27 Feb 2008

Brave Aussie Diggers Shooting Innocent Iraqis

Your brave Aussie diggers at work:
Lamyaa Al-Saadi, a teacher, and her eight year old son were driving home from visiting family in central Baghdad in February 2005.

As they drove their red Volkswagen through the suburb of Aljaderia, they turned down a street parallel to a road where the Australian High Commission was situated. Nazar Al-Saadi, a 52-year-old shop owner, saw four Australian soldiers on the street and stopped the car.

An Australian soldier then knelt down, pointed his rifle at the car, and - without issuing any verbal instructions or making any signals or gestures to the family - fired four shots into the car. One bullet hit Mrs Al-Saadi, fracturing her face and skull. Her son Ahmed was badly wounded by glass and shrapnel.

The Australian soldier then ran away down the street.

Mrs Al-Saadi was lucky to survive. She lost hearing and sight on her left side, and underwent brain surgery and reconstructive surgery. The whole family is still traumatised by the attack.
OK, I've doctored the text a little to present the story above, but from the family's point at least, that is what happened. This is what our armed forces are doing in Iraq.

Sure, it's encouraging to hear that the Al-Saadi family is now living in government housing in Brisbane, while Mrs Al-Saadi gets access to surgery. But it's sad to hear that their lawsuit against the Australian government is likely to go nowhere.

We must have genuine accountability in these situations. Cash payments in sealed envelopes might work as a deterrent to further violence in Iraq, but we as a nation have our reputation for common decency on the line in cases like this.

And you can be quite sure that this is just one of many that have been quietly swept under the carpet.

What have we become? Are we all OK with this?

The ADF is terrified by the prospect that this legal case might succeed. Neil James, executive director of the Australia Defence Association (ADA), says:
"It's a very, very complex environment where we expect our diggers to make snap judgements on the ground and they shouldn't be analysed in an Australian court years afterwards using Australian peacetime, domestic legal standards.

"It's just not feasible and that's not the way that international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict work."
The real question, though, is what are our diggers even DOING on the ground in Baghdad, in contravention of international law, when the local population do not even want them there.

The ADF refuses to disclose how many other "grace payments" have been issued in such cases, or even to concede any wrong-doing in such cases.

I hope our current affairs TV shows will bring Mrs Al-Saadi in front of the cameras and give ordinary Australians a glimpse of the horrors for which we are all responsible in Iraq.

Same Here Please!

From London:
The government was yesterday ordered to release the minutes of cabinet meetings where the invasion of Iraq and its legality was discussed in a move which exposes the decision to go to war to fresh scrutiny.

Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, ordered disclosure because of the "gravity and controversial nature" of the subject. There was, he said, "a widespread view that the justification for the decision on military action in Iraq is either not fully understood or that the public were not given the full or genuine reasons for that decision."

It is the first time the commissioner, who adjudicates on Freedom of Information Act disputes, has ordered the release of cabinet minutes, traditionally regarded as meriting special protection.

The Cabinet Office, which said it was considering the decision, has 28 days to appeal to the information tribunal.

Wanker Of The Day: Greg Sheridan Crosses A Dangerous Line

Greg Sheridan today is playing a very dangerous game indeed. He says that if US voters elect Obama, Israel will have "no alternative but to strike Iran's nuclear facilities". But if the GOP wins, "MCCain could handle it".

It would be more alarming if it were not all so ridiculous. Let's just start with the title: "This is no time for a celebrity in the Oval Office".

Can anyone tell me the last time a US President was NOT a celebrity? And what is he suggesting: that Obama and/or Hillary is a celebrity, but John "The Maverick" McCain (who calls the US press his "base") is NOT??? No, what Sheridan's really doing is branding Obama, in particular, as a shallow overnight sensation. Clever, if you like that kind of thing.

On to the opening para:
WOULD a Barack Obama ascendancy in the US presidential election lead to a new war in the Middle East? There's quite a respectable case for thinking it might. Would it also lead to catastrophe in Iraq? And what would it mean for Australia?
Um, wasn't it John McCain who suggested we should "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran"? And aren't the rightwing crazies madly keen for another war anyway? And don't we already HAVE a "catastrophe in Iraq thanks to "respectable" people like this?

And what's with the old Sheridan angle about Australian interests? He says Obama is left of the Democratic Left, which is "bad for Australia in four ways". Let's examine them in isolation, shall we?
It has led Obama into protectionism, he campaigns against Clinton because her husband passed the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Even if this was true, which it isn't, what has our much-vaunted FTA with the USA (singed with the blood of innocent Iraqis on our former PM's hands) brought us? Anyone? And what has Bush's GOP done to (e.g.) help the Doha trade talks succeed? Don't get me started! This is a nonsense argument from Sheridan.
Second, the Left of the Democratic Party has no interest in Asia and can barely find it on a map.
It's a well known fact that nobody in America can find any foreign countries, not even Canada and Mexico, on a map. Most US citizens think Australia is somewhere near Germany! Bush doesn't know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland! This is (yet again) a stupid thing for Sheridan to even talk about. He's clearly reaching for arguments to support his nonsense conclusions (below).
Most important, Obama steadily increases the stridency of his opposition to US troops in Iraq.
That's a BAD thing????!! For Australia???!!! Really???!!!
Finally, the Left of the Democratic Party cares least for the military and for alliances. But the chief way Washington conceives of Australia is as an ally, and the chief US thinkers about us are the military.
OK, so that's what all this nonsense is really about! Greg's big buddies in the military-industrial machine are really our only friends in the USA. And screw all that talk about Free Trade, all that really matters is our military alliance. And of course the money that goes with it.

Which helps explain Sheridan's all-too-foreseeable conclusion:
In my view the best candidate from Australia's point of view is McCain.
There follows some more predictable B.S. about how McCain "knows Asia very intimately" and "has been such a fierce critic of the way the Bush administration initially mismanaged Iraq, and the war on terror more generally". Ahem!

But the main reason why McCain would be good for Australia is that "he would not let the Middle East spin out of control". And here's how that is going to happen, according to Greg:
Many Israeli leaders say that a nuclear armed Iran represents an existential threat to Israel. If they really believe this, they have no alternative but to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
Got that, folks? If the people of the USA elect Obama, Israel will have NO CHOICE but to bomb Iran. But if McCain wins, Israel DOES have a choice: they can let McCain bomb Iran instead!

Sheridan covers his arse in the final para by saying "the odds are against" any US strike on Iran, or "even" an Israeli one, but the message here is pretty clear. Bush's neo-con supporters want to bomb Iran, and McCain supports them. If they lose power, Israel will go it alone. In fact, they might not even wait till November. An attack could be unleashed "if it looks like Obama will win".

Pay close attention to this, folks. Coming from the Political Editor of Murdoch's flagship paper, a man with close ties to the US and Australian military, not to mention political leaders and neo-conservative "geniuses", this seemingly ridiculous article carries a very real and very dangerous threat.

ANY strike on Iran, whether from the USA or Israel, would clearly not be in Australia's interests, or the world's. If Iran is going to develop nuclear weapons there is not much (short of military strikes) that can be done to stop them. But let's be real: what would Iran do with such weapons? An attack on Israel would guarantee mutually assured destruction. The 'mad mullahs" in Tehran really want a bomb for defensive purposes, and to consolidate their hold on power. Instead of wasting years on macho saber-rattling that only increased the Iranian leaders' popularity, Bush's team should have been continuing Clinton's efforts to bolster the Iranian opposition (now almost chronically forgotten). It's not too late to make new diplomatic efforts, with a whole new US team and a whole new, more humble, and more sincere approach.

What would really be in Australia's best interests would be if war-mongers like Sheridan were removed from the national discourse, their links to the military-industrial complex were exposed, and our nation's penchant for military adventurism was brought to an abrupt close.

Teh (Global) Economy

Did anyone else notice that the Euro hit US$1.50 yesterday? Or that the Aussie dollar yesterday went over $US0.94? Meanwhile gold is nearing $US1,000 an ounce while silver approaches $US20 per ounce.

Oil just went over US$102 a barrel. Even Alan Greenspan (of all people) is encouraging Middle East oil countries to drop their US-dollar pegging!

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says: "The outlook for the economy has worsened in recent months and the downside risks to growth have increased." Presumably that means the "upside" risks to recession (or worse) have increased.

Bernanke is set to cut rates again, even as he admits this will increase inflationary pressures. Even the Wall Street Journal says "Inflation May Be Worse Than We Think".

Is it time to panic yet?
The same question has been asked throughout history: "How could it have been that, with all the evidence staring them in the face, people couldn't see disaster coming?"

History is again repeating itself. Despite the mountains of evidence and baskets of statistics pointing to "Panic," the media, the man on the street and the politicians avoid the facts and deny the ugly truth ... or defend their beliefs with a vengeance ... attacking those who beg to differ...

America's on the rocks and sinking fast and there's no one there to save it. Not the Federal Reserve, the President of the United States, nor the presidential wannabes in waiting. There are no quick fixes or human geniuses that can make the debt-bloated pig fly, yet a desperate public prays that its pathetic politicians will lead them to economic salvation.
The good news for Australia is that we seem (at the moment anyway) to be seen as a safe haven for anyone wanting to move their money out of the path of the coming tsunami. But it's a global financial market these days, as horror stories like Centro and ABC Learning's (well deserved) crash demonstrate. To think that the US economy will crash and burn without seriously affecting us is just wishful thinking.

26 Feb 2008

This Is A Great Story

Who would ever believe that the tax office would be pursuing millionaires hiding money in Liechtenstein banks? At least 20 rich Aussies (names not revealed yet) are under investigation, and the bank employee who stole their information and started selling it to foreign governments is now living (in hiding and fearing for his life, it seems) in Australia.

Will the courts allow such stolen information to be used in court? How much money will the ATO spend prosecuting such cases (a few of those nabbed are already "co-operating")?

And when does the international community start forcing Swiss banks to open up their vaults and come clean?

Seriously, if we cleaned up this sort of larceny around the world, the threat of global financial recession would be significantly diminished!

Taxi to the Dark Side

A review of the movie by Cynthia Fuchs:
In December 2002, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar was picked up and delivered to the Bagram Air Force Base prison. Five days later, he was dead. Sgt. Thomas Curtis, one of the Military Police at Bagram, remembers, “There was definitely a sense of concern because he was the second one. You wonder, was it something we did?”
You can see the official website including trailers here.

What Are You Going To Do, Janet? Bleed All Over Me?

Who can forget that scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail where Arthur battles The Black Knight (Star Wars version here)?

"Come on, you pansies!" screams Janet Albrechtsen today, still bravely insisting that the last election was "just a flesh wound".

WorkChoices demolished? "Tis but a scratch!"

Combat troops out of Iraq? "Have at you!"

Kyoto signed? "I've had worse!"

Coalition destroyed? "I'm invincible!"

How long before Janet offers to "call it a draw"?

Pre-Breakfast Chunder Dept.

Sorry, all you doctors and nurses, priests and peace activists, child carers and teachers and environmental activists - you're all just second rate:
Mr Rudd, whose brother Malcolm is a Vietnam veteran, said he considered service in the defence forces the most honourable of deeds.

"I believe there is no higher calling in our nation's life than to serve the nation in uniform," he told an audience including former Australian Defence Force chief, Major General Peter Cosgrove, and Victoria Cross recipient and Vietnam veteran Keith Payne.

"The military life summons forth the most elemental of human virtues: service, sacrifice, self-sacrifice, courage, determination, endurance - and all given shape by an old fashioned, some might say unfashionable but I for one do not, patriotism."

Mr Rudd said he had visited many war memorials worldwide, and Australia's was the best.
Oh dear. I think Krudd is already being swept up in the tide of military madness. Quelle surprise?

25 Feb 2008

What If An Aussie Won An Oscar And Nobody Reported It?

You might not know that an attractive young Australian woman won an Oscar last night. Could the minimal reporting have something to do with the fact that the movie she co-produced was about US government torture, or could it be her post award comments:
"The current administration are a bunch of war criminals and they need to be stopped. People need to know what's going on.''
Bravo, Eva Orner.

NB: Orner's movie beat Michael Moore's "Sicko" for the award. She had dinner with Moore and others after the ceremony. I doubt he would have been too upset by her triumph.

More Obamamomentum!

On January 7th I predicted Obama would be next US President and it looks like I'll be proven right. Check out the latest CBS News/NYT national poll via TPM:
Jan 13: Clinton 42%, Obama 27%
Feb 3: Clinton 41%, Obama 41%
Feb 25: Obama 54%, Clinton 38%
We're now witnessing the death throes of the Clinton campaign. And it's not pretty.

I mean, you know Hillary is getting desperate when she starts saying Obama lacks experience in foreign policy:
"He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve the world's intractable problems, to advocating rash, unilateral military action without cooperation from our allies in the most sensitive region of the world," Clinton said.
Yeah, we can't have that kind of nuance, can we? We need something much simpler... How about: "with us or agin' us?" Or Clinton-style attacks on Somalia? Seriously, who in the world would not be very happy to see US Foreign Policy in totally new hands, come what may? The world is overdue for a big realignment (I'm hoping to write more on that soon) and just waiting to see where the post-Bush USA is going to fit in.

Piss-Off-And-Die Time

Opposition was always going to be too hard for them:
It is becoming clearer several former Howard government ministers including Peter Costello, Alexander Downer and Peter McGauran will quit federal Parliament soon.

Mr Costello and Mr Downer are backbenchers along with former immigration minister Kevin Andrews, ex-deputy prime minister Mark Vaile and former senior Nationals minister Peter McGauran.

Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says he has spoken to Mr Downer and Mr Costello about their plans but will not reveal if he has urged them to leave soon.

"I want them to make decisions which are in the interests of their electorates and of their families and then of themselves and our party, and I will expect that they will make those decisions very soon," he said.

He says if they retire he wants the by-elections held on the same day.
Phillip Ruddock is going to stick around: either the man has no shame, or he is worried about accountability and reluctant to let go of his parliamentary privileges.

Cheney's Gitmo Stooge Resigns

The US Department of Defense has just announced the resignation of William J. Haynes, the General Counsel who ignored whatever farcical laws existed to implement Cheney's order and get David Hicks out of Gitmo as a political favour to John Howard.

More at TPM.

As Atrios says, Bye Asshole.

Wanker Of The Day

Shorter Gerard Henderson:
My public criticism of the Libs is that they are criticising each other in public. And let me just (publicly) detail all the little details that are pissing me off.
If we're really lucky, inflation will explode, along with interest rates and unemployment. Particularly if Rudd does the right thing and implements Professor Ross Garnaut's recommendations on climate change.
NB: Joe Hockey:
"A senior Liberal should be able to find a place to download somewhere other than in front of an ABC camera."
Quick, now - back to The New Silence!

24 Feb 2008

Howard's History Whores

Joe Hockey recently said everyone in Howard's cabinet knew the IR laws were bad for workers. But now Kevin Andrews says Howard wanted to make the IR laws even more draconian:
JOHN Howard wanted to limit unfair dismissal laws to businesses with more than 200 employees and abolish all minimum wage classifications.

The secret IR plans - which would have affected almost every worker covered by an award - were revealed by former workplace minister Kevin Andrews, who was made the fall guy for the policy's failure.

Mr Andrews now acknowledges the removal of protection for penalty rates and overtime was a fatal mistake and the biggest factor in the public's rejection of the policy...

On the day the package was presented to the joint party room meeting, Mr Andrews received a standing ovation.
Andrews says Minchin and Costello both agreed with Howard, while he and Abbott argued for moderation.

Meanwhile, Andrew Robb is saying that Howard was going to pull combat troops out of Iraq, or reassign them all to training roles, or something...

And the Business Council of Australia says they begged Howard to stop spending money, really they did....

Nobody wants to know you when you're down and out, Johnny.

A Tale Of Two Property Scandals

While the shenanigans in Wollongong City Council have even Janet Albrechtsen frothing at the mouth, the rampant corruption in the Gold Coast City Council continues unabated. The Liberals are spending more than $1 million to push their candidate, Surfers Paradise businessman Tom Tate:
An inquiry by Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission found the 2004 Gold Coast council elections were corrupted by a secret fund, which had developers bankrolling the campaigns of so-called "common sense" candidates.

The CMC report said Mr Tate attended the first meeting of business people called to discuss the fund. The meeting was held at Mr Tate's Island Resort, but he had no further involvement with the fund.
So is Mr Tate the Messiah who is going to lead the Libs out of the electoral wilderness, or just a very naughty boy?

Wanker Of The Day

Paul Sheehan is so very, very incensed by NYT criticism of John McCain that he has written not just a rebuttal but also a 54-point 10-page dissection of the NYT story. Is he trying to get published in the New Republic? Does he need the cash?

If only people like Sheehan had been so stridently outspoken when Judith Miller's stories were splattered across the NYT front page!

It's always hard to tear down an argument which has a shred of truth in it, because supporters of the argument will point to the shred of truth and ignore the rest. There are two shreds of truth in Sheehan's article: the NYT has crappy journalistic standards, and the article provides considerable innuendo without solid proof.

Interestingly, the NYT is already back-peddaling from the claims of an affair. But Josh Marshall is staying on the real story, which is not the sex but the lies and corruption.

23 Feb 2008

Rudd Set To Slash Defense Spending

Rudd's razor gang is set to scrap multi-billion dollar defence projects including the $6.6 billion Super Hornets. Thank God, at last. Maybe now we can review the farcical idea that the Coalition is always strong on national defense:
Other defence white elephants in the Government's target include the Abrams tank, three massively expensive air warfare destroyers, two huge amphibious carrier ships, dud Seasprite helicopters, unnecessary flying drones and $16billion worth of undeveloped F-35 joint strike fighters.

Work will begin this week on the 2008 defence white paper, the biggest review of Australia's defence priorities since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US. It will reassess the Howard government's policy of spending $50billion to build a defence force that fits seamlessly into the US military machine.

Also just getting under way is a month-long inquiry into whether Australia needs 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets to plug a gap between the retirement of the F-111s and the arrival of the F-35s in 2014. It could cost $400million to cancel the order.

Professor Hugh White, head of Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, said many of these "white elephants were designed for major battles that Australia was unlikely to be involved in".

"The Abrams tank was designed to battle Soviet tanks pouring across Europe," Professor White said. "We are paying $2billion for two big amphibious transport ships which carry helicopters, 1000 troops, the Abrams tanks and were designed to invade with massive force. Where would we use them? We would do much better with four smaller vessels."

Paul Dibb, a former defence department chief, warned recently that defence chiefs had got what they wanted far too easily and big savings could be made in the projects.

"The only time a nation's defence budget should be untouchable is when there is a clearly and imminent military threat to the country. Evidently that is not the case now," Mr Dibb said.

The first multibillion-dollar white elephant to get the axe could be an $8.1billion navy plan to build three air warfare destroyers. They are designed to protect fleets, and Australia doesn't have one.

A similarly complex project to upgrade four Adelaide class guided missile frigates was labelled a "nightmare" by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. After four years and $1.4billion, the ships still can't be cleared fit for active service and have not been allowed to be deployed to risky zones such as the Middle East.

The two amphibious transport ships costing $1billion each could also be heading for the chop. The Rudd Government believes neighbouring nations would feel threatened as the ships could hold an invasion force.
I think what all these massive cockups show is that Howard was never really interested in the realities of military defence from any imaginable threats to our country. He was only ever interested in the financial gains (and political posturing) that come from dealing with the US military machine and their political representatives.

The same thing goes for the ludicrous "War" on terror. It's now blatantly obvious that the whole farce has made every country involved into a more dangerous place, at a cost of billions to taxpayers around the globe. And yet the con-artists behind this "war" continually ignore seemingly important issues, like capturing Bin Laden or providing more than bandaid security to ports and other potential "targets", because the truth is they know the whole thing is a joke. They don't really care. It's just a money-making exercise for them and their mates.

So bravo, Kevin Rudd! Now don't let those nasty US visitors twist your arm...!

In other news, however, the Rudd government is still going to dole out money to oil giants:
Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has indicated the federal government would offer incentives to help producers pay for expensive exploration projects.
The money would be better spent on exploring alternative energy supplies, or funding subsidies for existing alternatives.

What happens to Kev's carbon reduction targets if we DO discover another big oil field?

It's not like the massively wealthy oil giants really need this kind of government money to help them find new resources to exploit: this is just another form of scam.

21 Feb 2008

Wanker Of The Day

Dennis Sham-I-am reverts to form, rushing out a Friday afternoon article about the shameful proceedings in parliament today. Only a true Murdoch hack like Dennis could pretend this gross misbehavior amounts to "a serious point of procedure":
Under the special sittings of the parliament for Friday without a question time or need for a quorum the votes and divisions were to be deferred till the next sitting in two weeks’ time.

But it appears the Government changes to procedure had a loophole, leaving the position of the Speaker stranded and powerless as the parliament became unworkable.

There appears to have been some ill-considered preparation on the Government side for how they were actually going to operate a Play Parliament without a Prime Minister and question time and face an Opposition determined to go to any lengths.
Surely that last point says it all? The Libs made fools of themselves on Sorry Day, but at least half of them were vacillating. In this case, the whole mob is down there in the mud. Even other Murdoch staff could see that this "circus" was a waste of taxpayers' money.

UPDATE: A new Morgan poll shows Nelson still stuck on 9%. And you wonder why...

Liberal MP Steven Ciobo Forcibly Removed From Parliament

Tsk tsk:
A Liberal MP has been forcibly removed from the House of Representatives after he defied an order from the Speaker to leave the chamber.

Steven Ciobo, the Member for Moncrieff, was escorted from the lower house on Friday by the Sergeant-at-Arms on the orders of Speaker Harry Jenkins.

Opposition frontbencher Tony Abbott was also asked to leave the chamber for one hour after he began arguing with the speaker.
Steven Ciobo is my local member for Moncrieff on the Gold Coast. He's a Coalition money man, with a background in economics and ties to Price Waterhouse Coopers.

What's interesting is that the Liberals are throwing everything at the coming elections for the Gold Coast Council. Lots of glossy adverts all over the place, lots of billboards. It looks like the Libs have decided to make the Gold Coast (still safe Lib territory, largely because it was all but uncontested by Labor at the last election) into their power base for a comeback. And Ciobo will certainly be playing a key part.

Ciobo has close ties to people like George Brandis and Brett Mason. These guys also have ties to rightwing crazies like Janet Albrechtsen, Arthur Chrenkoff (who used to write his Good News From Iraq memos from Mason's office) and Tim Blair.

One to watch, that Mr Ciobo...

UPDATE: Seems today's uproar was sparked by Ciobo's motion that Rudd be forced to attend a Question Time on Fridays:
It led to the Coalition moving dissent against the speaker Harry Jenkins.

But that motion and several others will be voted on when Parliament comes back in March.
UPDATE 2: Back in his office, Ciobo denies his eviction was a media stunt:
Mr Ciobo has defended his actions.

"It's not a stunt - there are some fundamental rights and some fundamental values as a Member of Parliament that we have to stand up for," Mr Ciobo said.
I suppose bringing a big cardboard cutout of Kevin Rudd into the chamber was not a media stunt either? Time to put your house in order, Mr Nelson... (if you can).

UPDATE 3: OK, now it has just become a total farce with another MP forcibly removed:
A vote has just been taken at 12:50pm to throw out Mr Hartsukyer and he will be forcibly removed by the sergeant-at-arms.
Ciobo is the first MP forcibly removed from Parliament for nearly 20 years. This is disgraceful behavior and Nelson and Hockey and Abbott are loudly cheering it on.

Ciobo is new to Canberra and obviously needs to learn a bit about parliamentary rules:
Mr Ciobo told The Australian Online there was no authority to throw him out because the house did not vote on the issue.

"The parliament today said goodbye to democracy as a result of Labor’s part-time parliament rules," he said.
I could be wrong, but I don't think the Australian people will show much tolerance for this sort of nonsense. Bring on the next poll and let's see if Mr 9% can sink even lower.

UPDATE 4: Interesting how this is being reported. The Murdoch media is giving Ciobo's remarks a good, long run. And let's not forget that Ciobo has some previous form on getting a bit physical in Parliament House: he helped John Howard and others physically block Greens Senator Kerry Nettle from confronting George W. Bush.

20 Feb 2008

Surely There Are International Laws About This?

Oh dear:
Labor immigration spokesman Tony Burke told the 2007 conference that the removal of thousands of islands from the migration zone was "crazy", and Labor in office would reverse it.

"(The Howard government) have excised a further 3,000-4,000 islands. We would return them to the migration zone," Mr Burke told the conference.

But that line in Mr Burke's address has been removed from a copy of his speech posted on the Labor Party's website.

A record of edits to the web page reveals the reference was removed after February 12 this year.

A refugee group is now questioning the Rudd government's commitment to ending the two-tier migration system, in which asylum seekers who reach the mainland are treated differently to those who land on islands in Australia's northern waters.

19 Feb 2008

Beggars With Bloody Bowls

Whenever a new government is elected, emissaries from the US military-industrial complex are sent out to get signatures on new arms deals. Well, here they come:
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates will travel to Australia later this week for bilateral security talks as part of a round-the-world trip, the Pentagon said overnight...

The State Department will be represented by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.
I suppose we should be flattered that we get such high-profile emissaries. Poorer nations just get economic hit-men like John Perkins.

Taking A Break

From blogging for a bit. It's the "new silence" don'tcha know....

UPDATE: Any day now. As soon as I get the country sorted out.


Wanker Of The Day

Welcome to Opposition, Janet Albrechtsen:
Bipartisanship means Rudd's way or the highway... Disagree and you are not just wrong, you are evil... We are returning to the pre-Howard era where logic and reason and facts are discarded as totally inappropriate and racist... It's easy to discard [members of the Left] as irrelevant, living in a parallel universe void of reason and logic.
This pathetic hissing fit perfectly illustrates how the Culture Wars have come full circle. I don't know if that means they are "over", but if rightwing crazies like Janet are not going to just piss off and die, as they should, certainly it's time for them to develop some new and original talking points, instead of just recycling the anti-Howard arguments that were used against THEM for so long.

Perhaps it's no surprise that Janet also wants to declare the Culture Wars "over":
Of course, nothing feeds the progressive appetite more than comments that trash the culture wars. They detest the culture wars for one reason, and one reason alone. They lost them. They were resoundingly defeated on almost every front.
Fine. Whatever. So let's all enjoy "The New Silence" - puh-lease!!!

Now can we also declare victory in Iraq and go home?

18 Feb 2008

Nine Percent Nelson

I just can't resist: BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Quote of the day from Coalition kingpin Nick Minchin:
"Fortunately the next election is nearly three years away."
BWAAAHAHAHA! You're damn right, mate!

For any US readers, take heart - this could be the post-Bush GOP in a year's time.

UPDATE: Possum wants to find a new moniker for Dr 9% - my suggestion is Dan Dare.

Wanker Of The Day

After a decade of gross rightwing distortion, Australia's media elites are suddenly calling for "pluralism" and "bipartisanship". Today it's Gerard Henderson's turn to choke on his own hypocrisy:
In fact, the culture wars were very much an invention of the left intelligentsia which was concerned that, finally in Australia, its hegemony was being challenged.
Hendo is basically pleading to keep his job, just as Janet Albrechtsen and others have done:
Jon Faine ... advocated "a cleansing process" for those columnists who he maintains are "out of step with the result of the election".

When Faine was asked whether he really believed that newspapers need to be in step with the Government, he replied: "Oh no. Not with the Government, with the electorate." Since the electorate decides government, this is a disingenuous response.
No it isn't. The public was against the Iraq War, for example, but the Howard government was all for it. The rightwing-dominated media took the government's side, not the people's.

The government has changed, and as today's polls show, the electorate has changed too. It's time our nation's morally bankrupt editorial teams were changed as well.

17 Feb 2008


Can you please put a stop to this nonsense right now, Kevin Rudd:
National head of the RSL Major General Bill Crews will oversee the jury which will select four finalists.

Each finalist will be given $15,000 to develop a scale model of their entry, while the eventual winner will receive a prize of $15,000.

Mr Badelow says they have funding for the design competition but still have to raise money to build the monuments.

"We've received a grant from the Government for $200,000 to launch this particular design competition," he said.

"From there we hope to raise the required funds for the winning model, you've got to bear in mind at this point in time we don't know what the winning design is.

"Indicatively, and I stress that, indicatively we believe the cost will be around somewhere in the order of $10 million to $12 million."
One can only imagine that this funding was granted by the previous government, who have already spent an inordinate amount of public funds glorifying every kind of war. Enough is enough!

What about a monument to PEACE????

I would suggest that Michael Leunig already has many cartoons worth immortalising in sculpture. Over to you, Kev.

Still Got Some Popcorn?

If you want to see a Conga Line of Suck-holes dancing off into the sunset, Four Corners should be good tonight:
Alexander Downer and Nick Minchin contend that had the leadership not blown up in July 2006 Mr Howard would have retired at the end of that year and handed over to his deputy.

Mr Costello, who was aware of the leak that caused the flare-up and did not try to stop it, rejects this, saying Mr Howard never seriously contemplated retiring. "I don't think he was ever going to stand down," he said.

The claim is one of several in tonight's episode of ABC TV's Four Corners, in which former key players shed light on the death throes of the Howard government. Mr Costello also says that when Mr Howard anointed him as his successor on the night of the Coalition government's election loss Mr Howard already knew Mr Costello was not interested in taking over a defeated party.
Pity he didn't tell the voters that, innit? Or, presumably, his own colleagues.

All of whom now seem to want to present themselves as heroes in error, who stood up and loudly demanded that Howard leave:
The episode also details events around the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in September, only months before the election, when Mr Howard lost the confidence of his cabinet. He refused to go unless forced out, knowing this would cause the party great damage. Mr Downer said this would have caused "electoral disaster", but the former party director Andrew Robb says Mr Howard should have been pushed and not allowed to make his own decision.

The former minister Joe Hockey says he rang Mr Howard and told him to go because the people had stopped listening to him. Cabinet wanted him gone because he did not think he could win the election.

But, he says, Mr Howard changed the rules after saying for years he would go when his party no longer wanted him.

Mr Costello says that in this time Mr Downer told him he had "better get ready because there could be a change of leadership", but he never really believed it.
Pity none of them had the balls to go in front of the cameras and force a real showdown, isn't it? Not that it would have changed the result, IMHO.

So now all that's left is the task of making sure that your own historical narrative becomes the official line. But that's not easy with all the he-said, she-said versions of events:
According to his colleagues, Mr Costello blew his best chance in July 2006, when reports surfaced of the secret deal in December 1994 in which Mr Howard promised to serve only 1½ terms if he was given the leadership.

The arrangement was witnessed by the senior Liberal Ian McLachlan, who made a note of the conversation. He says it was Mr Costello's idea to "make a note of that arrangement".

Mr McLachlan then admits Mr Costello gave the green light for him to reveal the note to the journalist Glenn Milne in July 2006, despite knowing it would "cause an enormous fracas".

Mr Costello says releasing the note was ultimately Mr McLachlan's decision. "He thought that, you know, history ought to know it."

The fracas ensued as predicted, and Mr Downer and Senator Minchin believe this cost Mr Costello the leadership.

Senator Minchin tried to have Mr Howard step aside in March 2006, asking Mr Downer and Mr Howard's chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, to press Mr Howard. He said both spoke to Mr Howard, but Mr Downer disagreed with the idea, and he never knew what Mr Sinodinos thought.
Well, Sinodis resigned well ahead of the elections, which I always interpreted as a sign that he thought the Coalition had no chance (no matter what he told the media during the campaign).

And as for the idea that Costello's leadership chances would have been better if he never challenged Howard, well - only an idiot like Downer would even think of saying something as stupid as that.

Good riddance to the lot of them.

14 Feb 2008

Never, Ever, Sorry For Anything

It occurs to me that the reason why John Howard and many of his old supporters cannot come to terms with the idea of saying "Sorry" is that they never, ever acknowledge their own mistakes about anything.

As Maggie Thatcher once said, "The lady's not for turning." That has become a staple doctrine of Conservative politics. Never admit an error: it's a sign of weakness. Never hold anyone accountable: it's an admission of guilt.

This explains the modern Conservatives' appeal to a certain mindset of supporters, people who identify with that blinkered "I'm never wrong" attitude. Supporting Howard meant never having to say you are sorry. It meant always being right about everything. No wonder many of them are pissed at Nelson today, even if his apology was badly fudged.

Is it time for some enquiries yet? AWB? WMDs? Hicks? Haneef?

It will be a great pleasure to lay a few hard facts on the table for these wilfully ignorant fools.

UPDATE: I was saying much the same thing about Bush just the other day:
As many observers have noted, Dubya has never been held accountable for any of his many mistakes in life. Bush now seems determined to go to his grave without ever admitting his failures: "History will be my judge," he says.
And I cited this hilarious example:
''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject

Shocking! New Diana Revelations

It's over ten years since Princess Diana was murdered for loudly opposing the global arms industry. Now the ex-police chief who led a three-year British investigation into her death has admitted that a note from her lawyer, detailing her fears of a conspiracy to kill her in a car crash, was handed to police but never presented as evidence.
Stevens denied trying to conceal the note.

"You are making the allegation that this was never going to be made available to the coroner. That is wrong," he said.
Yeah, I was gonna do it. One day. Really I was. Here's what the note said, in part:
“This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous.” She said [name deleted] “is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry”
A renegade UK Spy (now living in France) also claims that the "blinding white light" seen in the tunnel just before Diana's car crashed was probably a strobe gun. He says MI6 had planned "accidents" exactly like this one:
He remembered an MI6 training session in which he was shown a portable strobe light intended temporarily to blind targets in vehicles.

Mr Tomlinson said he had also seen an MI6 document in 1992 detailing a plan to murder the Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic by flashing a strobe light at his chauffeur as he entered a tunnel in Geneva...

The circulation list for the plan included the private secretary to the head of MI6.
The ex-spy also says that Henri Paul, Diana's driver that night, was an MI6 informant. But according to Wikipedia, this ex-spy's story has already been checked out:
The Operation Paget Inquiry was given unprecedented access to the offices of both MI5 and MI6 to investigate Tomlinson's claims. They found the original memo he referred to from 1992 and it was found to be a proposal to assassinate another Serbian figure if he gained power, not Slobodan Milošević. Furthermore, the plan had none of the detail about a car crash in a tunnel. The inquiry consulted the Crown Prosecution Service to see if a prosecution for conspiracy to murder was appropriate for the report's author as it is against British Government policy to carry out assassinations. A prosecution was not pursued but the author was subjected to a disciplinary procedure by MI6. The memo was shown to Tomlinson and he confirmed it was the one he was referring to in his claims.
That's how it always goes with these spy stories, isn't it? Claims and counter-claims...
Further evidence that discredited Tomlinson's claims was found in drafts of a book he was writing about his time in MI6 before he was jailed in 1998 for breaching the Official Secrets Act. The first draft of the book, dating from 1996, referred to the 1992 memo proposing assassination and contained none of the detail about a staged car crash in a tunnel... The inquiry concluded by dismissing Tomlinson's claims as an embellishment. It went on to comment that this embellishment is largely responsible for giving rise to the theories Diana was murdered.
Just an accident, then? I don't think so. It's all been far too fishy all the way.

So let's put two and two together here, use some common sense, and conclude that someone or some people in either MI6 and/or the British government wanted Diana dead. So the question is: Why?

There is only one reason, isn't there? Well, two if you include the possibility that Prince Charles, his mum or the Duke might have wanted to snuff the bitch out.

So whodunnit? Either people with close ties to MI6 and the global arms industry, or (far less likely IMHO) people with close ties to the Royal Family.

Draw up a list of suspects.

UPDATE: The former police investigator comes out swinging against the latest allegations.

13 Feb 2008

Is It Time To Nationalise Industries Yet?

EXHIBIT A: A new Standard and Poor report casts doubt on privatisation profits.

EXHIBIT B: A top global economist says the US government and Federal Reserve might need to start buying up assets to stave off a major 1930's style Depression.

I think I mentioned elsewhere that the Chinese government is buying shares in Rio Tinto...

Wanker Of The Day

What kind of twisted mindset does it take to imagine Paul Keating as a terrorist planting roadside IEDs? Welcome to Miranda Devine's world of pain:
Some will see [the apology] as a launching pad for compensation claims. Some will see it, cynically, as a way of neutralising a troublesome political issue. Others will see it as a powerfully symbolic and loving gesture towards the dispossessed and downtrodden. Yet others will see it as it was perhaps intended, in part, by Kevin Rudd, as a repudiation of his predecessor, a declaration of victory in the culture wars and a revival of the Keating era agenda.
It's pretty clear how Miranda feels about it. All she can see are cynical political agendas in all directions:
The Bringing Them Home report which prompted demands for an apology in 1997 was commissioned by Paul Keating in 1995 in the dying days of his divisive government. It was the roadside bomb he planted for his successor, John Howard.
Oh, so that's why he did it eh? Lucky he didn't win that 1196 election then, isn't it?
So far its only tangible impact has been to ensure that authorities are so determined not to "steal" another generation, they are reluctant to remove children from life-threatening situations, or if they do remove them, will only place them with "culturally appropriate" carers, no matter how inadequate.
But who's fault is that? John Howard had eleven frickin' years to do something about it! And he only even started to make anything like "courageous decisions" when he belatedly realised that his continued inaction was a dangerous political liability.

Too little, too late. Hence the turned backs yesterday.

But what's the old saying? When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail...
Rudd's speech yesterday was embedded with the partisan sentiment that fuels culture wars.

There was the sly dig at John Howard in a "stony and stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade". There was the homage to Gough Whitlam in his four repetitions of "It's time" and there were echoes of Paul Keating's Redfern speech.

The negative reaction to the nuanced and sensitive reply from the Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, tells you that, far from extinguishing the culture war, Rudd's apology has fanned its flames.
Get over it, you dumb bitch. Seriously!

As even Paul Kelly writes today:
In the lobbies, former Howard government ministers said it should have happened long ago. ..

As today's generation apologises, it must be humble enough to concede the nature of its own dishonourable failure.
And as another Murdoch hack notes:
Rudd has gone beyond the bare protocols of consulting an Opposition leader.

Yesterday we saw an invitation to join a “war cabinet” on indigenous children and bipartisan support for the Howard government Northern Territory intervention.

At the beginning of the week, there were special briefings on East Timor, last week there was the involvement in the preparations for the apology, and before that an invitation for Nelson to take part in the 2020 ideas summit.
The only time Howard ever did anything like that was when he brought in new gun control laws (after the Port Arthur massacre) and that remains IMHO the only decent thing he ever did.

The Culture Wars are over, Miranda. You lost.

Now go and get a real job, please, and do something useful for society before you die.

What Should Alexander Downer Do Next?

Tragic news. Dolly is quitting the political stage. But now what?
Last night, Mr Downer said he was still "thinking about what would be the right thing to do".
Can anyone help the poor man out here?

I'm thinking a naked walk to Baghdad, on his knees, with repeated stops for periods of self-flagellation.

Any other suggestions?

UPDATE: Dolly decides to sit on the fence:
"I'll give myself six months to think about different things that I could do."
Keep those suggestions rolling in, folks... LOL!

12 Feb 2008

Wanker Of The Day

Brendan Nelson:
Dr Nelson used his speech to warn against judging actions of the past by the standards of the present and said it was correct that no compensation was being offered, because he said no money could compensate for the hurt inflicted on those removed from their familiies.
By that logic, there is also no reason to say "sorry", since mere words cannot compensate for the hurt inflicted on those removed from their families. Good to see that so many turned their backs on him when he spoke.

And isn't John Howard conspicuous by not only his absence from Canberra today, but also his studied silence on this matter. I guess he is still trying to work out whether saying "sorry" is the same as apologising, or vice versa.


It was 1985, I was 21 years old, I had just finished my Arts degree, and I wanted to get away from everything. So I took up a job as a live-in teacher to three kids on a remote North Queensland cattle station (amazingly, I found the job in the Sydney Morning Herald classifieds).

The station owner drove me out through Mareeba and Chillagoe, picking up an Akubra and some boots along the way. The property was enormous - 600,000 hectares, I think it was - and the nearest neighbour was about 10 km away. The family lived in a little fibro house, with brown snakes crawling around the pylons.

I was given a room in the house, but the other workers on the property, the Aboriginal "ringers", lived about thirty yards away in a corrugated iron shed. There were about five of them, but three I remember in particular...

One was an old fella with bad teeth, who nevertheless did most of the dangerous work (like jumping off a horse, grabbing a bull by the horns, and twisting it to the ground). He showed me scars on his back and head from when he was a kid, explaining that the station owners used to beat them with chains. When I expressed my sympathy and horror he laughed, saying he was one of the lucky ones who survived the beatings.

Another was a softly spoken, slightly plump fella who had an intelligent look in his eye and was always interested in discussing the outside world. He said he wanted to go back to school (he was about 25) but he couldn't because he was too old. He said there was a policy in the local schools that Aboriginal kids could not be "kept back", even if they didn't understand the work. Because he and his friends were always skipping school to go fishing and so forth, he had reached a point (by about 12) where he had no idea what the teacher was talking about any more. So he just stopped going to school completely.

Another was a lanky guy who was rather shy and always smiling - Francis, I think his name was. We got along well, and I asked him if he wanted to come with me in to Cairns one day, or even come visit me in Sydney. He recoiled in horror at the thought:

"They got them moving stairs there, hey?"

It took me a while to realise he was talking about escalators. The very idea of stepping onto stairs that moved was intimidating to him.

I quit the job after two months, following a heated exchange with the station owner.

I was constantly asking him questions about how the whites up there interacted with the local "Murris" (as the local Aboriginals called themselves) and he just couldn't handle it. He was also unhappy that I was spending "too much" time associating with the ringers, instead of playing with his three young kids. In fact, the kids and I used to play regularly with the Murris, often going fishing, or swimming in the river (the freshwater crocs would splash into the water when they heard you approaching), or playing soccer and cricket together in the cool of the afternoon. And that seemed to be the real problem.

The owner accused me of being a stuck-up Uni student from Sydney, coming up there with my preconceived attitudes, implying all sorts of bad motives on the locals, etc. I was kind of surprised. I could tell my questions had been making him uncomfortable, but I didn't find him personally to be racist, and I didn't expect this explosion of anger. I was just trying to understand how things worked up there, and it had become increasingly obvious that there was a strong underlying current of racism permeating all areas of life in the region.

I quit the job there and then, but the owner told me I would have to wait two days for the mail plane to take me to Cairns, because the roads were blocked. Later he apologised for his outburst and asked me to stay on, but the whole situation had become too uncomfortable.

Francis said I should come with him and the ringers into Chillagoe, where they would soon be going to blow all the money they had made over the past few weeks. What happened is that all the ringers in the area landed at the Chillagoe Pub on a Friday night and got shit-faced for a whole weekend. Then the station owners drove out on Monday, picked up their chosen workers from the gutters, and drove them back out to the properties. The ringers joked about waking up with hangovers not even knowing what property they were working on.

"You like Aboriginal girl?" Francis asked me. "You get nice Aboriginal girl, you see. You come with us, mate."

I passed on the offer and took the mail plane out instead.

When I got back to Sydney, however, it was the topic on everybody's minds. Even my own uncles, a staid bunch of happily-married suburbanites, gave me sly nudges around the barbeque:

"Did ya get any of that Black Velvet, then? Did ya?"

That's what sex with Aboriginal girls was called: "Black Velvet". Alan Ramsay had a great article about it in the SMH last weekend, and I urge you all to read it.

When you think about it, Black Velvet has probably been the root cause (excuse the pun) of a whole shitload of human misery. Both whites and blacks treated half-caste kids atrociously, largely due to the stigma attached to the act of sex with either natives or oppressors. And from that sense of shame sprang a whole host of troubles.

If whites back then thought they were doing the right thing by removing kids from their families, it was surely (at least partly) a way to assuage their own feelings of guilt for abandoning these kids in the first place. No doubt a lot of embarrassing little "situations" were quietly resolved by putting a half-caste kid in a car and taking him or her very far away, never to return.

But of course these things do come back to haunt us, don't they? Karma's a bitch, as they say.

Anyway, this post is just my way of adding my voice to the chorus of caring Australians saying "sorry" today. I've seen enough to know that this apology is well and truly overdue, and I hope it does open the door to a brighter future for all Aboriginal Australians.

From me to all of you, including generations past, present and future, for all that has happened, with all my heart:


11 Feb 2008

How Army Jerks Think

The Wise Men In Canberra are busy giving Kevin Rudd lots of free advice. Hugh White says Krudd has to answer some Big Questions on national defense, including this one:
What kind of support would we want to be able to give the US in a war with China over Taiwan?
Umm, Hugh? Why would we want to give the USA any support? Sure, we would join the UN in condemning any Chinese attack on Taiwan, and of course we would immediately impose trading sanctions on China, right? No more coal and zinc going out, no more cheap toys coming in! Right?

Because it's not about money, is it? It's about principles, right? And honor! And morality! And defending international law! BWAAAHHAHAHA!

But if the USA and China go to war, which they won't, but just to indulge the old A.J. fantasy ...


Why should I indulge that fantasy?



So we don't need to "factor it in" as part of our national defense spending plans. And Kevin Rudd can spend his time thinking about more productive things!

Sigh! The Wise Men In Canberra are finally admitting that the Howard government made some mistakes, well lots of mistakes actually, and even though they were complicit in those mistakes (Hugh White helped draft the 2000 Defense Dept White Paper, which lead to a 47% increase in the budget and two intractable military quagmires) they still insist they have the answers - to questions that don't even exist!

Just to show how stupid this whole line of thinking is, here are some other Big Questions from White to Krudd:
How much would we be prepared to spend to give us the ability to confront China alone if it ever tried to secure a foothold in Solomon Islands?
Got that one, Kev? Now he wants us to take on China alone, without US help! To defend the Solomon Frickin' Islands, no less!
Should we have an army big enough to take military control of Papua New Guinea if civil order there broke down?
Do I laugh or cry at that one? Do I start working out how many soldiers would be needed per inch of dense jungle foliage, or do I Google the words "civil order" and PNG simultaneously? And if I did, would I get any results back? Maybe I should just get on the phone to BHP Billiton Bouganville and ask their advice?
Would we want to be able to send major land forces to support the US if it ever decides to invade Iran?
Ummm.... NO. NO NO NO NO NO!!! Has anyone actually told Mr Hugh White what happened in Iraq?


The Honorary Wanker Of The Century Award

Arise, Sir John The Sniveller, Warden of the Wollstonecraft Wormhole, Companion of the Rampant Chimp, Order of The Pustulent Excrement!

At Last, The Time Has Come

Tony Abbott is still writing Op-Eds:
"It's rarely acknowledged but no government gave more practical help to Aboriginal people than John Howard's..."
What a colossal wanker. Talk about the "dead heart" of Australia...!

In the same paper's Opinion section, you get a joyous Peter Garrett opening with the words from the Oils' Beds Are Burning:
The time has come...
Suddenly Garrett's rocker past is not verboten any more:
When Midnight Oil took to the stage in our "sorry suits" at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, we felt that saying sorry was so important it transcended the sporting moment. We believed that we needed to square up to our past, that the lack of an apology to Aboriginal Australians was a broken link in the chain to a joined future.

Nearly every single person in that stadium got it.
Rudd's lawyers are working hard to ensure the wording of the apology does not open the door to compensation claims, but Garrett does not sound too worried about that:
[Saying sorry] is a fundamental step towards addressing the hard issues, to moving in practical and comprehensive ways to redress the imbalances and bridge the gaps.
Amen to that. If compensation is what it will take to bring Aboriginal living standards up to par with the rest of the country, give them compensation. If educational and health programs are what's needed, send out teachers and doctors. Whatever it takes.

Sorry is just a word, and it needs to be followed by actions.

But it's obviously been a word that has blocked real action, because it's a word which reflects an attitude of penitence and contrition. And it seems to me that this attitude is really going to be the key to reaching out and bridging the gap.

You cannot sit back in your plush Canberra office and magically "fix" the Aboriginal "problem" with some cynical bit of policy. For over 200 years, our attitude towards Aboriginals has been one of superiority, if not outright contempt. We need to approach Aboriginal Australians as equals, and apologising for our nation's past arrogance (not to mention bloody crimes) is a good first step.

10 Feb 2008

YOU Can Help Refer Howard To The ICC

“Bush, Blair and Howard have to accept that they are war criminals and deserve to be punished”
-former Liberal Party National President John Valder C.B.E.
Former Senate candidate Glenn Floyd is calling for John Howard to be tried as a War Criminal in the International Criminal Court. He has pledged $10,000 of his own money to move the prosecution forward, and is appealing for help from prominent QC Geoffrey Robertson.

You can make a donation or get more info at www.iccaction.com. The website is still pretty basic, but like Glenn says:
Be patient -it took 20 years to prosecute Pinochet.
Let's see Howard, Bush and Blair in the dock before they die, eh?

WTF Are We Doing In East Timor?

Breaking news is that Ramos Horta is wounded, and Reinado is dead following an attack on the President's home (more details emerging).

If we are not protecting the President, and don't even know where the country's #1 rebel is, what exactly are our much-hyped troops doing in Dili? Certainly the poverty-stricken refugees do not seem to be profiting in a hurry from our continued presence. Are we just there to protect our oil interests?

Let's pull all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and use the money to actually do something useful for the people of East Timor, and back up all the bullshit feel-good rhetoric of the past six years.

Small Man, Big Head

Brendan Nelson today:
"If Mr Rudd wants it to unify Australia, to bring our nation together, the most important person he should be negotiating with is me."
Sorry, Alan Jones, but you really are a dick.

The B.S. Factor

The Howard-Murdoch partnership continues apace, with Teh Oz today publishing as faux news comments on "jihad Muslims" which Howard actually made way, way back in December 2005!
Mr Howard gave a series of interviews for the book on December 9, the final sitting day of the parliamentary year for 2005.
What's going on? Well, Murdoch's gang want to stir up interest in a new book, The Howard Factor, which was written by "The Australian's team of journalists and commentators" to "mark the 10th anniversary of Mr Howard's rise to power".

Well, at least they are trying to make a distinction between their "journalists" and "commentators" nowadays. But it's still hard to tell the difference.

Just Say "NO" To NATO

So Team Krudd says Australia wants closer integration, including "access" to top-level NATO plans (presumably that means we also get to help formulate them). A few points to be made here:

1. Actually seeing the war plans sounds like a no-brainer when you are sending men in to kill and be killed. But it seems that's just what Howard was doing in Afghanistan - faithfully shovelling troops into the NATO furnace.

2. Our new Defence Minister has a novel way of threatening NATO. He says he needs to see the plans or the Australian public will withdraw their support. That implies he is going to share these top-level plans with us, which of course he will not. So what's the difference, from an Australian public point of view, whether it's NATO or Canberra saying "trust us"? Not much.

3. A lot of people are pushing for changes to NATO, and from several different sides. Aussie warmongers seem to think there is an important part for us to play here, even though the "NA-" bit stands for "North Atlantic". Is NATO going to become the anglo-phonic world's de-facto (taxpayer funded) pro-corporate military? Whatever happened to the UN's blue helmets???

4. Of course, Australia should be slashing the Defence budget and focussing on our own region. Money spent on distant military adventures would be better spent on educational aid programs for our poorer neighbours. But that's assuming that you don't actually WANT wars which send billions of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of the US military industrial establishment.

5. Maybe the reason we cannot see NATO's plans for Afghanistan is that there are none:
Mr Fitzgibbon also told the meeting of his concerns about NATO's failure to agree on an overall strategy for the war against the Taliban and civil reconstruction in Afghanistan. These included a lack of equity in burden-sharing, confused lines of command and differing objectives among key NATO partners.
Bitching about access to plans seems pretty meaningless when the whole sorry venture is going down the tube.

What we should have done in Afghanistan was pour money into roads, education and infrastructure, making the country a shining example of Western goodwill and generosity, and using all the money wasted in Iraq for just that purpose. But of course, that assumes that "Western goodwill and generosity" actually exists... I think it does, among people, but certainly not among their governments.

Meanwhile, in our own backyard, there is another sorry military adventure being forgotten and ignored as it falters along going nowhere in a hurry...
Maria de Fatima has been in her central Dili camp with her family of five for two years, after her home was burnt to the ground by pro-Jakarta militia. She has tears in her eyes as she says she wants to go home, but she is too frightened.

"We're afraid and the little ones are afraid," she said.

Seventy-year-old Francisco Soares has also lost everything. "Where would I go to", he asks, "Am I supposed to sleep on the ground?"

He has a message for Australians: "We have nothing, no chairs, no tables, nothing to put inside our houses, even if we had a home," he said.
UPDATE: AS if to hammer home that last point, this news just in:
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta has been wounded in a pre-dawn attack on his home this morning that killed a guard, army spokesman Major Domingos da Camara said.

It was unclear what condition Ramos-Horta was in, he said, adding that Alfredo Reinado, a rebel soldier wanted on murder charges for a flare up of violence in 2006, was killed by return gunfire from house guards.

9 Feb 2008

Murdoch Nominates Howard For A Knighthood

Sky News floats the rumour and suggests that the Palace's refusal to deny it lends it credibility.

The fact that Howard won't be in Canberra for the apology is then posited as further proof.

Final, conclusive proof of the rumour: Sir Edmund Hillary died recently, so there's a vacancy.

Look, for all I know it may happen, and if so who really gives a *John Howard*? It would be a nice way to finish off the Monarchy in this country once and for all. But even by Murdoch standards this is pretty shabby "reporting".

7 Feb 2008

Let's All Sit Back And Watch The International Media Go Nuts About This One

At first blush, I just don't see how the New Zealand hijack in any way vindicates the Bush-Howard-Blair GWOT vision of insanity. This was a lone ex-Somali woman going bananas on a flight with only seven people on board. The whole things sounds utterly pathetic. Her actions were probably inspired by all the faux media attention paid to the WTC attacks.

The good news is that Australian opposition "leader" Brendan Nelson is never going to allow us to be subjugated to Sharia Law. And Robert McClelland backs him up! How's that for bipartisan opposition to a non-existent threat?

The United States Of War: What's Australia's Role?

Antony Loewenstein recently linked to an excellent new site called Voices Without Votes, which provides some interesting global perspective on US news. Today the SMH's Peter Hartcher looks at what the 2008 Presidential elections will mean to Australia:
Only 5 per cent of the world's population lives in the United States, but the outcome will affect 100 per cent of us. We don't get to vote, but we have a stake in the presidential election nonetheless.

We know that the choice of president will influence the likelihood of the US making war.

Australia has a keen interest in America's wars. We are the only country in the world that has fought alongside the Americans in every major war of the 20th and 21st centuries. When America goes to war, so, historically, do we.
Hartcher quotes Brent Scowcroft saying Bush would not have invaded Iraq without Aussie and UK support:
"He needed some cover, and you and the British gave it to him. If you and the Brits had said, 'Sorry, Mr President, we can't go along with you on that,' it wouldn't have happened."
Well, actually, Tony Blair and John Howard gave it to him - the rest of us didn't have much say in it!

Hatcher points out the seemingly illogical post-Cold War growth of the US military machine(*), and the growing perception (in some parts of the USA at least) that things in Iraq are finally "turning the corner". He suggests that of the three remaining candidates for US President, only Barak Obama appears likely to avoid more wars (all the more reason why someone will have to assassinate him).

What Hartcher doesn't mention is that Australia now has a new PM. Would Kevin Rudd go to war with John McCain? Hard to imagine it. From an Australian perspective, the guy looks like a complete psycho. But Rudd might just be persuaded into another foolish war by a President Hillary, or even Obama. Particularly if, as Scowcroft warns Hartcher, there are ominous penalties for NOT supporting the US line.

We should all remain very nervous.

* Note that Australia's military machine has been keeping pace under Howard, and Alexander Downer's home town of Adelaide has become an increasingly important part of the global military-industrial network.

6 Feb 2008

Thank You, Frank Bloody Lowy

Kevin Rudd should get on the phone to his old mate Rupert "The Australian" Murdoch and ask him very politely to rip up this contract:
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the Labor government will place Socceroos' matches on the anti-siphoning list - which ensures major sporting events appear on free-to-air television - when the Foxtel contract with the Football Federation of Australia ends in 2013.

He said the Howard government's communications minister, Helen Coonan, had refused to put the matches on the anti-siphoning list.

The government could intervene now but that would expose the federation to an "ugly" multi-million dollar penalty.

"It is a significant penalty that would potentially cause quite a deal of difficulties for the football federation," Senator Conroy told ABC Radio.

"We are talking about many, many millions of dollars.

"They (the Socceroos) are as significant as the (rugby union) Wallabies, they are as significant as the (rugby league) Kangaroos, as our cricket team, and this attitude of Helen Coonan and the former government was very, very disappointing and a slap in the face to soccer fans," he said.
Murdoch's FOX media network also has the A-League games, and SBS cannot even put together a decent highlights show on a Sunday afternoon. There should be a prime-time Monday night show and if SBS won't do it someone else should.

I just spent a few hundred bucks signing my two boys up for another season of local soccer (under 10's and 11's). What do we get for the money? Not much, I'm afraid.

The Vile Splutterings Of An Angry Old Man

Sounds like David Barnett is angling for a job with the Murdoch press. Get a load of this crap:
For what it's worth, Keelty should not resign. He should hang in there. Whatever the new arrangements to emerge from the current manoeuvring, Australia will be a less safe place...

In a brief time, we have ratted on the Americans in Iraq. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the alliance was strong. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn't say a word.

We are ratting on Israel. We are going to be more "balanced". Since we already were balanced, that can only mean less balanced, in favour of the Palestinians.
Barnett suggests that Mitsubishi decided to pull out of South Australia because Rudd offended the Japanese with his anti-whaling stance. Then he defends the crimes of the Stolen Generation:
The facts are that children were removed from neglect and abuse and given to the care of missions to give them a chance in life, and indeed to save their lives. By and large, it worked.
And of course we know what's coming next...
Aborigines will ask for millions. They'd be mad not to.

Every case for compensation mounted so far has failed. Once we acknowledge guilt, it will be open slather.
Yeah, let's all worry about money all the time, eh? Just wait till the Iraqis start asking for compensation, mate.

Wanker Of The Day

I'm assuming that Frank Devine got the wood on someone big, and agreed to keep quiet if they would give his daughter a newspaper column. Why else would a major Australian paper keep publishing her crap

4 Feb 2008

Gandhi Has A Question

If it is OK for the Chinese government to buy stakes in Australian companies, then why is not OK for the Australian government to buy a stake in Australian companies or even (shudder!) nationalize industries of national importance?

Wanker Of The Day

Gerard Henderson comes out to bat for his ideological soul brother, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty. Is it just me, or does this make no real sense at all:
Clearly the Attorney-General is correct in referring to a perception within the legal community that the Howard government's stance on counter-terrorism was motivated by political considerations. Yet there is little evidence to support this view. For example, had Howard and other members of his cabinet's national security committee been intent on running a scare campaign in the lead-up to the November election they could have leaked details about the prosecution's case in the Operation Pendennis matter. The Coalition did not do so.
Got that? The fact that Howard did not deliberately (and illegally) undermine a major anti-terrorist sting PROVES that he never, ever engaged in fear-mongering, and furthermore it PROVES that the whole anti-terrorist agenda has been totally vindicated, even if we are all still waiting to see one single case where it has proved effective.