30 Sep 2007

Demand A Royal Commission Into Downer's DFAT Criminals

I hope the 7:30 Report or Four Corners takes a good long look at this story.
A significant part of Commissioner Deegan's findings was dedicated to DrHyndes' evidence and his reliability as a witness.

A three-day cross-examination of DrHyndes during the hearing in May revealed the department had stripped him of full security clearance in 1997 over his involvement, while on unpaid leave, with a Thai finance company embroiled in bribery allegations, and he resented being overlooked for promotions.

During his time with the Thai company, more than $46million passed through Dr Hyndes' bank account before it vanished.

He told the commission he distributed the millions according to instructions from his then-boss, Australian entrepreneur Tim Gatland, who went missing in 1996 and is presumed murdered.

The money was never recovered.
This guy is still serving as an Australian diplomat. He only got his security clearance back by threatening to "leak sensitive information about the 1999 suicide of intelligence agent Merv Jenkins and material that could damage the Australia-Thailand relationship."

Then there's the question of why DFAT wanted to punish Trent Smith in the first place.

And where is Alexander Downer in all this? Same as during the AWB scandal - busy hiding under a desk, desperately trying to come up with some new lies.

This is a real can of worms. Royal Commission, anyone?

Howard Must Rule Out Australian Military Action In Iran

When I read Darryl Mason's recent suggestion that Howard might be stalling the election until an attack on Iran occurs, I was skeptical. I just can't see how such an event would help Howard's popularity. But what if Howard decides that he simply cannot win re-election? Wouldn't there be a huge temptation to go out all guns blazing? Seymour Hersh says the USA is all set to bomb Iran, and Australia and Israel have already made "expressions of interest".

Brendan Nelson confirmed that he spoke to Defense Secretary Robert Gates a month ago but declined to give more specific details. Under the circumstances, I think Howard should make an emphatic statement that Australia will not be involved in any US action against Iran, as it is clearly illegal, illogical, inflamatory and in no way whatsoever related to Australia's national interests.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall calls it "lethally slapstick militarism of Dick Cheney" and provides this link to Hersh's article.

Polling Credibility

In an effort to establish some much-needed credibility by "owning" my own poll - just like Dennis Sham-I-am - I hereby invite readers to vote on who is the biggest wanker in the GG's stable of political pundits.

UPDATE: If you select "other", let us know who and why!

9/11 Is Over? Now What?

Thomas L. Friedman has an interesting (NYT firewall-free) Op-Ed today, 9/11 Is Over. As Juan Cole notes:
The column is significant because it argues that Bushism-Cheneyism is bad for business... If Friedman's conviction becomes widespread in that community, the pressures to abandon the 'War on Terror' will be irresistible.
But this little quote from Friedman shows how much remains to be done:
I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans.
Yep, even a progressive liberal NYT columnist is so brainwashed with US propaganda that he thinks Cubans need hospitals! I guess he hasn't seen Michael Moore's latest movie.

What If

It's interesting to compare the wanton destruction of Iraq and the military's wasted efforts in Afghanistan with China's "soft power" domination of Tibet:
In 1959, life expectancy [in Tibet] was 35. Illiteracy was 90 per cent. Infant mortality was 43 per cent. Per capita income was less than $40. Today, life expectancy has almost doubled to 68. Literacy is more than 90 per cent. Infant mortality is 2.4 per cent. Per capita income is about $1500. The population has increased from 1 million to 2.8 million. And Tibetan culture remains palpably Buddhist.

All paid for by Beijing. Which is why there is not going to be an independent Tibet.
That's from a very interesting article by Paul Sheehan, speculating on what will happen next to the Chinese economy, and how that will affect the world.

Just imagine if all the money we have wasted on war had been spent on building roads, schools, hospitals and other socially beneficial resources?

The War On Aborigines: Look Like You Care, John

Former Queenslander of the Year Dr Chris Sarra challenges the PM:
"We are not hopeless, pitiable, despicable and evil people. If the Prime Minister is so intent on shining the light on all of the evil ones in the disastrous circumstance relating to the wellbeing of our children, then he should look in the mirror and ask himself why he ignored this crisis for all of his time in government.

"He should not be surprised when many are sceptical and suspicious that his actions are not truly motivated by love for Aboriginal children, but rather some cheap election stunt or some unscrupulous land grab.

"I challenge the Prime Minister to attend to this, which is a concern for all Australians, in a way that is beyond politics, but indulgent in what is right.

"I challenge him to approach an Aboriginal child on his next visit to a remote community, and rather than stand stiff like a scared statue thinking he is going to catch a disease, or (his) watch is going to be stolen, but to hold that child close so that he feels their heart beating close to his, then look into their brown eyes and say, 'You and your family are my family; I can see you need help and we are going to help your family and your community to fix things here and make it right for you'."
Bear in mind, it could be a problem that goes beyond Aboriginal kids. Maybe Howard has no real compassion for any kids whatsoever. Years of campaigning seems to have worn down the fake smile...

Of course, he can still get up a smile for the really important issues:

Has anyone got a pic of him lurking on the post-match dressing room of the Melbourne Victory yesterday? I saw him trolling around in the background on TV... and now he is throwing $10 million more of my money at a Rugby League Hall of Fame. Maybe we should all just go out, get drunk, and party on until the election is over?

Wanker Of The Day

Murdoch man Glenn Milne refers to Paul Keating's "Sun King-like presence" as he talks up Howard's appalling record on The Arts:
Much of the arts community's anti-Coalition political positioning is simply a cypher for other things: children overboard, the Iraq war, indigenous intervention, climate change. If artistic truth really does matter in the upcoming election, the sector deserves better than to be reduced in the hands of people such as Keating to yet another manifestation of Howard hating, albeit dressed in the finery of Lorenzo de Medici.
The article is basically just a rehash of a speech by the contemptible George Brandis, Howard's Arts Minister, who famously labelled the PM a "lying rodent" and then threatened to sue anyone who reported it. Brandis is part of an ambitious little clique within the Howard government, and Milne is just tying his colors to their mast.

27 Sep 2007

Two Thousand Words

Two pictures...

Friday Afternoon Meltdown

So here I was reading TPM the other day and the news breaks that El Pais has released details of a pre-war conversation between Bush and Aznar. Josh asks for help getting details published. I quickly drop my work, translate the major parts on my blog, then post some messages to Josh, Atrios and even LP. I go home and do a bit more translating after I've put my kids to sleep, thinking this is a big story that will get lots of attention before I wake up.

But the next day, nothing. Not on my blog, anyway. Details are starting to dribble out in the press and blogs are slow to pick up the story (Bush lied, people died, what's new, right?).

Now here we are a few days later and professional bloggers like Tim Dunlop are picking up the story with comments like: "There isn’t a full formal English translation of the transcript available yet". Aaargh!

Anyway... (deep breath) ...

At least TPM has pushed ahead with the story, and Juan Cole even explains why it could be further grounds for impeachment. But as usual the delusional wingnuts are busy spinning it their own way:
If anything, the transcript proves precisely the opposing point that critics want to make. The conversation shows both Bush and Aznar trying to avoid war as much a possible; that they were concerned of its human toll and that they were quite confident that they would obtain a second resolution. It was the threat that they would act if there wasn’t a second resolution that made them quite confident that there would be one.
*Another deep sigh!*

Like David Swanson says, "As if anyone cares, after all these pieces of evidence..."

I don't mind this blog being ignored, I don't even mind people picking up my stories sometimes and failing to acknowledge the source (all for the greater good, right?). But I don't think there is much point doing this blog if nobody is paying any attention. Like I have said before, there are other ways to make a difference.

Aussies Take Control Of Iraq's Oil

The Aussie Navy has just assumed responsibility (it works on a rotating basis) for protecting Iraq's offshore oilfields, which currently generate about 90% of the country's GDP. This is a huge honor for the Australian armed forces, and a great use of our taxpayer dollars. One day Iraq will have its own Navy, patrol its own waters and defend its own resources. One day Iraqis will thank us for all the hard work we are doing to bring Corporatized Democracy (TM) to their doorstep.

Two Wankers Of The Day

Yup, two nominees sharing the prize today, both Howard cabinet members.

First up is Tony Abbott, who is desperately blaming the NSW government, the Royal North Shore hospital staff, and anyone else within cooee for the disastrous state of our nation's hospitals:
"My oath I'm blaming the state Labor government. They have let people down, comprehensively."
Never mind that these problems (which ultimately come down to a lack of beds, and a lack of doctors, due to a lack of funding) are common in every state. We all know how Abbott would explain that, don't we? Remind me again, who is the Federal Minister For Health? Where does the buck stop? Anyone?

Meanwhile, I hope Fairfax charged the Liberals to run Joe Hockey's Op-ed in SMH today, because it is really nothing more than another dose of government election advertising.

Our nation has become spiritually and ethically impoverished due largely to Howard's 11-year focus on business-dominated financial growth. Now Hockey complains that there needs to be a balance?! WorkChoices deprives ordinary workers of basic rights, but Hockey wants us to feel the employers' pain?! WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

Changing The Climate On Climate Change Discussion

Here's former Czech president Vaclav Havel, from the New York Times:
Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer...

Whenever I reflect on the problems of today’s world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights — these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.

We must return again and again to the roots of human existence and consider our prospects in centuries to come. We must analyze everything open-mindedly, soberly, unideologically and unobsessively, and project our knowledge into practical policies. Maybe it is no longer a matter of simply promoting energy-saving technologies, but chiefly of introducing ecologically clean technologies, of diversifying resources and of not relying on just one invention as a panacea.

I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics — a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.

Either we will achieve an awareness of our place in the living and life-giving organism of our planet, or we will face the threat that our evolutionary journey may be set back thousands or even millions of years. That is why we must see this issue as a challenge to behave responsibly and not as a harbinger of the end of the world.
I think this "consciousness of the commonality of all living beings" already exists among billions of decent, ordinary people on the planet. It is our leaders who are letting us down by failing to appeal to this basic human impulse towards altruism, hope, and a better tomorrow.

The former head of the CSIRO's Climate Impacts Group today released some frightening data about how a 3 degree change could affect Australia's climate:
Under that scenario, heat-related deaths would triple, people would be displaced en masse from the coast and national icons like the Great Barrier Reef would almost certainly be lost, according to the analysis by the former head of the CSIRO's Climate Impacts Group.

The frequency of bushfires would double and there would be major extinctions of animal and plant life, Dr Barrie Pittock says in the report commissioned by WWF Australia.

“On an even more serious note, such a rise in temperature would almost certainly trigger an unstoppable climate tipping point - which may occur with a global warming of two to three degrees Celsius,” Dr Pittock said.

“If warming reaches three to four degrees Celsius then the thresholds for irreversible change will almost certainly be crossed.”
But Brendan Nelson insists that men with beards are a bigger problem for the coming decade. And Bush is handing the problem over to the UN, asking them to debate it for another 15 months, until he has left office. Little wonder that US citizens' faith in their government is now worse than Watergate:
A new Gallup poll reveals that, as the organization puts it, Americans now "express less trust in the federal government than at any point in the past decade, and trust in many federal government institutions is now lower than it was during the Watergate era, generally recognized as the low point in American history for trust in government."

Among the findings: Barely half trust the government to handle international problems, the lowest number ever. And less than half express faith in the government handling domestic issues, the lowest findings since 1976.

Faith in the executive branch has fallen to 43% -- only 3% higher than it was just before President Nixon's resignation in 1974. At the same time, trust in Congress, at 50%, is its lowest ever.

Pretty Rich

Gordon Brown declares:
The age of impunity is over.
Somebody tell Bush, Howard and Blair.

The Industrial News Cycle v. Blogs

Three blokes at the ABC review the great GG-blog spat of July 2007. It's a lengthy piece which attempts to tiptoe delicately through the minefield of Australia's left-right "culture wars", offering a few gentle criticisms of bloggers and MSM alike. For example:
The Australian's decision to "go" the bloggers ... perhaps shows how much some writers at the paper have riding on an unlikely Coalition victory.
Bravo. That should merit an outraged response from Sham-I-am & Co tomorrow!

But the review offers little of substance and ends up sounding like an advert for these three blokes' own "ARC-funded" [sic] work:
Our project, at least, is about giving national issues a local relevance, and aggregating local stories for a new kind of coverage that is different from the increasingly "presidential" narratives of the MSM.

Newspaper editors, we feel, should be studying experiments like this sympathetically, and with an eye to the future, and looking to the blogosphere for the next generation of knowledgeable, clever, engaged political commentators.
There were at least two copy errors in the piece - maybe the boys are just trying to establish their blogging creds? Well, good luck to them.

26 Sep 2007

What To Do With Fools? Laugh At Them

Explaining the rational for his latest movie, War Inc, John Cusack quotes Arundhati Roy:
"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them."
Click the link for movie trailers and a Cusack interview with Naomi Klein.
You know you have become a militant Fascist state when the foreign-owned companies which control your government start telling you where your taxpayer dollars will be going next:
Australia may join an advanced US military communications satellite network and foot part of the bill for expanding it, says an executive of Boeing, which is building the system.

Remember Tiananmen Square?

I have no patience for Howard and Downer's pathetic hand-wringing about Burmese protesters. Both men complain that there is nothing Australia can do, because Burma is "a closed country" and only China has any real influence.

But China is refusing to even condemn the Burmese regime's crackdown. So where does that leave Australia? Well, if we cannot exert pressure on the Burmese regime, at least we can pressure our Chinese friends to pressure Burma - right?

Not bloody likely! We've already made it abundantly clear to China that we will happily turn a blind eye to all their human rights violations, and keep buying all their cheap slave-trade goods, as long as the trade dollars keep flowing. That's the Howard-Costello "economic miracle" at work, right there.

Are we going to impose trade sanctions on China, until they loudly condemn the Burmese atrocity? No way! Heck, we are busy committing our own human rights violations in places like Iraq, Nauru and Gitmo. And Downer is busy helping Cheney agitate for war with Iran!

Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Robert McClelland says Burma should be referred to the International Criminal Court. Yeah, like that's gonna happen too. If Howard is serious about the ICC, the first thing he should do is hand himself in. And if Rudd is serious about it, he should announce a full enquiry into how we ended up in Iraq.

This TV talk of Burma is really all just political posturing by people who basically don't give a fuck. Now Howard says he is going to tighten sanctions even though Downer previously admitted that such action was a complete waste of time. And Bush is also strutting his stuff before the cameras, as if he has any real influence. What a farce!

Meanwhile, on the streets of Rangoon, thousand of monks and students keep putting their lives at risk, day after day. We ordinary Australians should be ashamed that we cannot do more to help them, but we have already made our choices, haven't we?

UPDATE: This 2005 story comes via Andrew Bartlett:
The first Howard Government refused to follow the American lead in 1997 in imposing economic sanctions against the ruling military junta, which had rejected a decisive popular vote on May 27, 1990, for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in Burma's only election since 1960. The 1990 election was free and fair, as the result showed. The shocked generals had to eat their words that they would transfer power to an elected parliament. They took refuge in the subterfuge that the election was only for an assembly to discuss a constitution, which remains a mirage.

Instead of joining the US and, later, European countries, Australia went off on a frolic of its own. It introduced a Human Rights Training program, which pandered to the military establishment, and was roundly condemned by the democracy movement. Although it promised parliament a full accounting, HRT seems to have been quietly terminated...

25 Sep 2007

I Always Knew My Spanish Would Be Helpful One Day...

Spanish newspaper El Pais has just published details of conversations between Bush and Aznar in the leadup to the Iraq War.
Bush Told Aznar That He Would Be In Baghdad In March With Or Without UN Resolution

The Spanish government asked for help to overcome Spanish public opinion

Four weeks before the invasion of Iraq, which happened on the night of the 19th and 20th of March 2003, Bush publicly maintained his threat to Saddam in the following terms: disarm or face war. Behind closed doors, Bush recognized that war was inevitable. During a long private conversation with then Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar, on Saturday the 22nd of February at his Crawford ranch, Bush made it clear that the time had come to get rid of Saddam. "There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be militarily ready. We will be in Baghdad by the end of March," he told Aznar.

As part of this plan, Bush had agreed to accept on the 31st of January 2003 - after a talk with Tony Blair - the introduction of one last diplomatic strategy: the introduction of a second UN resolution in the Security Council. Its objective: to open the legal door to the unilateral war which the USA was about to unleash with more than 200,000 soldiers in the region ready to attack.
Now, where was Howard at this time? President Bush met with Howard on February 10, 2003, TWO WEEKS BEFORE HIS CONVERSATION WITH AZNAR!!!

As I said before:
Howard has always insisted that a “final decision” to go to war was not made until Bush formally requested Australian support on March 17, 2003. No senior Australian whistle-blower has ever stepped forward to contradict him, and no documented evidence is available to conclusively disprove his claim. But the evidence available today reveals the charade.
This is just one more reason why Howard is so desperate to stay as PM through the next election: a Rudd Labor government will surely reveal even more embarrassing facts about how we were misled into war, just as the new Spanish government is doing. Let the truth be told!

UPDATE: The leaked memo was written by the Spanish Ambassador, who acted as a translator at the meetings between Aznar and Bush. This is a direct quote from the transcript of the memo (translated by me):
BUSH: Saddam won't change, he will keep on playing games. The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way it is. For my part, I will work on using the most subtel rhetoric possible while we work for a resolution. If anyone vetoes, we will go in. SAddam is not disarming. We've gotta grab him now. We've shown an incredible amount of patience up till now. There are two weeks left. In two weeks our military will be ready. I think we will get the second resolution. In the Security Council we've got the three African countries, Chile, Mexico. I will talk to them all, and Putin of course. We'll be in Baghdad at the end of March. There is a 15% chance that Saddam will be dead by then, or will have fled. But those possibilities don't exist until we have put forward our resolution. The Egyptians are talking to Saddam. It seems that he has indicated that he will be ready to go into exile if they let him take 1,000 million dollars and all the information he wants about WMDs. Gaddafi told Berlusconi that Saddam wants to go. Mubarak told us that under the circumstances there is a good chance that he could be assassinated.

We would like to act with the UN mandate. If we act militarily we will do it with great precision and very focussed on our objectives. We will obliterate the loyal forces and the regular troops will know what's going on. We've sent a clear message to Saddam's generals: we will treat them as war criminals. We know they have accumulated large amounts of dynamite to blow up bridges and other infrastructure, and to set fire to oil wells. We are planning to occupy those oil wells rapidly. And the Saudis will help us get as much oil as necessary onto the market. We can win without destruction. We are already planning the post-Saddam Iraq, and I think there are grounds for a better future. Iraq will have a good bureaucracy and a relatively strong civil society. It could organize into a federation. Meanwhile we are doing everything possible to attend to the needs of our friends and allies.
Later Bush says "this is like the Chinese water torture. We've gotta put an end to it." And then, "My patience is at an end. I'm not thinking of going beyond the middle of March."

Aznar says "Tony wanted to wait till March 14th" and Bush says he would prefer the 10th:
"This is like a game of good cop, bad cop. I don't care if I'm the bad cop and Blair is the good cop."
And then:
"Compared to SAddam, Milosovic would be a Mother Theresa. When we enter we are going to discover much more crimes and then we'll take him to the International Tribunal of Justice at The Hague."
Bush says Saddam thinks he is very weak, but "the people around him know that their future is either in exile or in a coffin".
Aznar: In fact the best thing would be to win the game without firing a single shot, and enter into Baghdad.

Bush: For me that would be the perfect solution. I don't want war. I know what wars are like. I know the death and destruction they bring with them. I'm the one who has to console the mothers and the widows of the dead. Of course, for us that would be the best solution. What's more, it would save us 50,000 million dollars.
And later:
Aznar: What we are doing is a huge change for Spain and the Spanish people. We are changing the politics which the country has followed for the past 200 years.

Bush: I am guided by a sense of historical responsibility just like you...

Aznar: The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.

Bush: I am optimistic because I believe I am right. I am at peace with myself. It's up to us to confront this serious threat to peace. I get really angry when I think about the insensitivity of the Europeans when it comes to the suffering Saddam inflicts on Iraqis. Maybe because he is brown, distant and Muslim, many Europeans think everything is OK with him. I'll never forget what Solana told me once: why do Americans think that Europeans are antisemitic and incapable of standing up to their responsibilities. That defensive attitude is terrible. I've gotta say, I've got a great relationship with Kofi Annan.

Aznar: He shares your ethical concerns.

Bush: The more the Europeans attack me, the stronger I am back in the USA.

Aznar: We will have to make Europeans learn to appreciate your strength.


What a splendid farce the funeral of Bob Collins has become. Collins was offered a state memorial service by the Federal Government, but today's lurid details of child sexual abuse had even Joe Hockey gagging. Under growing public pressure, and after talks with Collins's family, John Howard has canceled the funeral arrangements.

It's not like the whole thing was unforeseeable. When Collins' court case was deferred in March, it was the third time his case was heard in the ACT Magistrates Court since September 2006. Collins was facing 21 charges of child sex abuse dating back at least three decades, including allegations that he buggered young children in his Senate office while watching porn on TV. And nobody knew about this???

Under the circumstances, why on earth did Canberra offer Collins' family a state funeral? Sure, innocent until proven guilty, but...! They could have had a quiet family affair, now the whole thing has become a circus. And while that may be regrettable, it is far more regrettable that such cases are routinely delayed through the court system with the acquiescence of media and politicians.

Something is rotten to the core in Canberra. Both sides of politics will be running from this story as fast as they can, but this is a story that should not be swept under the carpet.

Brian Toohey's story in the Bulletin describes how youngsters molested by Collins many years ago have served (or are serving) jail terms on child-sex charges. And this sort of story seems to recur regularly in the corridors of power. Why?

Collins' defenders may claim that this is all part of a slander campaign, but that seems unlikely at this late stage. Such claims, however, should remind us of the dangers inherent in slanderous political campaigning. Those who drag down the offices of government are undermining the foundations of the democracy they purport to represent.

As the latest protests in Myanmar (or is it Burma?) remind us, democracy derives from the Greek word DEMOS, meaning "people". When the people have utterly lost faith in their political representatives, it's time for a new system of government.

Wanker Of The Day

Shorter Janet Albrechtsen: there is no solution to global warming, and all the deluded leftist fools who promise to DO SOMETHING will end up doing nothing, so you might as well just vote Liberal and not be disappointed.

And even if these leftists do try to DO SOMETHING, their realpolitik bosses wont let them.

And even if their realpolitic bosses do let them DO SOMETHING, the world will continue to hurtle towards oblivion and all our jobs will go to China and Australia will become a Third World cesspool of hoplessness. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Mick Keelty is also warning people about floods of homeless global warming refugees steaming towards our shores. Or something.
If you want to hear Alan Greenspan squirm, check out this interview with Amy Goodman and Naomi Klein. Greenspan gets caught out again and again, repeatedly abandoning his lies at the first sight of a challenge, and ends up sounding like a has-been fool. To think that world markets once hung on his every word!

24 Sep 2007

The Dark Side

This is from a new book on porn called Getting Off:
It hurts to know that no matter who you are as a woman you can be reduced to a thing to be penetrated, and that men will buy movies about that, and that in many of those movies your humiliation will be the central theme. It hurts to know that so much of the pornography that men are buying fuses sexual desire with cruelty.

It hurts women, and men like it, and it hurts just to know that.
It hurts to watch the Iraq War from a distance, it hurts just to know what people are capable of. Another example from today's newspaper... Captain Matthew Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon, explains how he entraps and then murders Iraqis:
"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy. Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual, as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against US forces."
Notice how he says "engage" rather than "shoot" or "kill". He is actually using the word to disengage from the act of murder, but you can be damn sure he gets off when he pulls that trigger. Ooh, yeah, baby!

The common thread:
In fact, the United States is a nation that has no serious objection to cruelty and degradation. Think of the way we accept the use of brutal weapons in war that kill civilians, or the way we accept the death penalty, or the way we accept crushing economic inequality.
Where are we headed, Australia?

20 Sep 2007

Stormy Weather

Atrios says "the hurricane is coming". Yup, this could be Bush's next Katrina brewing on the horizon.

Mike Whitney says everyone on Wall Street loves Ben Bernanke:
He brings them candy and sweets and lets the American worker pay the bill.
Whitney's analysis is always worth a read:
Bernanke invoked the “Greenspan put”, which means that he used his power to protect his friends from the losses they should have incurred from their bad bets. Now, the big market players know that he can be counted on to bail them out whenever they make poor investment choices. He’s also lived up to his nickname, “Helicopter Ben”; ready to deal with every new calamity by tossing trillions of freshly-minted US greenbacks into the jet-stream over the NYSE so elated traders can jack-up their PEs and fatten their bottom line . We think Bernanke should abandon the helicopter altogether and personally deliver pallet-loads of $100 bills to Wall Street’s doorstep on a Fed-owned fork-lift, just like Bush does with contractors in Iraq.
Meanwhile Goldman Sachs, the Bush cabal's banker of choice, has just announced another massive quarterly profit, surging 79 per cent to beat analyst expectations for the seventh straight period:
Goldman's net revenue rose 63 per cent to $US12.3 billion ... The earnings beat analyst forecasts by 40 per cent.
But as one analyst warned:
"Next year is another story."

Wanker Of The Day

I have said again and again that the Labor spin on Iraq "withdrawal" is a sham, and the only way to get Aussie troops out of Iraq is to vote Green. So it's rather disconcerting to find Dennis Sham-I-am agreeing with me. But the reason Dennis wins my coveted Wanker Of The Day award is that he sprinkles his politically-motivated case with all sorts of furphies:
By the second half of next year, whether there is a Coalition or Labor government, the same number of troops will be committed to doing the same jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Indeed, under a Labor government there is a greater chance there will be more Australian troops exposed to more dangerous situations in the Iraq-Afghanistan military theatres.
That's crap, and the Sham Man provides nothing to back it up. He admits Labor will replace "combat" troops inside Iraq with "training" troops outside Iraq, but then he says "this is exactly how the Coalition’s Iraq policy is evolving":
John Howard has said it, Brendan Nelson has said it and the military is preparing for the change of role.

The size and role of Australia’s personnel commitment to the Iraqi and Afghanistan causes is likely to be exactly the same by the end of next year, no matter who is prime minister; indeed, Labor’s troop commitment may be larger.
Well, if Dennis can point to a Howard or Nelson commitment to pulling combat troops out of Iraq and replacing them with training troops, let him do so. As for the scare-mongering about Labor MAYBE increasing troop levels in Iraq, that's just a pathetic attempt to win voters.

Does Sham-I-am really think that he can con anti-war readers into supporting Howard? The comments at News Ltd suggest it's not going to work.
Dennis, I’ll be voting to punish the idiots who took us in there, regardless of where we are going next.

Oh My

This story has it all: AWB, Iraq, Alia, Firepower, the PM's office, and a fugitive on the run.

The Writhing Death Throes Of Economic Geniuses

What bugs me about the looming global financial meltdown is that my hard-earned taxpayer money is being shovelled into the furnace, but why should I be paying to bail out those responsible? It was the short-sighted actions of power-hungry political elites and their Big Business partners which triggered this crisis. Let the Super Rich global billionaires who bankroll our corrupt rightwing governments stave off the sharks with money from their own pockets. Or let the whole thing burn to the ground, I don't care. Maybe it will teach people a lesson about accountability.

Peter Hartcher today has a good look at Alan Greenspan and John Howard. He says the Greenspan-engineered US housing bubble crunch is a perfectly-timed $1 trillion gift for Howard:
When house prices began to fall, they precipitated an outbreak of mortgage defaults. This, in turn, gave rise to a liquidity crisis that has roiled markets around the world. And this week, the Federal Reserve effectively declared that this had crossed a threshold.

When the post-Greenspan Fed decided on Wednesday, Australian time, that it needed to cut official interest rates for the first time in four years, it was sending a very clear signal that this was no longer just a liquidity crisis but had escalated to a full-blown economic crisis...

This fear of a gathering international crisis plays to one of Howard's main election themes - in the face of uncertainty, stick with the economic managers you know, and don't risk Rudd. One man's age of turbulence is another man's moment of serendipity.
I dunno. It remains to be seen how the Australian economy will be affected by this looming global crisis, how the timing of things will affect the election, and whether or not Australians will blame the Howard government for their part in the disaster.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the governor of the Bank of England is under pressure to resign:
After the toughest week of his career, Mr King will use an appearance before the treasury select committee today to deny accusations from his critics in City investment banks that news of a £10bn injection of funds into the money market represented a belated and humiliating U-turn after the damage had been done.
PS: You gotta love how the media has turned on Alan Greenspan NOW, after relentlessly praising his bubble-blowing act for years. Like the WMDs, not a word of "we was wrong" apology.

NB: Cartoon by Steve Bell.

Here It Comes...

Gosh, it seems like only yesterday that any bloggers who wrote stuff like this were written off as psychos. But these stories are from the esteemed UK Telegraph:

1. Fears of dollar collapse as Saudis take fright
Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time, signalling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.
The Saudis see a big recession coming in the USA and don't want to be dragged down with it.

2. China threatens 'nuclear option' of dollar sales
The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.

Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.
Same story: China is not going to take a hit to help keep the US afloat. As an official at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences puts it:
"China has accumulated a large sum of US dollars. Such a big sum, of which a considerable portion is in US treasury bonds, contributes a great deal to maintaining the position of the dollar as a reserve currency. Russia, Switzerland, and several other countries have reduced the their dollar holdings.

"China is unlikely to follow suit as long as the yuan's exchange rate is stable against the dollar. The Chinese central bank will be forced to sell dollars once the yuan appreciated dramatically, which might lead to a mass depreciation of the dollar."
The dollar is now at a record low against the euro. Oil is over $80 a barrel. Is anyone paying attention?

The irony is that one of the main reasons for invading Iraq was to stop Saddam dumping the US dollar oil peg.

19 Sep 2007

Hypocrite Of The Day

Coalition MP De-Anne Kelly:
"He (Mr Rudd) needs to know how real people live, what the tax rates are, the price of milk, of mince and for his advice mince is about $12 a kilo, he needs to live in the real world," Ms Kelly told reporters.
Mince is $6 a kilo, lady.

Death Of A Lonely Blogger

How terribly sad:
"In this world, most of us have a lot of hard times; we struggle for living with exceeding loneliness.

"If a happy start has to end with pain, I rather I never had those happiness. Therefore, I won't need to remember those happy moments and those painful experiences."

Wanker Of The Day

What I hate most about Alexander Downer is the way he uses humour to trivialise and laugh off very serious questions that he doesn't want to answer:
TONY JONES: Now when you talked all this over with Mr Howard after taking your soundings, was Mrs Howard there as well?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I'm not going into personal details of meetings I have with anybody, be it John Howard or President Bush (laughs) or President Putin (laughs) or President Yeltsin, in years gone by, (laughs) whoever it may be, I'm not going into that.

TONY JONES: Not even who was present at the meetings?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: It doesn't matter. (dead serious silence)
Not any more, it doesn't. [UPDATE: Sorry, I mistakenly thought this referred to the ministers meeting discussing the leadership, but actually it's about when Downer reported those discussions back to Howard. More coffee helps...].

Downer's quote comes from this Lateline interview. Tony Jones did a good job of making Downer squirm, with some tough questions like this:
TONY JONES: Do you think, just to sort of finalise this issue, I mean you really think though it is what the founders intended and what the voters want, to see a Parliament so completely dominated by the majority Government that they can orchestrate proceedings pretty much at will, and that the Speaker seems to back them on that?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, with the greatest of respect, I think that's ... not that I would accuse you of this, but that is putting the question from a very Labor perspective. I ... sorry, to tell you, I've been a member of Parliament for a very long time, I'll never forget, I will never forget the abominable way the Parliament was abused during the Hawke and Keating years... [blah blah]
And some honest brokering like this:
TONY JONES: You mentioned earlier [Rudd] was pinged on not having the detail in his head about the tax rates. You've got them in your head have you?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Yeah, well I'm not aspiring to be the Prime Minister. But I mean, that of course is not a trick question, it's a predictable question so maybe it's not fair to ask me, but I know that the highest tax threshold comes in at $150,000, it goes up to.

TONY JONES: Could you actually go backwards and do them all like the Treasurer did in Parliament today? You're checking your notes...(laughs)

ALEXANDER DOWNER: (laughs) I do myself attest that I think you'll find that the next threshold, the 40-cent rate comes in at $75,000.

TONY JONES: Don't look down, don't look down. Not allowed to look...

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Don't look down. I think I know them pretty well. I think you'll find that the 30-cent rate, that comes in at about $30,000. But I mean, I'm not trying to be the Prime Minister...

TONY JONES: Alexander Downer, I'll relieve you from having to look down at that bit of paper that's obviously got the tax rates written on in front of you.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: (laughs) Not at all, how can you be so cynical?
Downer also criticizes Rudd for what was or was not discussed during his 45-minute off the record talk with Bush at APEC. Hypocrisy reigns supreme as Downer refuses to reveal details of his own meetings with the PM:
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I'm not going into what I personally thought or said and you probably won't even read that in my memoirs, I'm a foreign minister, you know, discretion comes very naturally to me, I don't go into what I privately think and say to people. It doesn't get you anywhere, but I think I could put ...

TONY JONES: It might get you quite a good price from a publisher if you do want to write everything that you know into those memoirs.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I hate to spoil my own prospects, but I really don't respect the kiss-and-tell approach to public life at all, not at all.

What Have We Done???

New research by ORB, a British group whose work was once touted by the Bush administration, shows that over a million Iraqis have been murdered since the war began.
In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,499 adults aged 18+ answered the following question:-

Q: How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (i.e. as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.

None 78%
One 16%
Two 5%
Three 1%
Four or more 0.002%

Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003...

48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance.
The margin of error on the sample who answered (1,499) is only +2.5%. And given that this survey supports previous estimates, there is no longer any excuse for ignoring or misrepresenting the horrible truth.

Of course, the US military have famously stated that they "don't do body counts". And our governments have tossed out ridiculous numbers like 30,000 dead. And our compliant media have used such ridiculous numbers repeatedly, either for fear of being criticized or because they secretly support this horrible war. And all three of these groups - the military, the government, the media - have blood on their hands.

But we, the people, did not want to know the truth. And that is why they got away with it for so long.


Shout it from the rooftops - over a million dead! And for what? For what???

One day the dry skulls will be stacked in small mountains, and a sign will say who did this, and when, and why. Those who survive this massacre will not forget, nor readily forgive. What have we done?

18 Sep 2007

Yesterday's Hero

Howard is starting to channel the spirit of Joh Bjelke-Petersen:
"It's not smearing somebody to say all you ever announce is committees, all you ever promise to do is react to a review that you might get some time in the future if you are elected and after a process of consultation."
Actually, setting up committees and reacting to reviews sounds like a big step forward from the nobody-told-me stitchups and deliberate ignorance of the Howard years. But don't you worry about that!
"What the Australian people want to know from me and they want to know from Mr Rudd over the weeks and months ahead is how can preserve, expand and further deliver the prosperity of this nation for the benefit of future generations of Australians?'' he said.

"They're the sort of issues that need to be debated. Not stunts, not slogans, not American-style policy launches where you (use) the teleprompter or whatever you call those things that look like rear vision mirrors, which I've never used and I never will use. "
You can see him down at the Bowls Club on a Sunday afternoon, can't you? Dressed in starched white clothes, with his chest puffed up and his trembling bottom lip stuck out, resting an arm on the bar while he studiously listens to the cricket on the wireless (none of those tele-vision things or whatever you call 'em).

Can We Get Our Heads Around The Concept Of Withdrawal, Please?

Cementing its new status as a Murdoch rag, the WSJ ridiculously claims that the expulsion from Iraq of mercenary forces like Blackwater might actually slow down the US military withdrawal.

Now, never mind the fact that neither of those things are actually likely to happen (sigh). The WSJ's logic is that private mercenaries will need to fill the security void left by departing US soldiers, thus ensuring the safety of "the tens of thousands of nonmilitary U.S. personnel working in Iraq". The underlying assumption is that US companies should still be free to exploit Iraq even after US military forces are gone. And that's just ridiculous.

Let me spell it out: US soldiers out. US mercenaries out. US commercial parasites out.

Ah, but what about the foreign diplomats, I hear you ask? Surely we have to leave someone to guard our embassies and ambassadors and consuls, and their residences and their limousines and their gardeners and their chefs and their maids? Even Kevin Rudd is only promising to withdraw "combat troops", right?

As the bishop said to the actress: "Don't worry, I'll withdraw in a timely fashion. Alas, there could be some residual deposits."

When the US withdrew its forces from Vietnam, did they leave a small contingent guarding the embassy in Saigon? I don't think so.

The Wise Men Who Guide Our Foreign Policy

Murdoch man Paul Kelly posits "five guiding stars" in the Australian foreign policy sky:
First, Australia should embrace the new Trilateral Strategic Dialogue involving the US and Japan. This means dismissing the pessimistic doomsayers who warn Australia off such a natural association on the basis that it might upset China. Such views are astounding...

Second, Australia needs firmly and unequivocally to convey to the US that it sees no strategic role for alliances of democracies in Asia... Any US notion of dividing Asia along democratic lines - the democracies (including Taiwan) against China - would be ludicrous...

Third, Australia should signal to US leaders and Japan’s new leaders (if necessary) that Australia opposes any four-way strategic group comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia...

Fourth, the lesson from the Sydney APEC meeting is that Australia must continue to advance APEC, keep its relevance and drive its agenda... The profile of APEC is greater in Australia than in any other member economy, a point that is valid despite the deliberate decision by much of the Sydney media to de-legitimise the forum by turning it into a circus about traffic and protesters.

Finally, there will be no substitute for bilateralism in the evolving Asia. Regionalism cannot substitute for effective state-to-state ties. One of the insights of the Howard era was to grasp this from the start...

As a nation we need to get sharper intellectually and tougher politically. The task, as ever, is to help shape the region, not just endure its consequences.
Yes, we need to create our own reality!

So a 3-way dialogue with the US and Japan is good, but a 4-way dialogue including India is bad. Why? Because it will upset China. We don't want to make a big issue of democracies either, because that will also upset China. But we must not kow-tow to China, lest our foreign policy flexibility becomes "so utterly circumscribed that our only future is Finlandisation before the Middle Kingdom". Right-o.

And we should push on with APEC even if we are the only country in the region which gives a shit about it. Brilliant.

And the bottom line, as ever, is the underlying assumption that we must cling to the USA like shit on a shoe.

And not one word about our closest neighbours, if you noticed. What about PNG, East Timor, Vanuatu, the Solomons? Forgotten as usual by the egotistical wise men whose focus is always on the Big Game.

UPDATE: 9:34am and still only one comment up on Paul Kelly's blog, although it looks like at least 8 comments are in the queue. Obviously, this sort of wise man commentary is not intended for popular discussion.

17 Sep 2007

Conversation With a Wingnut (Part 2)

Here are some excerpts from a conversation I had way back in Dec 2003 with a US wingnut named Jon Reimer. At the time I was thinking I could convert Bush supporters one by one, using pure logic and reason. The following quotes from Jon are from the archives at Bushout:
i find it hard to believe that the president of the united states can be afraid.

and dont ever compare George to Christ. As a Christian I have a relationship with Christ because he is my savior. he granted me eternal salvation. Bush is simply the president of my country and therefore deserves my allegiance.

Find for me one president that hasnt lied.

now about war and pre-emption. those countries were obvious threats to the us.

the terrorists have started this war, we are simply bringing it to them. saddam was a terrorist supporter, and even if he wasnt that he was a tyrannical despot that deserved a regime change. less iraqis are dying today then when saddam was in power. the iraqi people are better off because of our intervention.

personally i am enlisting in our selective service. and if im drafted (i shouldnt be but anyway) than i will gladly fight for my country, or the liberation of an oppressed people, or to eliminate terrorists. dont mention 'nam, i didnt agree with that.

personally, if i was president, i would have invaded all those middle eastern islamic terrorist-supportin countries. bin laden or saddam has got to be in one. and they all need reconstructed. i say put the entire us army in the area to fix it. but thats not possible becuz of islam.

bush is shootin for a July 04 [2004] pull out date for our troops.

North Korea is ruled by a despot that rivals Saddam. He periodically rounds up the beautiful women in his country, rapes them and then kills them.
Despite all Jon's talk about joining the US military, it seems he stayed home, started a financial services course at uni and is working in a butcher's shop to pay his fees. But his opinions remain steadfastly unchanged.

I just found this Newshour interview, which is almost certainly the same guy:
All teachers should have guns. Think about it. There'd be no more school shootings if every teacher had a gun.
Are we getting anywhere?

UPDATE: It gets better. Newshour gave Jon a gig doing a 2-week email dialogue about the Iraq War.
Andrew, your problem is typical of Democrats. Your entire philosophy is based on the twin assertions that "Bush lied!" and that "there are no WMDs!" You also depend on the mainstream media as the source for your information and base your opinion of the world on what they tell you.

Again, the space in this forum is hardly enough to completely develop this, but I will give you a quick overview of the truth...

If today's media were present during World War II, the outcome would have been very different. To use another example, look at Vietnam and the effect of political influences on our troops. Pressure from home caused withdrawn support and the fight against communism crumbled, causing massive and unnecessary American deaths and prevented what could have been a successful, democratic and free nation.

By citing dollar amounts and casualty numbers, and calling for a timetable of "withdrawal," do we not risk the same terrible outcome for the struggling, fledgling democracy that is underway in Iraq?

The Law Is An Ass

What do all these stories have in common?

1. Badgeless APEC police cleared:
New South Wales police officers who took off their identification badges during APEC protests will escape punishment after a police inquiry found they feared the pins on the badges could be used against them.
2. What happens to private contractors who kill Iraqis? Maybe nothing
Should any Iraqis ever seek redress for the deaths of the civilians in a criminal court, they will be out of luck. Because of an order promulgated by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the now-defunct American occupation government, there appears to be almost no chance that the contractors involved would be, or could be, successfully prosecuted in any court in Iraq. CPA Order 17 says private contractors working for the U.S. or coalition governments in Iraq are not subject to Iraqi law. Should any attempt be made to prosecute Blackwater in the United States, meanwhile, it's not clear what law, if any, applies.
3. 9-11: Unanswered Questions
Dr. Hirsch said he had decided to amend Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s death certificate to indicate that exposure to trade center dust “was contributory to her death.” The manner of death will be changed from natural causes to homicide.
Our governments are out of control.

The Rude Finger

Today's Newspoll finally brings to an end Howard's prolongued leadership woes. I suspect the News Ltd people behind Newspoll people did everything they could to pull this particular rabbit out of Howard's err... hat. As Kudelka warns:
While you’re up there (so to speak), be careful you don’t accidentally mistake an enlarged prostate for a WMD. A pre-emptive surgical strike on the nether regions could result in some very nasty collateral damage.
Speaking of fingers, Darryl Mason has a good rant about the photo on the front page of today's GG.

Reminds me of Howard's boss in Washington...

Panic In The Streets

Last time I saw scenes like this was just before the economy collapsed in Argentina. Brits today are queuing in the streets to get their money out of the Northern Rock bank (Britain's fifth-largest mortgage lender) before it collapses, and other UK banks are also in trouble.

This all goes back to the US sub-prime lending crisis, which goes back to Bush's "trickle down economics" fantasy and irresponsible deficits. There is now a global credit crunch underway, with banks refusing to lend each other money.

Former Bush stooge Alan Greenspan sheepishly puts his hand up and admits "My bad." The world's greatest treasurer insists that Australians have nothing to worry about. But he would says that, wouldn't he?

Personally, I am more inclined to listen to Mike Whitney, who has been screaming in the economic wilderness for years and is now being proven dead right. Whitney today quotes economist and author Henry C K Liu's article “Why the Subprime Bust will Spread”:
“Greenspan presided over the greatest expansion of speculative finance in history, including a trillion-dollar hedge-fund industry, bloated Wall Street-firm balance sheets approaching $2 trillion, a $3.3 trillion repo (repurchase agreement) market, and a global derivatives market with notional values surpassing an unfathomable $220 trillion."
I don't remember the world's greatest treasurer having much to say about that at the time.

Australia, the UK and the USA have all enjoyed record housing bubbles over the past decade. The US and UK are both now in trouble. I'm no economist, but only a fool would expect Australia to come through this unscathed.

UPDATE: A ripple of panic hits Aussie banks...

Exposing the Myth Of Iraqi Sovereignty

PM al-Maliki's decision to expel Blackwater mercenaries from Iraq is going to show everybody who really runs that country. As Larry Johnson notes:
First problem. Blackwater does not have a license to operate in Iraq and does not need one. They have a U.S. State Department contract through Diplomatic Security...

Second problem. The Iraqi government has zero power to enforce a decision to oust a firm like Blackwater. For starters, Blackwater has a bigger air force and more armored vehicles then the Iraqi Army and police put together.
Let's not forget that it was two Blackwater security guards who were hanged on that bridge in Falluja long ago, an incident which signalled the end of Iraqi support for the USA's military action.

Peace Is The Road

Pitchfork has an MP3 of Tom Waits: "Road to Peace".

Try this link.

16 Sep 2007

The Definition of a Compliant Idiot: Alexander Downer

You know, somebody really should set up a website dedicated to all the stupid things Downer has said.

Who Is Keeping The Bastards Honest Now?

Bob Brown wants to be included in any TV election debates:
Senator Brown says the ALP has agreed with the Government on so many issues that only parties like the Greens now offer any real voice in opposition.

"I'll be challenging Kevin Rudd to a debate, because there's so many issues, like climate change, like the pulp mill in Tasmania, like industrial relations legislation, and the failure to properly fund public education, where the Greens are providing the real opposition as we go to the polls, because it's becoming such an easy run for Rudd Labor," he said.
Damn straight.

Australia's Jewish Lobby Hits The Panic Button

Forget Paul Sheehan and others reacting to Alan Ramsay's intriguing weekend piece. The most interesting story in today's papers is from Imre Salusinszky, revealing that Jewish leaders betrayed Labor to support Malcolm "Merchant Banker" Turnbull's failed leadership coup, but now they are desperately calling Rudd to apologise:
Grahame Leonard, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, has phoned federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd over the tensions and the two have scheduled a meeting.

The development comes as the battle for the Jewish vote turns nasty, with Peter Costello accusing the labour movement of harbouring anti-Semitism.

In an interview with the Australian Jewish News published last Friday, the Treasurer trumpets his pro-Israel credentials, stretching back to his days in the student movement, and warns Australia's position would be threatened by the election of a Rudd government.

"At national level, there is support for Israel on both sides of parliament; however, I think that Labor's support is not as strong as the Coalition's," he told the newspaper.
Yeah, a secret Labor pledge of $20 million to Jewish private schools for "security" is obviously not pro-Israel enough. What's really needed is support for an all-out attack on Iran and the further subjugation of the Paltestinian people.

The article also reveals some interesting AEC shenanigans:
Labor was also outraged at the inclusion of supportive letters from several Jewish organisations in the Liberal Party submission to the Australian Electoral Commission on new borders for Mr Turnbull's eastern Sydney seat of Wentworth.

While the Environment Minister's margin was halved to 2.5 per cent in last year's redistribution, the situation would have been worse without the AEC agreeing to salvage part of the neighbouring seat of Kingsford Smith because it includes Jewish schools and nursing homes.
So now we are drawing up electorates based on ethnic and religious profiles? Really? But it's OK, coz they are not Muslim, right? Right?

Australians who pay attention should get an interesting look into how politics in this country really works this week.

And then there's the global perspective. This ABC story strongly implies that Israel attacked Syria last week because Syria was getting WMDs from North Korea. But, as the reporter breathlessly explains, such a thing cannot be clearly stated in the media because of Israeli state censorship:
What happened in Syria 10 days ago has been at the centre of one the biggest guessing games in Israel. Whatever it was, it was very serious.

Yossi Melman is one of Israel's most respected military correspondents. He might or might not know exactly what happened and you can forgive his hesitation because he cannot by law report it.

"I would like to believe that what happened in Syria was that serious, that immediate, that it was worth the risk of all-out war with Syria," he said.

"We [in Israel] cannot say anything which is based on Israeli sources. Nothing."
So we are asked to trust the vague insinuations of Condi "Mushroom Clouds" Rice, John Bolton, WaPo and the Israeli government. And the proof?
Syria complained of Israeli aggression, but no other Arab country has come to its support. Only Russia, Iran and North Korea denounced the Israeli action.
That's it. That's all the proof you need, right? Right?

13 Sep 2007

The Last Post

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
Yup. It's time to go.

Cheers and best wishes to all.

PS: Don't worry, I'll find something useful to do!

PPS: I am happy to direct readers to other great blogs like Winter Patriot, Antony Loewenstein, Larvatus Prodeo and any other sites on my links.
And as an afterthought
This must too be told
Some people have taken pure bullshit
And turned it into gold.
- Neil Young

Howard with a Baedeker, Downer with a Cigar

Apparently Downer was sucking on a cigar as he presided over the leadership meeting last week. Peter Hartcher reveals that MPs were surprised at even being asked their thoughts on the issue.
One mused aloud: is Howard asking for permission to retire? Is he asking us to save him from himself? "Overall, it comes down to the Prime Minister's state of mind - you want a leader who thinks he can win," one minister remarked after the meeting...

There was a strong consensus that there could be no plot or putsch or party room vote. There could be no delegation to tell Howard to go. It had to be his decision.

But, strikingly, participants report that not one of the people in the room took a firm and consistent position that Howard should stay. Philip Ruddock's position was described as the most pro-Howard in the room, and even he was equivocal, ministers report. Ruddock was the only person in the room who has served longer in Parliament than Howard himself.

Downer's view? The former leader of the federal Liberal Party gave the group the very strong impression that, so long as Howard thought he couldn't win the election or win Bennelong, he should go.

But the result was that no one in Howard's cabinet advocated unequivocally that the Prime Minister should stay on, either in the room or in phone consultations and other meetings. Even his most fervent devotee, Tony Abbott, agonised over the question and gave other ministers the clear impression that he thought Howard should go; however it seems he quietly held to his belief in his hero.
That's Team Howard, right there.

The graphic above is from an online poll at Teh Oz, asking:
Will John Howard's suggestion he may not serve a full term influence your vote in the upcoming election?
Results are currently showing 52% of respondents "won't vote Coalition anyway", while a further 13% say they will "definitely switch from Coalition", and a further 8% saying they are "less likely to vote Coalition". That's a total of 65 to 73 percent, and these are Teh Oz readers!

The nation's punters are also not impressed with "Team Howard":
Punters have already reacted to the news that a vote for John Howard is a vote for Peter Costello, with Sportingbet Australia saying the odds on a Labor victory have narrowed even further.

Sportingbet CEO Michael Sullivan says the odds of Kevin Rudd becoming prime minister have narrowed to $1.30, while they've drifted out to $3.60 on Mr Howard.
Teh Oz editorial, meanwhile, talks about "the risk, even if Mr Howard does win the election, of becoming a lame duck". Both the editorial and Sham-I-am call on Costello to step up to the plate and take a more prominent role. Actually, he should have stepped up to the plate a week ago. But he wasn't even on the field.

Go team!

UPDATE: Howard tells The Team it's not me, it's you:
"The opinion polls do indicate that my level of personal popularity is quite high, given I've been prime minister for 11 and a half years, it really is. In fact, my level of personal support is significantly higher than that of the party's. If the party's level of support in the opinion polls was as high as mine is, well, we'd be a different story."
PS: A Baedeker is an old travel guide, and the title of this post is a reference to a poem by T.S. Eliot. In case you are interested...
Howard crossed a little bridge
Descending at a small soirée
Princess Janet arrived,
They were together, and he fell.

Defunctive music under sea
Passed seaward with the passing bell
Slowly: the God Electorate
Had left him, that had loved him well.

The limos, live on camera
Beat up George Street from Circular Quay
With snipers watching. APEC's shuttered fools
Talked in the bars all the day.

But this or such was Howard's way:
A saggy bending of the knees
And elbows, with the palms turned out,
Canberra Zionist as you please.

A lustreless protrusive eye
Stares from the protozoic slime
At a perspective of Kevin07.
The smoky candle end of time

Declines. At the Lodge once.
The rats are underneath the piles.
Murdoch is underneath the lot.
Money in wars. The boatman smiles,

Princess Janet extends
A meagre, blue-nailed, phthisic hand
To climb the waterstair. Lights, lights,
She entertains the Governor

General. Who clipped the lion's wings
And flea'd his rump and pared his claws?
Thought Costello, meditating on
Time's ruins, and the seven laws.

Wanker Of The Day

Murdoch man Michael Costello, who would have you believe that everything in Iraq is just utterly fantastic:
The Democrats want to paint George W. Bush and the Republicans as law-breaking warmongers and incompetents who continue to sacrifice young American lives and treasure in the pursuit of a lost cause.

There are, of course, honourable exceptions: John McCain springs to mind...

The key problem will be Iran, highlighted by Petraeus and Crocker as a prime military and political concern.
Yeah, let's all go "bomb, bomb, bomb... bomb, bomb Iran".

12 Sep 2007

Teach Your Children Well

A new study says that teaching should become a post graduation career - in other words, teachers should do a Dip Ed along with another degree.

IMHO this is the key to a better Australia. Of course, it would mean you need to pay your teachers more. But a society which respects education is a society which respects knowledge and truth, and that surely has to be good for us all.

PM Resigns AND Gets Rushed To Hospital

Educational stuff, courtesy of teh GG.

"Team" Rodent: I Smell A Rattus

There is something distinctly fishy about this whole Costello thing. Perusing the latest Liberal Party offerings, I cannot help wondering if we have not all been sold an extravagantly customised election re-branding.
Health Minister Tony Abbott said Mr Howard and Mr Costello were a formidable team with years of experience.

"What you'll get in the future is the same kind of values and the same kind of policies that you've had in the past," Mr Abbott told ABC radio.

"A Costello government will not be dramatically different from a Howard government because Peter Costello has been in the engine room as the heart of the Howard government ever since 1996.

"Having seen John Howard and Peter Costello working together closely for a lot of years, they are very much peas from the same pod."
It sounds a lot like the crap I got in the mail from Origin Energy when they took over from Energex as SE QLD's #1 electrcity supplier: we are the same thing really, but somehow so much better just because of a change of name. I suspect the same corporate PR mindset is at work here.

I not-unrelated news, the International Monetary Fund has praised Australia's economic management. This is surely the ultimate accolade for Howard's pro-Big Business accolyte. But for all those who think the IMF is a respectable broker in this game, a warning:
In 1978, one year after Jamaica first entered a borrowing relationship with the IMF, the Jamaican dollar was still worth more on the open exchange than the US dollar; by 1995, when Jamaica terminated that relationship, the Jamaican dollar had eroded to less than 2 cents US.
You and I, dear reader, are nothing more than income-producing fodder for the people who run the IMF, and these are the same people who have given us George W. Bush, the Iraq War, and a decade of Howard.

Will We Ever Know The Truth About 9/11?

Peter Tatchell at The Guardian looks at the big cover-up:
The 9/11 Commission was hamstrung by official obstruction. It never managed to ascertain the whole truth of what happened on September 11 2001.

The chair and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, respectively Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, assert in their book, Without Precedent, that they were "set up to fail" and were starved of funds to do a proper investigation. They also confirm that they were denied access to the truth and misled by senior officials in the Pentagon and the federal aviation authority; and that this obstruction and deception led them to contemplate slapping officials with criminal charges.

Despite the many public statements by 9/11 commissioners and staff members acknowledging they were repeatedly lied to, not a single person has ever been charged, tried, or even reprimanded, for lying to the 9/11 Commission.

From the outset, the commission seemed to be hobbled. It did not start work until over a year after the attacks. Even then, its terms of reference were suspiciously narrow, its powers of investigation curiously limited and its time-frame for producing a report unhelpfully short - barely a year to sift through millions of pages of evidence and to interview hundreds of key witnesses.

The final report did not examine key evidence, and neglected serious anomalies in the various accounts of what happened. The commissioners admit their report was incomplete and flawed, and that many questions about the terror attacks remain unanswered. Nevertheless, the 9/11 Commission was swiftly closed down on August 21 2004.

I do not believe in conspiracy theories. I prefer rigorous, evidence-based analysis that sifts through the known facts and utilises expert opinion to draw conclusions that stand up to critical scrutiny. In other words, I believe in everything the 9/11 Commission was not.

The failings of the official investigation have fuelled too many half-baked conspiracy theories. Some of the 9/11 "truth" groups promote speculative hypotheses, ignore innocent explanations, cite non-expert sources and jump to conclusions that are not proven by the known facts. They convert mere coincidence and circumstantial evidence into cast-iron proof. This is no way to debunk the obfuscations and evasions of the 9/11 report.

But even amid the hype, some of these 9/11 groups raise valid and important questions that were never even considered, let alone answered, by the official investigation. The American public has not been told the complete truth about the events of that fateful autumn morning six years ago.

What happened on 9/11 is fundamentally important in its own right. But equally important is the way the 9/11 cover-up signifies an absence of democratic, transparent and accountable government. Establishing the truth is, in part, about restoring honesty, trust and confidence in American politics.
Tatchell cites a host of online links and websites with more information. He calls for a whole new investigation:
George Bush should be called to testify, without his minders at hand to brief and prompt him. America - and the world - has a right to know the truth.
Damn right.

The Bradman Analogy

Joe Hockey calls Howard the Don Bradman of politics:
"If you've got a Don Bradman in the team and you're going on an Ashes tour to England you don't readily give up your Don Bradman," Mr Hockey said on ABC radio today.
But you probably wouldn't select Bradman for an Ashes tour at the age of 68. And let's not forget that famous last innings duck:
He took his guard shortly before 6pm, Bradman needed only four more runs to boast an incredible three-figure career average as he safely negotiated Eric Hollies's first-ball leg break. As England would no doubt have been contemplating how to tackle Bradman's occupation of the crease the following day, the next was a perfect googly. It pitched on off-stump and hit middle, leaving Bradman to walk back to the pavilion with his bat under his arm having faced two balls.

The 30,000 crowd were stunned and gasps of amazement were reported around the ground, such was the shock of what had just happened.
Bradman was only 39 when he retired. He was a quiet, self-effacing man who found the adulation surrounding him "embarrassing".

Wanker Of The Day

Greg Sheridan:
There are many examples of Western electorates becoming tired of a competent incumbent who becomes a symbol of the past, and deciding to move on.

The most telling example is Bush Sr in 1992. He was and is a fine man and he was a good president.
Yeah, don't let the fact that his mobsters tried to kill Reagan put you off. Sheridan's blog is a companion piece to his nonsensical editorial today:
"There is no doubting that the Government's push to protect vulnerable indigenous Australians and the pressure the Government has placed on the states' failing education systems are welcome. There is no questioning that the way it has returned some of the proceeds of a booming economy in reduced income tax rates is welcome.
Oh, yes, we are all so bloody grateful, as the polls show. But that's all the unions' fault:
Thanks to the bureaucratic blather of former workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews, more people believe ACTU propaganda than understand how deregulated workplaces mean more jobs and flexible working conditions.
Yeah, tell that to workers in the retail and hospitality industries who have lost up to 30 per cent of their earnings under WorkChoices.

Talking about the need for "generational change", how old is Sheridan these days? There are going to be a lot of old News Ltd hacks moving out to pasture when Uncle Rupert kicks the bucket.