic successes he might point to. This sort of policy is driving Australia towards a divided, class-ridden society.

Do we want to live in a country where Sydney's mega-rich cruise down New South Head Road to their Vaucluse mansions, past homeless people living in cardboard boxes? Is that where we want to go? I think not. But that is where Howard's increasingly elitist society is headed.

Howard cannot back down on this cornerstone legislation without destroying his whole "man of steel" facade. So it looks like the outlines of the federal election later this year have now been clearly defined:
Mr Howard has told Sky News he expects the fight over IR to be tough, but says rolling back the changes is not an option.

"It will send a signal to the world that we are tired of economic reform," he said.

Mr Howard says Labor's campaign is about the unions wanting more control of the workplace.
Oh dear. Is that really the best he can do? How much of my hard-earned taxpayer money is he prepared to throw at convincing people of such nonsense? How much will his Liberal Party colleagues put up with?

A lot, it seems. Here's Howard Government frontbencher Andrew Robb:
"We've got the lowest level of industrial dispute in history."
Well, duh.

Personally, I took a former employer to court four or five years ago and won an unfair dismissal claim. It was unpleasant and financially not worth the effort, but I won, and I thought that was important. Today I would not bother: the laws are stacked against you.

Where are your children and your grandchildren going to stand on all this?

Taking A Break From Blogging

I am going to be taking a break from blogging while I wait on a couple of interesting job prospects which could affect my ability to post.

On the one hand I am applying for a job as a writer at ASIO. I saw the following advert (yep, it's real) in Saturday's SMH and I was totally convinced that destiny was calling:

While writing this recruitment ad for ASIO Intelligence Officers, I had an out-of-job experience. I could see my job compared to that of an ASIO Intelligence Officer and it make me think. On the one hand there's Intelligence Officers protecting our way of life. On the other, there's me protecting my way of life. Seems a bit small in comparison. So I've made a big decision. I'm going to apply. I realise that the people skills and critical thinking I use every day would be put to better use at ASIO. So the next thing I will write is my application.

Do something better with your brain.
Apply at www.asio.gov.au
I was planning to submit my application first thing Monday morning. But then the NSW election results came through. It was a crushing 21st consecutive election defeat for John Howard's Liberals.

The little man himself was insisting (yet again) that the loss was a result of state issues, which is kind of wierd considering all the state issues seemed to be negatives for the Iemma government. Howard advised the NSW Liberals to do a better job of presenting their policies, which is kind of wierd because it was a voter backlash against his own Industrial Relations policies which dominated the post-election analysis. Little wonder there were calls for Howard's resignation the next day.

So I was just working through my ASIO application...
The opportunities we offer: ASIO is undergoing a period of unprecedented growth, both in numbers and in the development of advanced technical capabilities.
Heh. Yeah, I bet.
Technical Analyst
As a member of the Computer Exploitation Investigations team you will have an interest in emerging technologies and Internet trends. You will utilise your well developed analytical skills to evaluate a range of electronic information and focus ongoing technical collection efforts. In this role you will work on major ASIO investigations, providing technical expertise to help ‘join the dots’.
That's me right there, I thought. Gandhi the trendy Net dot joiner.

But then suddenly, a little chat message from someone called rupe666@newsltd.com.au pops up on my screen:
Looking for new talent with antiwar cred. $$$ awaits. Salary pkg incl. travel, accomodation, pension plan w/ Carlyle Group. Come to the dark side.
Well, why not? I thought.

I mean, if I don't take the job, Big Rupert will just give it to someone else, right? At least if I'm working inside the tent I might be able to have some influence on decision-making. You can't fight this stuff: it's bigger than one man. Maybe I should just put myself and my family's financial security ahead of other priorities for a while? Who could blame me?

So now, I dunno. It's a toss up. I've decided to apply for both jobs and just see how things go. Ideally, I would like to be able to write my own war propaganda and then sling it personally from the Murdoch media catapult. That would be just perfect.

UPDATE: The ASIO application is already looking wobbly. For one thing:

Then there's this bit:
How to apply: Applicants should e-mail ITspecialists@tmpworldwide.com.au for further details on the selection criteria and how to apply.


Applicants should note that only those selected for interview will be contacted further.
Eh? So you apply by just asking how to apply, then sit back and wait while they run checks on you? That's enough to make me feel a bit nervous, given my close links to the famous Incident On South Dowling Street back in the 80's.

This is even scarier:
Preferred applicants will be required to undergo psychological assessment and intrusive security and personal checking.
Intrusive personal checking??! Ouch! There's no cameras up there, man, I swear!!!

24 Mar 2007

Does USA Want Hicks?

Surprised that these comments by Tony Snow did not get more attention:
Q Why is it that the President's stated desire to close Guantanamo Bay cannot be turned into some kind of plan of action?

MR. SNOW: Because there are legal constraints, and those are the things that the Attorney General had made clear in terms of the inadvisability of putting Guantanamo detainees on continental U.S. soil. We have tried as best we can to move those who are in Guantanamo either to their home nations, or nations where they are wanted for other trial or justice dispensation. But we also have laid down the benchmark that you also have to be able to assure that they're going to be treated humanely. Very few countries want these people back, and, therefore, what you have to do is to work through a procedure where you do, in fact, bring them to justice. But the President made clear back in September that he would love to be able to shut it down, but unfortunately the circumstances do not presently permit. April.

Q So, realistically, are you saying that Guantanamo Bay will not be shut down before the end of his presidency?

MR. SNOW: I doubt it, no. I don't think it will.

22 Mar 2007

Rudd Embraces Uranium

What a stupid thing to do. Even Peter Beattie is on board. I think Rudd is about to get a lesson in the pitfalls of arrogance. Pretty ironic given the latest polls.

At this stage I will definitely be voting for the Greens again. When is Peter Garrett going to jump ship to the Greens - before or after he wins a seat?

Libs Prepare To Unseat Howard

You know things are bad when your colleagues are forced to express confidence in their leader. Today Tony Abbott expresses carefully muted support:
"The PM has been saying for months this is a two-horse race," Mr Abbott told the Nine Network.

"Obviously, one horse, or jockey perhaps, is well in front at the moment.

"(But) we made the judgment back in the middle of last year that John Howard was by far the best politician to lead the country.

"I still think that's the case and I think that's the view of the party room."
So Abbott is blaming Howard's skill as a jockey rather than the Liberal Party horse. And he implies that it has been a long time since they last considered who should be in the saddle. Interesting.

Watch for the Howard smackdown and the forced clarifications. But the cat is out of the bag at last.

UPDATE: I am now taking bets on who will be the next Liberal leader, and what date the changeover will come. My bet: Turnbull on Jun 24th.

21 Mar 2007

How Long Before Santoro Kills Himself?

We have now had both Alex "Screw Hicks" Downer and Tony "Head-kicker" Abbott suggesting that Santo Santoro might kill himself at any moment if the ALP does not back off.

I am taking bets on how long it will before Santo Santoro does himself in. Extra points for anyone who can nominate the method of self-annihilation.

My guess: a week before the next election, by rope.

Santoro deserves support, sympathy: Abbott. 22/03/2007. ABC News Online

Tony Abbott says Santoro deserves support and sympathy:
Mr Abbott made the comments after addressing a conference on suicide prevention.
Message to voters: criticize Liberals and we will kill ourselves.

Our Shrinking Leaders

This description of Bush (from Tbogg via Eschaton) could very easily be applied to our dominutive PM, or even Tony Blair for that matter:
One thing that is fascinating about George Bush is how little he has grown in office. No, that's not right. It's not that he hasn't grown, he has gotten smaller; less Presidential, more sad little man watching his paper boat circle the drain. After six years of playing The Decider he should at least have a thin candy shell of gravitas as opposed to coming across like one of those guys on Peoples Court who not only has an unshakable belief that people won't see through his bullshit, but that no one will notice his artful comb-over either.

20 Mar 2007

War Pimp Aznar Puts Out For Rupert

Via Antony Loewenstein, a sad look at Spain's former PM going through the scare-mongering motions on a wingnut paid-commentary global tour:
"I think the West is going through a serious crisis; an existential one, possibly. Our society is morally confused, strategically divided and politically weakened."
Well he got that bit right, however unintentionally. Notice how Aznar takes up a position on News Ltd's board, then makes speeches to rightwaing thinktanks which are then reported in Murdoch organs? Incestuous, innit? But actual "news"? I think not.

AL also links to this very interesting Reuters story:
The judge who tried to jail Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet said on Tuesday it was time to hold U.S. President George W. Bush and his allies to account for waging war in Iraq.

In an opinion piece in newspaper El Pais, published on the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon said the war was "one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history".

"We should look more deeply into the possible criminal responsibility of the people who are, or were, responsible for this war and see whether there is sufficient evidence to make them answer for it," Garzon wrote.

"There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation and inquiry to start without more delay," he said.
Did you hear that thudding sound? That was John Howard fainting.

Homicidal ALP Maniacs Attack

Downer pleads for compassion:
"I mean he has resigned. What more can he do?" Mr Downer told ABC Radio.

"Does the Labor Party want him to go out and do something even worse. Leave him alone now. He has resigned. Think about him as a human being.

"I think it is about time there is a bit more of that from the Labor Party. Santo Santoro is a human being. Does he have to be whipped and chastised more and more and more. He has resigned and I think the Labor Party should now start talking about something of substance."
When he commits suicide, that's sure going to spoil Rudd's image, isn't it?

Rupert Pressures PM To Go?

His flagship paper has another embarrassing new poll:
The poll in The Australian newspaper has found that 68 per cent of voters believe Prime Minister John Howard is arrogant, compared with 29 per cent for Kevin Rudd.

The poll also reveals voters believe Mr Rudd is more in touch with voters than the Prime Minister.
Once upon a time such polls could have been slipped under the carpet. Murdoch told reporters last year that he thought it was time for Howard to resign gracefully. Wonder if Johnny has got the message yet? Wonder which pony Rupert's money is on? That Turnbull fellow is awful charming, isn't he?

UPDATE: Howard finds the poll "surprising". I bet he does!
"I've got to say this, I don't have anything to be arrogant about - not at the moment, politically, nothing at all...

"I can tell you, I don't feel very arrogant, I don't behave in an arrogant manner."
Well that's exactly what an arrogant person would say, isn't it?

Yes There Is No Contingency Plan

PM forced to clarify Iraq withdrawal answer:
On the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, the Opposition asked John Howard whether he was aware of reports the United States (US) has prepared a plan for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and whether he had a similar plan for Australian forces.

"The answer is yes, it's normal for that contingency planning to be made," Mr Howard said.

That piqued the interest of the Labor leader, Kevin Rudd.

"He stated for the first time that the Government has in place a contingency plan for the phased withdrawal of Australian forces from Iraq," he said.

"What is that plan?"

The Prime Minister told Parliament he was referring to the US plan.

"The Leader of the Opposition is misrepresenting what I said," he said.

The Prime Minister misheard a climate change question last month.
Getting deaf in his old age?

So the US has a contingency plan for withdrawal but Australia does not. Can anyone say "shag on a rock"?

19 Mar 2007

Meanwhile In Ozblogistan

Seemingly in response to pressure from right-wing fruitcakes like Andrew Bolt, Tim Dunlop has dumped contributor Daryl Mason from his Surfdom blog.

Mason wryly suggested that many Australians were disappointed that Howard had not been killed or wounded during his theatrical adventures in an RAAF plane this weekend. He also suggested that Rupert Murdoch might be ready to dump Howard and look for a new pony.

Daryl’s last Surfdom post is replicated here at The Orstrahyun for anyone interested.

Personally I do not see anything offensive in it, and I am disappointed (again) in Tim’s obsessively “safe” response to passionate commentary. Guess that’s how he landed a job at News Ltd.

I don't think Tim is doing a very good job of managing both his Blogocracy paid-commentary gig and his old Road To Surfdom blog. RTS has always had a lot of potential and I have spent a lot of time and energy engaging with the locals there, but no more. I have removed my links and I will not be returning.

Congratulations, Tim, your wimpish nonsense has handed Andrew Bolt just the sort of wedge politics victory his sort crave.

BTW: This blog is now going to become a group blog if anyone is interested in contributing. I recognize that (as an unpaid blogger) I do not have the time or resources to give it the attention it deserves. If anyone is interested in contributing stories, leave a comment or drop me (gandhi) a line at bmail.com.au.


Given the seriousness of the potential consequences (millions dead, etc) I would have thought that deliberate manipulation of global warming data might count as "High Crimes and Misdemeanors". What do you think?

The Santoro Affair

I like Aussie Bob's take:
Santoro’s Mafia-like Sicilian network, alias “The Queensland Liberal Party”, is making it plain that winning and keeping government is not the primary goal of the Liberals in Queensland. An unholy alliance of religious crackpots launders money for both their charitable donors and their bagmen in the government. Federal funds come out, get the Rinso treatment and then go back in as political donations. Alternatively, sure-fire share tips are offered as quid pro quos. As a third option, the government does favours for “connected” businessmen who then turn these back into cash donations a short time later. The party gets its cut, but the facilitators personally prosper as well. Winning governement is a bonus, but only a bonus. The aim is to get rich off the donations and electoral funding roundabout, a complex web of charities, tax exempt organisations, federal slush money and party fixers. The public is beginning to twig to this as it unravels.

Peter Garret Writes An Op-Ed

Unfortunately, after a decade of inaction on climate change, the Howard Government has been left standing at the docks waving goodbye to Australian jobs, investment and technology. Last week the Australian company Global Renewables announced a $5 billion deal with Britain's Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council. The Lancashire project aims to cut greenhouse pollution by more than 4 million tonnes.

Global Renewable has had to go to Britain to realise its ambitions.

Four weeks ago another Australian company, Pacific Hydro - which has 1800 megawatts of clean energy assets around the world - announced its move into Brazil. Why?

Because according to its general manager, Rob Grant, the growth in Australian clean energy assets has been held back by Australia's decision to not sign the Kyoto Protocol. The company is looking internationally for investment opportunities in countries that are enacting positive policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address global warming.

Zhengrong Shi, an academic from the University of NSW who was unable to realise his ambitions to develop solar technology in Australia, moved his business to China, where he is now that nation's third-richest man. His technology is helping reduce China's emissions. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that in a few years we might have to import these technologies, which were developed in Australia, from China. We should not be in the business of exporting jobs, technology or our brightest and best minds.

PM Flying Into More Trouble

Interesting stuff from Christian Kerr in Crikey today:
The PM and his ministers are playing favourites about who’s allowed to travel with them. They want coverage, but want to ensure that it’s favourable, so journalists get bumped, sometimes in favour of other journalists.

The issue has been raised at various times with the Prime Minister’s Office before. The media have been given a response along the lines of: "You bag us about the VIPs, so we only have a limited fleet with limited room."

Now, the Gallery has had enough. A column on the topic by Sydney Morning Herald veteran Alan Ramsey was spiked the week before last. Crikey understands that a second similar story by another senior Gallery figure met the same fate last week.

As Herald editor Alan Oakley put it: ''Yes there was a Ramsey column, yes I deemed it to be inappropriate, and yes, I spiked it.''

Ramsey's column, a sidebar to his main Saturday piece had begun: ''Howard crashed and burned this week...''

Spiking is one thing, but behind closed doors editors and proprietors are taking the matter seriously. Very seriously indeed.

Fairfax is about to raise the matter formally with the Prime Minister’s Office. it has already informally advised the PM’s media minders that its staff will not tag behind on potentially dangerous commercial flights.

Crikey believes that senior management at News Limited are about to take similar steps.

That may only be the start of it. Crikey understands that some recent decisions about just who could and couldn’t travel on a VIP are about to become the subject of some very serious scrutiny.
And Crikey suggests that Howard's air drama over Iraq may not be all that it seems, either... Looking forward to hearing more about that, as my spidey sense was definitely tingling on that one.

18 Mar 2007

What al-Maliki Told Howard

On the subject of an an Australian troop withdrawal:
"I am sure that it will not take long time."
Didn't see that quote anywhere in the local media...

A New Hope?

Returning from a lightning-fast PR trip to Iraq, Howard sees "a cautious but new sense of hope":
"I don't want to put it any more strongly than that and it would be foolish to do so...

"It is too early to claim anything other than that there are small cautiously based signs of optimism."
An interesting way to spin it, John. By implication, there are also huge, reality-based causes for pessimism. Sounds a lot like your election campaign, doesn't it?

And let's remember why we are there:
"Any suggestion that we are going to turn our backs on the Americans - are going to turn our backs on the Iraqis - at this very critical stage would be wrong."
Yes, those poor Americans - I mean, Iraqis - need all the help they can get, don't they?

14 Mar 2007

Gitmo Hearings Begin

Does this sound like a plea bargain from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:
"I was responsible for the 9/11 Operation, from A to Z."
Well, at least that let's Hicks off the hook! Can he go home now?

Josh Marshall explains what's really going on here:
BREAKING! 9/11 Mastermind who confessed to being mastermind after being captured like five years ago confesses again at Gitmo hearing and now the transcript is released by the Pentagon to get Gonzales off the front pages!



Someone at The Pentagon is doing a Google blog search for the word "pentagon" and hitting on this site.

Irar Invasion: Four Years Next Week

Howard is planning a speech to mark the occasion. Hugh White wonders what he will have to say:
Howard's problem is not the distance between his position and Rudd's, but their similarity. Howard has 1400 defence personnel in Iraq. Rudd would withdraw 520 of them, those performing an "overwatch" mission in two peaceful provinces who reportedly have little to do. Howard has apparently refused US requests to move them to places where they would see more action, for fear of taking casualties.

You can see why Cheney may not mind if those 520 troops stay under Howard or go under Rudd. Australia's commitment to Iraq is nothing more than a symbol of political support for the Bush Administration, and from Washington's point of view 900 defence personnel is as good a symbol as 1400.

So what can Howard say that will revive Iraq as an electoral asset? He will recite the arguments used by Bush and Blair: that Iraq is a potential hotbed of global terrorism, that it is the central front in a global war between liberal values and fundamentalist obscurantism, that defeat in Iraq would be the first fatal step towards a global Islamic fundamentalist caliphate. But if he is sensible Howard will move over these arguments quickly, because none of them stands up to scrutiny.

He will dwell longer on three deeper arguments: that a coalition withdrawal would risk Iraq becoming even worse, would open the doors to Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf and would weaken the US as a global power. All are true and are the real reasons the US will not withdraw anytime soon. But they do not help Howard much, because they are all self-inflicted problems - products of the disastrous decision to invade.

13 Mar 2007

Pity Poor Alexander Downer

That naughty David Hicks just keeps refusing to be helped!
"It just makes it much more difficult to get Hicks back to Australia and out of Guantanamo Bay if there are going to be these manoeuvres," he said...

"From our point of view, we think the trial's taken too long," he said.

"We have of course been harassing the Americans for quite some time to get the trial under way.

"We've reached a point where the trial is about to get under way and now the defence wants to try to stop the trial getting under way.

"My view is that it's much better to get the trial under way."

11 Mar 2007

US Scams R Us

US entrepreneurs bring their "greed is good" philosophy to sleepy Brisbane.
Thousands of people are expected to attend several seminars in Brisbane hotels after receiving a personalised invitation in the mail, offering a free meal and leather organiser.

The seminar is thought to be a 90-minute presentation, complete with customer endorsements and promises of big profits via simple and effective software.

It is at a follow up "training" seminar, which reportedly last for up to 10 hours, that customers are pushed into sales contracts.
Note to US readers: nobody likes this shit.

An easy fix?

This story by Paul Sheehan is supposedly about Sydney's water problems, but the long intro works equally well for a discussion of Liberal Party leadership:
Three years ago, in February and March 2004, [Malcolm Turnbull] branch-stacked his way into federal politics.

Sorry, let me rephrase that: he unlocked a grassroots democratic upswell in his local federal seat, Wentworth, which defeated the sitting member for preselection in this safe Liberal seat. The inconvenient local member was Peter King, who himself had knocked off the previous Liberal sitting member, Andrew Thomson.

At the time, another ambitious man, the Treasurer, Peter Costello, told reporters: "It's a pretty stiff deal that he [King] has been given after three years." Costello must have seen what was coming. John Howard, after four election victories and 11 years as Prime Minister, chose not to step aside in favour of his patient deputy (a decision the electorate has come to view as self-indulgent). Then Howard entrusted Turnbull, still in his first term, with the second most important job in the country, mobilising the nation on the greatest threat to Australia's long-term prosperity - water shortages and climate change.
Howard can't keep polling a mile behind Rudd forever. So why doesn't Peter Costello bite the bullet, abandon his ridiculously self-centered leadership pretensions, and throw his weight behind the new boy?

Imagine the smirk on Costello's face when he told Johnny the deal had been done! Howard's dribbling bottom lip would be quivering like a rabbit in a cage! The Murdoch crowd would love it (Howard has always been a bit of a wannabe in the top social circles, however hard he's tried). And a Liberal leader called Malcolm has a certain... familiarity.

Turnbull is about the only senior Liberal who is not tainted beyond all hope by a decade of half-buried Howard government scandals. Seems to me he is their only hope. How long before the media picks up on that story?

How long before Tim Dunlop steals this idea for his Murdoch blog?

Attacks over Burke fail to dent ALP: poll

Savour the moment:
JOHN HOWARD tried to interfere in Australia's love affair with Kevin Rudd, and we didn't appreciate it.

Howard had hoped that his smears would taint Rudd's image and bring his stratospheric popularity down closer to the muddy ground Howard occupies.

The opposite has happened. Rudd was already the most popular Opposition leader in the 35-year history of the ACNielsen poll, with an approval rating of 65 per cent.

In today's poll he has surmounted his own record by adding another 2 percentage points to his approval.

It is Howard's popularity that has suffered - his approval rating has fallen by 3 percentage points to 46 per cent, and indignant respondents have pushed Howard's disapproval rating up by 5 percentage points to 49.
Labor has been ahead of the Government for 11 consecutive months. You wouldn't know that from reading the papers or watching TV, of course. So what's going on?

Club Troppo's Christopher Sheil say the Howard government is now under more pressure than it has ever experienced in its 11-year rule:
If the government maintains its current rate of political hyperventilation, we may well see its senior ministers explode live on television this week.

Grodcorp suggests Howard may be seeking further advice - from his doctor. But the Herald suggests Howard remains a viable leader at 46% popularity, and a Coalition election victory is still not impossible. Given the depths to which Howard has sunk in previous elections - Tampa, etc - one can only imagine what they are brewing up this time around.

8 Mar 2007

Dicks In Space

Richard Tonkin at Webdiary sees dark forces at work around Woomera:
How do you feel about the idea that the new work at Spaceport Woomera isn't really about the conquest of space, but actually the control of other nations? What if South Australia is set to become a base from which the US could deploy troops to anywhere in the world? It may sound a little like the plot for Capricorn One, but for one man such an idea is far from impossible to achieve. He's tried something similar before and failed. His name is Richard Cheney...

President Bush's announcement of efforts to travel to Mars on January 14 2004 included a mandate that the space shuttles were to be grounded after the assembly of the international space station. . A 2004 US Senate hearing into the matter was told that "After that, NASA must decide whether it will develop a new heavy-lift expendable rocket, convert the Shuttle (which is a heavy-lift vehicle) into a configuration designed to carry only cargo, or use or modify existing expendable launch vehicles, which are not capable of launching the heaviest loads. The vision also calls for NASA to develop a new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) to carry humans back to the Moon as early as 2015."

It all sounds like a noble endeavour. Am I being too cynical in wondering if this new slant on the space program is merely a disguise for testing new military technology?

Australia, according to the Attorney general's Department, deems that to "launch a space object means launch the object into an area beyond the distance of 100 km above mean sea level, or attempt to do so." In creating this demarcation, this country has defined what is air space and what is outer space. Given that outer space isn't owned by any nation, we now have a border that sets our territory apart from these new "international waters" on which the ships we launch will sail.

Soon a new craft will begin its maiden voyages. One the shuttle's potential replacements, proposed by private corporation Rocketplane Kistler, is due to be tested from Woomera over the next few years. The Kistler K-1 is a two-stage vehicle designed for full reusability. It is 121 feet (36.9 m) in overall length, 22 feet (6.7 m) in diameter and weighs 841,000 pounds (382,300 kg) at liftoff. and is designed to be reused 100 times. Rocketplane-Kistler is a partnership that includes Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman, two companies who are already bringing their technologies to South Australia to participate in the warship construction.

Kistler's plan's for Woomera aren't as new as they sound in the NASA announcements. It was noted in the 1998 memorandum on the Australian Space Activities Bill that the company's subsidiary Kistler Woomera Pty Ltd had applied to build a facility. It appears that taking the project to the defence giants has given the scheme the firepower it needed to become attractive to NASA.

It's noted in the document linked above (circulated by the same Senator Nick Minchin who is currently showing of a possible model for the new warships at Port Adelaide) that Kistler at that time were expected to be the first to utilise the legislation. This makes you wonder who had the Prime Minister's ear in order to get the legalities sorted out so quickly. Given the amount of momentum development in South Australia was given by Dick Cheney's visit to Australia in 1997, it would be unsurprising if the aspiring US Vice President had a word in John Howard's ear.

What I'm now beginning to believe is that experiments that Rocketplane-Kistler are carrying out are maybe not just to carry staff and supplies to one space station. I'm thinking more about a US Military ability to put American troops anywhere in the world as soon as Cheney snaps his fingers.
There is even more info at the link. Meanwhile, please ignore rumours that Cheney is about to resign to "save" Bush’s presidency. The only reason Cheney might resign would be to save his own ass, and resignation won't help that none right now.

Wir Sind Ein Police State Jetz?

Get ready for new speed cameras:
The cameras monitor average speed between distances, meaning drivers can be fined even if they are within the legal limit when passing the camera.
So they not not only monitor your speed, but also track where you are going. That might help John Howard's goons keep track of Maxine McKew's car...

Regional Failure

Peter Hartcher looks at the Howard government's repeated failure to implement long-term solutions to regional problems in the South Pacific:
At the same time that Australian fruit farmers scrounge for workers, gangs of unemployed young people across the South Pacific continue to grow. And this week we saw one of their favoured pastimes demonstrated vividly in East Timor, which, strictly speaking, is in South-East Asia rather than the South Pacific, but it is in this case a distinction without a difference.

Under the so-called Howard Doctrine, Australia has extended a de facto security guarantee across the entire region, including East Timor. The events of September 11, 2001, illustrated forcefully the danger posed by a failed state, Afghanistan, as a haven for terrorists, warlords and drug traffickers.

It is part of Howard's post-September 11 reconceptualisation of Australian policy that Canberra must not allow states in our region to fail. Unfortunately, our region is scattered with states that are in various stages of failing...
Hartcher does't mention that we are busily focussed on fighting other people's wars on the other side of the planet.

7 Mar 2007

Hicks show trial in two weeks: PM

Thank God for our fearless PM, without whom the Gitmo legal process would remain but a shallow farce:
Prime Minister John Howard told Southern Cross radio the presiding legal officer of the US military commission system has appointed himself as chairman of the commission that will hear the charge against Hicks.

"It does mean that they're serious about getting on with it, I do think this is a result of the representations I've made to both the President and the Vice-President," he said.

"I did have two telephone conversations with President Bush during January - one in January one in early February."
Howard thereby admits that, if not for his personal intervention, Hick and other Gitmo detainees would still be rotting to hell without hope of a trial. He furthermore implies that the legal Gitmo process is entirely at the whim of Bush and Cheney's personal agendas.

Howard has also rejected claims the Government should have intervened earlier:
"It was very difficult to intervene while there were proceedings underway in the American courts challenging the whole military commission system," he said.

"We lost up to two years."

The challenge led to the previous military commission process being ruled invalid by the US Supreme Court.

New laws then had to pass Congress to set up the new commission.
Funny how the UK and other nations were able to get their people out of Gitmo in the same time-frame, isn't it?

And of course we are supposed to be reassured by the fact that the presiding Gitmo legal officer will personally be fulfilling the roles of judge, jury and (hopefully non-capital) executioner. Well, that's reassuring isn't it? Given this man's previous announcements, I think the first thing Major Mori should do is challenge his right to sit in judgement. And if he doesn't walk out, Mori should.

But I still doubt it will get to that. My gut says Hicks will go the plea deal. More's the pity, but it's his call. For the moment, Hick's lawyers are saying he will plead not guilty. I hope the boy still has some fight left in him.

Lame Ass Laming

So what exactly has QLD Liberal Andrew Laming done to merit all this media frenzy? Here's a little background on the specific charges via brisbanetimes.com.au:
It is understood police are investigating allegations that Mr Laming claimed funds for an electorate staff position which was not filled. However, Liberal sources said Mr Laming had lent a staff member to Mr Hardgrave's electorate office. It is unclear how long this arrangement lasted, and from which MP's office budget the staff member was paid. Mr Hardgrave could not be reached for comment.

Federal Police are also investigating whether Mr Laming claimed a $67,000 credit at a Brisbane printing company, rather than lose the printing allowance funds which hadn't been spent by the end of last financial year. The money went to his printer, but Mr Laming then had a credit to beef up his printing in the lead-up to the election.
The funny thing is that Laming - if you believe his colleagues - really does'nt believe he has done anything wrong. And of course it is hard to see anyone in the Howard Liberal Party holding him accountable if the matter were not already in police hands.

So where is all this heading?
In the worse-case scenario that Mr Laming is charged, party sources suggested it would be preferable if he resigned from the party but remained as an independent until the election, rather than quit Parliament and trigger the byelection.

Elected as the member for the Brisbane bayside seat of Bowman at the last election, Mr Laming desperately wants to stay on as federal parliamentarian.
As always, Party considerations take precedence over common decency and the public interest.

Howard says people should wait for the results of the police investigation:
"I'm not going to make judgements. Needless to say, I would have zero tolerance for anybody who deliberately misuses their entitlements. But that's just a statement of principle, that's not a judgement on this particular case."
Oh my God, the man has rediscovered principles! Look out, Kevin Rudd! A pity he did not apply said principles to the AWB scandal, isn't it? Or even his own little taxpayer-funded junket holiday on a Broome beach? Or....

Meanwhile, there is even more Liberal sleeze oozing out of the cracks on the other side of the continent:
The political future of the West Australian Liberal senator Ross Lightfoot, meanwhile, is bleak after it was revealed he dabbled in share options in a company represented by Brian Burke's business partner, Julian Grill, within days of a parliamentary report being doctored in the company's favour.

Senator Lightfoot bought a million share options in Precious Metals Australia worth $2800 in November 2004, the same month that a report into Xstrata's closure of a mine was released.
UPDATE: As Atrios would say, "Oh My!"
Channel 9 reported that Liberal Party sources said Mr Laming's office had been tipped off an hour before the raid.

Mr Swan said answers were needed.

"I think there's a very serious question that must be answered there by John Howard," Mr Swan said.

"And secondly I think John Howard ought to say what he knew about all of these things when he reshuffled his ministry, when he last reshuffled his ministry and dropped Gary Hardgrave.

"I think there are some very serious questions that Mr Howard ought to answer about what he knew about these things well before he claims he was first told about them."

Mr Howard this week said he had been told about the raids before they happened, but said he had not passed the information on.

"It would have been improper of me to have done so. If I'd have done anything, I'd have been accused of interfering in a police operation," Mr Howard said on Tuesday.
Of course he didn't do it himself. Why do you think he employs unaccountable underlings?

$20 billion of Aussie Taxpayer Money Heading To Bush's Industrial-Military Mates

Australia is still planning to spend between $12-15 billion on the purchase of 80 to 100 Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs), developed in conjuction with out Coalition Of The Shilling allies in the UK and USA. But now we are ALSO going to spend another $6 billion on 24 new Super Hornet fighter jets. And the government is lying about the reasons:
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson says the move is a stop-gap measure due to delays in the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.

All of the statements made in public by the Government, the RAAF and the JSF manufacturer Lockheed Martin continue to insist that the Joint Strike Fighters will be delivered on time and on budget. Either that is not actually the case and the JSF is having problems, or we have rushed into a backup plan costing almost 50 per cent of the main plan for no compelling reason.
As one wag in the Comments at ABC online says:
Seems to me that Howard knows he is on the way out and has cut a last minute deal with his Yankee mates, one wonders how big the kickbacks are on a deal of this size.

Johnny and the Jerkoff's unofficial retirement fund.
Sounds about right to me. The post-WWII USA is built on a war economy, and Australia under Howard is being subsumed into that economic and political model. How long before a former Halliburton, Lockheed or Bechtel employee becomes Aussie PM?

Whoo Hoo! Welcome to the Brisbane Times!

I am excited about this. Fairfax have announced a new paper (online only at this stage) called the Brisbane Times. Finally we SE QLDers have something besides the Murdoch press!

UPDATE: Local reaction from Megan at Spring Hill Voice:
Time will tell if the Premier's enthusiasm extends to spending some advertising dollars with 'Brisbane Times'. He said similar things at the launch of 'The Independent' six years ago and hasn't spent a bean with this fiesty, fiercely independent and LOCALLY OWNED publication since, yet he can organise a full page $30,000 ad in Southern papers in a flash! Surprisingly, given the massive Queensland Government advertising expenditure with the 'Courier-Mail' and print and post, there isn't any sign of bones being tossed to 'mX'. Yet.
Megan expect The Brizzie Times to play an important part in the "multi-million dollar online property advertising wars" between such outfits as 'realestate.com.au' and 'domain.com.au'. Don't forget drive.com.au, mycareer.com.au, rsvp.com.au and all the other F2 links!

6 Mar 2007

FINALLY: Fairfax to launch Brisbane paper?

Fairfax to make major media announcement.

Truly, Madly, Deeply Cynical

So HoWARd dumps Ian Campbell for being too close to Brian Burke, then replaces him with a man also linked to Burke and fellow lobbyist Julian Grill:
Senator Johnston has admitted Mr Grill was his boss when he worked at a law firm in Kalgoorlie more than 20 years ago.

It has also emerged that he owns shares in two companies that employ the pair as lobbyists.
Bloody hell, does HoWARd think we are all mindless sheep? And here the piece de resistance: this new guy is going to be our Justice and Customs Minister!

One can only assume that this is just routine house-keeping for Howard, and that the Burke connection was just a convenient excuse to dump Campbell. So what was really going on? Did Campbell get too close to the Costello camp, or was he planning to quit anyway? We may never know.

But one thing is all too bloody obvious. As Tanya Plibersek writes in the SMH today, Cynical self-interest is the ruling principle in John HoWARd's life:
What is character? Character is doing the right thing, regardless of reward or approbation. Character means consistency, not convenience. In the past, people have mistaken Howard's stubbornness for character. No one any longer will give him the benefit of the doubt: his stubbornness is cold calculation, not adherence to principle.

The roll call of Howard ministers who have walked all over the ministerial code of conduct is long: Warwick Parer, the mining minister with $2 million worth of undeclared mining shares; John Moore, another shareholder minister with possible conflicts of interest; Warren Entsch, whose company won a $175,000 RAAF concrete contract without undergoing a tender; Peter Reith and his $50,000 phone card bill and his lies about children overboard; Philip Ruddock and Amanda Vanstone wrongly locking up and deporting Australian citizens; failed ministerial oversight of Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile over the $300 million in AWB bribes paid to Saddam Hussein just before we sent Australian men and women to risk their lives fighting him; allegations Helen Coonan tried to avoid land tax; and Ian Macfarlane trying to avoid paying GST.

Not one of these ministers was held accountable for his or her conduct.

In Howard's Government you are not accountable for your conduct; for conflicts of interest; for dodgy dealing: you are only accountable for the political fortunes of the boss.

Howard realised after sacking six ministers (Jim Short, Brian Gibson, Geoff Prosser, John Sharp, David Jull and Peter McGauran) that sacking a minister was an admission that something was rotten in the Government. From then on, it didn't matter what a minister did, he or she would be protected; it didn't matter what errors of judgement the Prime Minister made, he would deny them.

Leaders need to have confidence in their judgement; uncertainty can be crippling in public life. But leaders also need to be able to admit their mistakes and learn from them.

Will Howard ever admit that taking Australia to war in Iraq was wrong? That there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Howard will never admit this error, because he sees self-reflection as weak, inconvenient and unpopular.
Of course, Tanya Plibersek would say that, wouldn't she? She is an ALP member of Federal Parliament.

You Can Smell Howard's Fear

From Crikey today:
The Prime Minister is a cynical and desperate man. How fearful he has shown himself to be of a Labor win! Consider his dread: he feels the ignominy of going down in the annals of history as just another hubristic politician who did not choose the right time to go and who never realised he had lost his touch.
Spot on. Howard has fancied himself as a High Roller for so long, he has been playing with the Big Boys for so long, he has been surrounded by his Conga Line of Suckholes for so long, that now he thinks he shouldn't have to get down in the trenches and kiss public ass to get what he considers his rightful power fix. We should be kissing his ass, damn it! We should be grateful - grateful! - for his magic, parochial touch. And this Kevin Rudd whippersnapper has the gall - the gall! - to take a holier-than-thou approach! No, damn it, that's not how this story ends....

Is it?

5 Mar 2007

Aussies embracing nuclear power? Really?

According to the Murdoch press, John Howard's repeated advocacy of nuclear power as a solution to global warming is working and Aussies are increasingly embracing nuclear power:
A Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper reveals support for nuclear power has surged 10 percentage points to 45 per cent in four months, outstripping opposition, which has plummeted 10 points to 40 per cent.

But a vast majority - 66 per cent - are against having a nuclear power station in their local area.
You have to wonder what the other 34% are thinking, or if they would not change their minds very quickly indeed if and when a nuclear reactor was ever installed across the road.

I am very dubious about this poll. And I don't think it is a vote-winner for Howard, however much it might give him a much-needed short-term poll boost. The longer Australians debate nuclear energy, the worse it will sound. Those advocating cleaner, greener solutions are going to come out on top. Especially if Howard's own links to the nuclear industry are fully exposed.

4 Mar 2007

Where Are They Now?

Former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Ian Macfarlane joins Goldman Sachs:
Goldman Sachs vice chairman international Robert Zoellick said the firm looked forward to calling on Mr Macfarlane's expertise throughout the Asia Pacific.

"We look forward to drawing on Ian's considerable expertise and experience, not only in Australia but throughout the Asia Pacific region," Mr Zoellick said.
Yeah, that's the same Robert "the Vulcan" Zoellick who resigned from Condi Rice's State Department in July, 2006 rather than answer questions about a pre-9/11 meeting he attended [sorry, that's wrong: see below], in which Rice was warned by Tenet about an Al Quaeda strike on the USA.
During the summer of 2001, Rice met with CIA Director George Tenet on an almost daily basis to discuss the possibilities and prevention of terrorist attacks on American targets. Notably, on July 10, 2001, Rice met with Tenet in what he referred to as an "emergency meeting" held at the White House at Tenet's request to brief Rice and the NSC staff about the potential threat of an al Qaeda attack. Rice responded by asking Tenet to give a presentation on the matter to Secretary Rumsfeld and (now-former) Attorney General John Ashcroft.

When asked about the meeting in 2006, Rice asserted she did not recall the specific meeting, commenting that she had met repeatedly with Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. Moreover, she stated that it was "incomprehensible” to her that she ignored terrorist threats two months before the September 11 attacks.
Now there's a story which has gone to ground!

UPDATE: Sorry, it seems Zoellick was not at that meeting. I was thinking of Philip Zelikow, the 9/11 panel's executive director and the principal author of its report, who later became Rice's top adviser. Zelikow was told of the meeting by Tenet but did not alert the 9/11 Commision.

Nothing To See Here, Folks

Sydney cops suggest the men shining torches on Maxine McKew's car might have been engaged in an ordinary car theft. Yeah, happens all the time, doesn't it?

Hicks lawyer faces removal from case

If you have been following the news of politicaly-motivated DoJ sackings at TPM, you'll know that David Hicks' lawyer is not the first outspoken US truth-seeker to face premature dismissal:
Colonel Davis has accused Major Mori of breaching Article 88 of the US military code, which relates to using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defence. Penalties for breaching the code include jail and the loss of employment and entitlements.

Major Mori denied he had done anything improper but said the accusations left him with an inherent conflict of interest.

"It can't help but raise an issue of whether any further representation of David and his wellbeing could be tainted by a concern for my own legal wellbeing," Major Mori told the Herald. "David Hicks needs counsel who is not tainted by these allegations."

Major Mori, who has been to Australia seven times, will seek legal advice.
PS: I am pleased to advise that this TPM post on Hicks was prompted by an email from yours truly (even if I didn't get a link).

3 Mar 2007

Crikey! Good Idea!

Crikey asks:
Is it time for the management of ABC TV and the ABC generally to retake control of the key 7.30pm timeslot from Kerry O' Brien and all those who reside in the national 7.30 Report?
Wow, what a good idea! Kerry has become far, far to "Hail fellow, well met" with Mr Howard. Let's put someone in there who'll give him some real gumption! Hmmmn, but who.... Surely there are dozens of suitable candidates searching for a job in the wake of the new media privatization laws?

The Ugly Side

If John Howard were really a decent and honest man with a genuine commitment to Democracy, wouldn't you expect him to immediately and loudly speak out against these death threats bineg made in his name:
Former intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie, who was the Greens candidate for Bennelong in 2004, said today there were strong similarities between his campaign experiences and reports of the intimidation of former ABC presenter McKew.

Four men holding torches were discovered underneath Ms McKew's car, parked outside her North Shore home, on Thursday night.

The incident followed a number of death threats against the journalist since she announced she would take on Mr Howard in Bennelong.

Mr Wilkie has said he received a number detailed letters in 2004 outlining what would be done to him if he continued his political campaign.

"I received a number of death threats, some so alarming I also had to go to police as Maxine McKew seems to have done," Mr Wilkie said. "It looks and sounds like the exact thing I faced."

Mr Wilkie said the threatening letters stopped after the election, in which he secured a small swing against Mr Howard, but abusive phone calls continued for many months until he changed his telephone number.

The former spy said he didn't go public about the intimidation at the time for fear of appearing to have sour grapes about his political defeat.

"I didn't want to sound at the time like these people were cheating by intimidating me so I kept it to myself and just lived with it," Mr Wilkie said.

"Now I see it being done to someone else I feel I have a responsibility to let people know there's a pattern here," said Mr Wilkie.
As for the men under the car, you don't explain that one away as over-zealous loval supporters. In such a situation, the men were either placing a bomb (fortunately NOT in this case) or installing a listening bug and a GPS positioning device to track the car's location.

The local police are on the case. Will they subpoena ASIO agents? I don't think so.

2 Mar 2007

US Electoral Shennanigans Coming To Australia

NSW Electoral Commission break-ins.

The Elephant In The Party Room

Christian Kerr writes in Crikey today:
Lobbying in Australia is a one billion dollar a year business that compromises people from all the political parties.

And it’s not just a matter of big money for lobbyists. It’s also big money for the parties themselves.

I’ve worked on both sides of the fence. I’ve been an adviser to two federal cabinet ministers and a state premier and the corporate relations manager to one of Australia’s largest infrastructure companies. And I’ve always been struck by just how dumb the top end of town can be when it comes to dealing with politics and politicians.

Brian Burke might be a disgraced former politician, but at least he was a successful politician. It’s amazing to see the shamed second raters who go knocking on doors around different CBDs – let alone who lets them in – but it’s all part of the game.

It’s not at all uncommon for suits to shell out a grand apiece to sit in a banquet room with a couple of hundred other suits – all just to bask in proximity to a senior state or federal pol. I’ve sat in rooms with people who have paid much, much more to for a more intimate chat over the table. My employers used to pay for me just to attend party meetings as a business observer.

People who hold jobs like the one I used to hold – most of them former staffers or party officials – have their cake and eat it. They pull big salaries, enjoy the dos and get to catch up with our old mates.

Lobbyists "advise" clients to attend these functions. They make money doing that. And the parties pocket the profits.

1 Mar 2007

Good Morning, Mr Hicks

Hicks's father confronts PM about terrorism charges:
"Good morning, Mr Hicks, the reason this is happening is that the charges are not retrospective," he said.
Bull + shit.

The Case Against Hicks: Zilch

Hicks' lawyer seeks meeting with Ruddock:
Major Michael Mori, who is in Melbourne, said the dismissal of the attempted murder charge was an admission by the US commission system that all the charges laid against Hicks were made up and had no basis in law and fact.

"It's disgusting that he has spent five years in Guantanamo for made-up charges," Major Mori told reporters in Melbourne.

"Now they are doing it again. They are repeating history by creating a new crime after the fact and trying to apply it to David retroactively.

"This is something that the attorney general in Australia has said is completely inappropriate.

"I want to speak to the Attorney General's Department to make sure they understand the nature of the charge, the illegality of this new charge.

"It's about time they took some action and just didn't rely on US assurances in the matter."

"We cannot have another reinforcing of failure which the first commission system was, and putting David through another unfair system on made-up charges."

Maj Mori said the serious charges the American military originally accused Hicks of two years ago no longer stand.

"The charges David faced for more than two and one-half years are now completely gone," Maj Mori told AAP.

"None of the original charges - conspiracy, aiding the enemy and attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent - have been recharged.

"This is an admission by the US that there was no basis for the original charges and that the US had no justification to hold David for five years on those made-up offences.

"David has been charged with only one offence - material support of terrorism.

"The material support charge has never existed in the laws of war.

"It was created in October 2006.

"The US is applying this offence to David retrospectively even though Australian (government) ministers have said that is inappropriate.

"Prosecutors claim the offence of material support has been on the books for years, but they are talking about a US domestic offence, of which David is not charged.

"If you put the military commission offence and the federal offence of material support of terrorism side by side, they are not the same offence.

"If the (Australian) government's position is that the commission and US federal offences of material support are the same, and therefore not retrospective, then prosecutors could have charged David five years ago in US federal court rather than let him rot in Guantanamo.

"All this time, we have been told that David had to be tried by military commission rather than in a federal court because the offences were war crimes.

"But after five years, the US has not charged David with a single war crime." ...

The latest charge went against basic values and was not to be taken seriously, Maj Mori said.

"How can it be a serious charge if it was made up in 2006 and you're applying it to someone in 2000, 2001. It's called a retrospective legislation," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"It's a position that the Australian government has stood strong on, that is wrong and inappropriate and it cannot be tolerated.

"You don't even need legal training to see that it's not the same charge and a US crime.

"If I'm wrong and it is a US crime, then why has David Hicks spent five years in Guantanamo, why haven't they taken him to a US federal court.

"If it is a US crime, then they can take him to a federal court tomorrow and he can be treated just like an American, and the Australian government should accept nothing less than equal treatment for an Australian citizen.

"I think everybody else in the world realises it was made up and (it was) a BS charge.

"It was ridiculous. No one thought that you could charge someone with attempted murder when the prosecution admitted that they never shot anybody.

"Yet, they let that go on for two and a half years. It's embarrassing that this has gone on this long."

David Hick's Story Finally Told

A six-page report by Tom Allard.
He says he was stripped, shaved and covered in a mysterious liquid applied by sponge, photographed, and then had a piece of plastic forced into his rectum "for no apparent reason". As it was inserted, a US soldier taunted him, saying the device was "extra ribbed" for his pleasure...

In their cages, he says, prisoners had one bucket of water and another to be used as a toilet. They also were given a toothbrush and, if requested, a copy of the Koran.

Guards interrupted them every hour, supposedly to check if they still had their toothbrushes, but in effect to deprive them of sleep.

If prisoners covered their faces to block out the sun or floodlights as they tried to sleep, he says, they were woken by screaming guards kicking their cages.

At this time, Mr Hicks said, he had his first experience of Guantanamo Bay's notorious "Initial Reaction Force", or IRF, squads of half a dozen men in body armour who rushed recalcitrant prisoners and beat them.

In the account, Mr Hicks tells of a one-legged prisoner in a nearby cell who was set upon by guards and dogs. Mr Hicks was ordered to face the other way, but listened to the screams. When he was allowed to turn around, there was blood all over the cell.

In 2003 a military police officer, Sean Baker, who was impersonating a prisoner during a training drill, was so badly beaten that he was taken to hospital with brain injuries, and later suffered seizures.

His attackers were unaware he was an imposter and did not hear him utter the "safe word"...

Mr Hicks said that as the interrogations began he was moved from cell to cell. He was also injected with a substance that "made my head feel strange". His weight plummeted.

When he needed an operation for a double hernia, he was mauled by guards, strapped in four-point restraints and treated aggressively by medical staff.
The information is taken from a document to be presented in May to a British court as Hicks pursues British citizenship.