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Showing posts from 2005

The "I" word in Washington

30 years on from Watergate and only a few years since Bill Clinton was "in trouble" news out of Washington suggests that George Bush may not end the year - or start the new one - without the possibility of Georges' impeachment being on the agenda of some congressmen and senators.

Read this interesting take on possible impeachment in this article from The Nation. Who knows where this may all end.....

George Bush - on the Road to Being Dictatorial?

George Bush speaks, often, of democracy and democratic values. He is determined, he says, to bring all those democratic values - whatever that might be! - to the Middle East and elsewhere.

Pity is, that people in glass houses ought not to throw stones. With the revelation of Bush authorising secret wire-taps [and not resiling from it - just to the contrary] Bush has thrown down a gauntlet to US legislators. Is the President above the law?

Read this interesting article in The Nation on the whole subject and what it throws up for consideration - and the challenges to US lawmakers and Americans in general.

Dictating Democracy

Israel is always held up as the only democracy in the Middle East. That may well be a moot point in some respects.

Be that as it may now comes news that Israel is trying to prevent East Jerusalem Arabs from voting in the upcoming Palestinian elections if Hamas takes part. Hey?

This excellent editorial in the New York Times makes it clear as can be that what Israel seeks to do is totally unacceptable.

On another front this article from the IHT on Israel's attempts to impose checks for Palestinians along the West Bank and Jerusalem - less restrictive on one level but more so on another - highlights, yet again, that Israel's actions, on the ground, are totally the opposite of what it espouses publically. If the article is correct then Israel is seemingly putting in place a permanent border - not one open to negotiation.

Mahler's Prodigal Son Goes Travelling...

With the Xmas and New Year holidays upon us this blog [er, blogger] goes walkabout - well, travelling overseas.

So, in wishing those stalwarts who come aboard this blog regularly, or on the odd occassion, all the very best for 2006 stay tuned as reports of travels and events around the globe will continue to be posted from here and there even if not regularly........


The so-called race-riots in Cronulla have surprised many and brought into sharp focus what tolerance actually is - as also multiculturism, even if the PM seems to soldier on in ignorance about the scope of what Australia is and the real make-up of its people. Public opinion poles clearly show how out of step John Howard is about racism and related subjects.

Tolerance! One word which encapsulates some many things. Check out this web-site of to read about 10 Ways to Fight Hate. Pass it along to others.....

Democracy in Action - Iraq-style

The US had expectations for the outcome of the recent Iraqi election. It didn't work!

All the latest indications are that what was a hoped-for secular government will not eventuate. In fact the religious parties will dominate - and to boot will, most likely, pursue a policy of a timetable for Coalition forces withdrawing from the country. It might just be what George Bush wants - or needs electorally!

Read the latest news on the poll, and the probable consequences, in this article from The Guardian.

Meanwhile the IHT reports, here, that Sunnis have characterised the vote in Iraq as unfair. Another report, this time in The Independent, declares that Iraq is disintegrating.

Iraq - "The USA's Stalingrad" says General

General Odom is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is also an adjunct professor at Yale University. His most recent book is called America's Inadvertent Empire.

The above statement about Iraq being the "USA's Stalingrad" was made by the General in a fascinating and incisive interview on the Breakfast program on ABC Radio National this morning. In fact, some weeks ago on America's Newshour program on National Public Radio, the General stated that he thought "the army is already broken" in Iraq.

Listen to the entire interview here.

Impeachment? - Of George Bush?

George Bush steadfastly asserts that he has done no wrong in eavesdropping on US citizens. He has even gone so far as to suggest that had the US been able to eavesdrop that 9/11 could have been avoided. Never mind that a Congessional investigation post 9/11 established that any limits on any powers available to the President, CIA or FBI did not contribute to preventing 9/11.

There are many in the US who say that Bush has acted illegally - despite that Bush and Condi assert otherwise.

It is therefore interesting that this article in AlterNet today puts a case for impeaching Bush for breaking US laws. Shades of Richard Nixon on the horizon?

On the same subject-matter this piece "Spying and Lying" in The Nation is also worthwhile reading.

The Real Iraq

"The Bush Administration uses double barrel propaganda today, with Mr. Bush using a prime time television address to say things like "My fellow citizens: Not only can we win the war in Iraq - we are winning the war in Iraq," and responding to negative news by saying "It does not mean that we are losing." Meanwhile, Mr. Cheney, while on a heavily guarded tour of the "Green Zone" and other locales in Iraq said today, "I think the vast majority of them think of us as liberators."

"While the Bush Administration portrayed Thursday's Iraqi elections as a resounding success, Iraqi political parties are complaining of violations ranging from dead men voting to murder in the streets as accusations begin to fly from all political corners of rampant fraud and violence bringing the results of the vote under suspicion".

Much has been written about the supposed succes of the recent Iraqi election. So, was it? And what are the facts on th…

False Dawn in Afghanistan?

Amid all the hype which is being written about the convening of the first Parliament in Afghanistan in 30 years it seems to have been overlooked who these "new" parliamentarians actually are.

"The New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated that, although nearly a third of the deputies were women, more than half were warlords or their proxies, who are suspected of bullying or bribing their way into the parliament. Their presence bodes ill for efforts to crack down on the opium trade that sustains the fragile Afghan economy".

If this be the fact [as referred to in a piece on TimesonLine then things are destined to go radically askew very quickly. Photo-ops are one thing! Reality quite another! Read the entire piece by way of informative background to the composition of the newly "elected" Parliament here.

This Will Put You off Over-eating.....

We have all heard and read about obesity in the US and here in Australia. Remember the movie Super Size Me? Children are said to be increasingly overweight - with a significant problem in years to come as what are now adults suffer from diabetes and heart issues, etc. etc.

This item on BBC News today puts the obesity in America into sharp focus. It makes for frightening reading.

So, perhaps as you sit down to Xmas lunch or dinner or confront New Year's Eve pause a moment - and cut back on all that food and drink. Better still make all the right resolutions for 2006.....

Is George Bush Shifting Ground? Not Likely!

"The last time President Bush delivered a prime-time address from the Oval Office was the night he launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, back when he expected a decisive victory and gratitude from a liberated people. Thirty-three months and more than 2,100 U.S. fatalities later, Bush last night was still predicting victory -- but sounding a more subdued note.

As he stared again into the cameras from behind the 125-year-old presidential desk named Resolute, Bush this time found himself arguing with those who "conclude that the war is lost." The president who enjoyed strong public support as he fired the first missiles at Baghdad was by last night chastened by the subsequent travails on the battlefield abroad and the political freefall at home".

So begins an interesting analysis [in the Washington Post here]of George Bushs' talk to the nation from the Oval Office.

Whether it is a true shift in Bushs' views is questionable. It all smacks too much of…

Costello Caught Out - Again!

The revelation in today's Australian newspaper [see the article here] that Treasury warned the Government, in particular Peter Costello, that lower-paid workers would be "hit", certainly in the short-term, by the new IR laws will hardly come as a surprise. Nor, the fact that Costello appears, yet again, to have misled the House when he replied in the negative to a question whether such a Treasury Report on the IR laws existed.

The fall-out of the now passed IR laws is, interestingly, analysed by, by Glenn Milne in an opinion-piece in today's Australian. If Milne is correct, and in particular the survey-figures he cites, the Government is in trouble at the next election. His statement that it will only take 28,609 voters in key seats to see a change in Government is interesting when one reflects on the fact that the present Government holds such a clear majority.

No doubt coincidentally, but in an interview with Dr. John Falzon, Social Policy National Directo…

Falluja - in December 2005

The Iraqis have gone to the polls - and one has the impression that the world has, with a degree of smugness, concluded that, see, all is well in Iraq.

It isn't, as todays continuation of killings clearly shows.

And what has become of Falluja? Well, the Times Online has a report from the last Western journalist to leave Falluja in November 2004 and now, in cloak and dagger style, re-visiting. Read the report here. It makes for sober reading.

Mike Moore's Take on 2005

Mike Moore, he of the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 fame, has a web site / blog too.

Needless to say it has material on which one might expect from the gad-fly Moore is.

Moore's latest column / piece is on the Mavericks of '05. Read it here and reflect on the year just drawing to a close. Moore's piece is certainly close to the bone - but near-enough spot-on for the year [2005] that was!

Howard Just Doesn't Get It!

One week on from the ugly race-riots in Cronulla and things seem to have quietened down somewhat.

It is most heartening to read of and see the turn-out at the anti-racism rally in Sydney today - and incident-free too!

So, what does our PM do in the current climate?.... when keeping one's mouth firmly shut would be best policy - unless one was going to solidly condemn racism of any sort.

No, John Howard comes out and encourages shopping malls to have more nativity scenes and generally abhors any down-playing of Christianity. Read the report here.

How very insensitive, if nothing else, especially in the current climate. He just does not get it! Just watch out for Alan Jones jumping on the band-wagon on the same subject with you know who as a guest on his program.

Going in Opposite Directions?

Interestingly, a bipartisan group of US law-makers defeated George Bushs' plan to keep the Patriot Act in place. An analysis of the background to all of that can be read in this article in The Nation.

What is interesting to reflect on is that both Republicans and Democrats defeated the measure - in other words even Republicans were prepared to stand up and be counted against "their" President.

Sad to say that apart from the odd occasion when Barnaby Joyce has taken some sort of position, it would seem that all Australian Coalition members are basically a pack of sheep. No questions, no second thoughts, no reservations, no conscience........

Roll-on Bloggers....

It is said that there are presently 22 million blogs out there worldwide.

According to this article in Forbes by 2010 there will be 1 billion blogs!

Talk about a changing landscape. Meanwhile just about every day sees a report from somewhere that newspapers are laying off large numbers of staff.

Meanwhile look out for the other interesting stats in the Forbes article.

If Only Life Was That Easy....!!!

"THEIR idols are Angelina Jolie (what a brand) and Donald Trump (what a businessman). If they have their way, their first car is more likely to be a nifty runabout than a Ford, nothing too flash, a Peugeot maybe. Roughing it is a takeaway mocha latte and chilling out in the park with their iPods. And, they truly believe that one day the lifestyles of the rich and famous they eagerly follow in the gossip mags will be theirs".

It is difficult to know whether to be appalled or take Generation Y'ers by the scruff of their collective necks and enlighten them to the facts of life!

The view [rose-tinted glasses] of Generation Y as found by ad agency George Patterson Y & R reflected in the above quote and this article from the SMH today makes for "interesting" reading on a number of levels. Aspirations? Money and unrealistic expectations about many things.... Dumbing-down? Absolutely! Oh deary, deary me.......

Howard's [dubious] Record on Racism

John Howard has in the last days made some statements on the events in Cronulla and the attititude of Australians to racism and racist acts. Nothing too meaningful or definitive, mind you, and certainly, not reflective of a leader of a nation [whose population comprises some 43% foreign-born or first-born of newcomers] with such a diverse mixture of immigrants.

What needs to be borne in mind here is that Howard's track-record on matters relating to racism is appalling. By his actions and words he has nailed his flag well and truly to the masthead.

This opinion piece in the SMH yesterday [no author but evidently sourced from Justinian] details and catalogues Howards deeds, and non-deeds, as well as his words, going back many years. No more need be said!

The Reality

"Two and a half years into the war in Iraq and we still know so little about the Iraqis on the ground and how they survive and die each day.

News reports are dominated by coverage of American fighters. Our visual understanding of the war is almost exclusively American: our soldiers atop tanks racing to liberate Baghdad, suffering heat and sandstorms, their faces bathed in an orange glow; American Marines in full battle mode charging across the Diwanya Bridge; and the shock and awe over Baghdad, almost like Grucci fireworks -- as long as you don't see what happens when they hit their targets.

And that's the whole problem. We rarely see who is at the receiving end of a hellfire missile, or a 50-caliber rifle, or a 500-pound bomb. The politics of that destruction and the anger and desperation it fuels, remains hidden."

As Iraqis go to the polls today this revealing article in Alternet tells it like it is "on the ground" in Iraq - and is not written by embedded jo…

A really, really Worthwhile Xmas Present....

It's that time of the year!!!

What to give someone who is a thinking person? Another cd or book? - like last year?

No, the ideal present this year for anyone who really wants to know what is going on in the world, and be engaged in it, is a subscription to either Crikey [check it out here] or New Matilda [check it out here]

Both on-line publications are a must!

In fact, why not at the same time as purchasing the gift sub. do yourself a favour and get one for yourself!

Say One Thing, Do the Opposite

One cannot be left with any impression other than that the Sharon Government in Israel is orchestrating a spin of gigantic proportions. On the one hand an impression is sought to be conveyed of reasonableness - like, withdrawing from Gaza, "allowing" a border to be opened [well sort of!] etc. etc. Dare anyone criticize. Hey, look, we are faced with people like the Iranian President and his continued outrageous statements.

The reality is that despite the spin and hype, on the ground Israel is going ahead full-bore in building settlements in the West Bank, and apparant to anyone giving it an ounce of thought, building a wall along what Israel regards as its new borders.

Read this article on how Israel is moving right along and where it is so obviously headed.

Alan Jones Stands Condemned...

This letter to Crikey [which appeared today in its daily bulletin / issue] from broadcaster Mike Carlton says it all....

"Alan Jones's week of ranting wog-baiting which preceded the Sydney riots was the most disgraceful episode of broadcasting I have encountered in my 40+ years in the media. It was vulgar, vicious and racist, and an unmistakable incitement to violence.

"I'm the person that's led this charge here. Nobody wanted to know about North Cronulla, now it's gathered to this,” he screeched, as listener after listener phoned to declare war on Muslims in general and Lebanese in particular. “ A community show of force!” he shouted. Hitler's Brownshirts would have loved it.

In a sea of radio filth, Jones's most disgusting act was to broadcast, and to repeat, the SMS phone message calling for violence: “Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge. This Sunday every Aussie in the shire get down to North Cronulla to support the leb and wog bashing da…

David Hicks - A Tentative Step Forward

"The military commission ... is itself an entirely unsatisfactory and potentially unjust means of trying and possibly ordering the very lengthy imprisonment of the claimant," Justice Collins said.

It is clear that English law regards the detention and proposed trial of the claimant to be contrary to the rule of law."

These compelling and strong words of Justice Collins - in a judgment overnight - are part of the judge's decision that David Hicks should be granted British citizenship. See a reasonably full report on the decision reported in today's AFR.

A-G Ruddock, John Howard and Lord Downer of Baghdad will no doubt ignore the judge's damning indictment of the continued detention of David Hicks. As Lex Lasry QC has commented on ABC Radio's PM program tonight, it is near enough to fanciful that the Federal Government maintains that all is in order in relation to the way Hicks has been, and continues to be, dealt with.

It is interesting to note that Austra…

How George Bush Stacks Up 5 Years On

"Five years ago today Al Gore phoned George Bush to formally concede the presidency. Since then the United States has suffered it's worst ever terrorist attack, become embroiled in a disastrous foreign war and bungled the response to a natural catastrophe. So what is the Bush legacy after half a decade? Is he a ruthless Machiavellian or a bumbling puppet? A devout idealist or a cynical opportunist? A disaster or a mild disappointment?"

The Guardian posed the question of George Bushs' legacy to six well-known American commentators - across the spectrum from left to right. Read the response as reflected in The Guardian's article here.

It would be interesting to know what commentators outside the US think...... Weigh in with your own view.

Pres. Shrub's View of the World

George Bush has just assured everyone that he doesn't "live in a bubble" and that he does get out and about, talks to people and has advisers. He even said he reads newspapers even if not in depth.

One has to wonder though. After giving a speech yesterday Bush, unusually, allowed questions from the audience. How many Iraqis killed he was asked. Some 30,000 he replied. Where did the figure come from? It's somewhat unclear as The Pentagon allegedly doesn't keep figures of Iraqi deaths.

Then this statement as reported in The Washington Post -

"Knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again," Bush told a questioner after a speech here. "Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country."

And then this gem -

"The year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East and the history of freedom."

Who on earth is George talking to? Dick,…

Fog Facts?

"Fog facts are things that have been published or are easily known but have disappeared in the fog. And there are lots of facts that should disappear in the fog; they're trivia, they're nonsense, and we don't need to know them. I'm talking about things that are important -- that once you bring them to the foreground it changes your picture of reality".

Larry Beinhart is the well-known author of the novel "Wag the Dog". Now, in his latest book "Fog Facts: Searching for Facts in the Land of Spin" he deals with what he describes as fog facts.

With the media around the world under such scrutiny at the moment - and spin by politicians so topical - the interview with Beinhart in Alternet is not only timely but also most interesting and more than somewhat revealing. Read the interview here.

Iraq - 1000 Days On

"It has been the strangest war. A thousand days ago, on 20 March 2003, the US and British armies started a campaign which ended a few weeks later with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

It seemed so easy. President George Bush announced that the war was over. The American mission had been accomplished. Months passed before Washington and London realised that the war had not finished. In fact it was only just beginning. Of the 18,000 US servicemen killed or wounded in Iraq, 94 per cent have been killed or wounded since the fall of Baghdad"

Patrick Cockburn, in The Independent, reporting from Baghdad, undertakes an interesting analysis of what is Iraq now - from the days of Shock and Awe to the country on the cusp of an election.

Setting the Tone

John Howard has over the years set a tone in Australia which we are now seeing bubble up.

Given the opportunity to "jump" on Pauline Hanson's comments in her maiden speech in Federal Parliament years ago all that our PM could say was that she was entitled to speak her mind. In fact, the Liberal Party has moved rather close to adopting some of the policies of the One Nation Party. Then, there has been Howard's attitude to the aboriginal community and his refusal to acknowledge the use of the word "multiculturalism".

Add to the above
- the Tampa affair and the PM's statements at the time
- the actions of Howard and Ruddock during the recent arrests of alleged
- Howard's seeming endorsement of Alan Jones by appearing on Jones' program -
notwithstanding Jones'racist and obnoxious views about minorities
and the die is caste that, hey, perhaps it is ok to be intolerant and totally without understanding …

You be the Judge

With news that Arnie Schwarzenegger has rejected the plea for clemency for "Tookie" Williams the whole debate on capital punishment is ignited once again.

To any observer of the US justice system, too many instances have arisen over the years where men on Death Row, some for many years, have been released and pardoned when it has been established that they ought not to have been convicted in the first place.

Assuming this article in the Indystar is correct in detailing the facts and circumstances surrounding Williams' conviction, you be the judge in how "safe" you feel with the whole thing - conviction, sentence and now possible death.

Maybe Arnie doesn't understand that "I'll be back" doesn't "work" for wrongly convicted, and executed, persons!

PM Drunk with Power

"JOHN Howard's final triumph for the year, the passage of his Voluntary Student Unionism Bill, came at a price the public never got to see: the worst trashing of the Senate I've witnessed in 20 years of covering federal politics".

Coming from Glen Milne in The Australian that is some condemnation! Read his entire piece here.

It is proof positive, yet again, that despite what Howard said about not abusing the "power" the Government had in the Senate, that he and his Party do the total opposite.

Shame on all Coalition Senators and MPs who are so meek and mild in allowing the obvious trampling of parliamentary democracy.

Good Night, and Good Luck

This week sees the release of the George Clooney directed movie "Good Night, and Good Luck".

It is a superb movie - and a must-see. It deals with Ed Murrow, and Fred Friendly, at CBS, in effect taking on Joe McCarthy in the early 1950's as McCarthy engaged in what can only be described as a witch-hunt of those said to be communists or communist-sympathisers.

Read many interesting facts about the movie and the actual people here - and don't overlook the links on the site. See also the Warner Brothers web site here.

The movie could not be more timely. What with the Patriot Act in the USA and our Federal Government having rammed through the anti-terrorism laws, including the sedition provisions, a clear and loud message can be learned from what McCarthyism, by that or any other name, brings in its wake.

As a footnote to this piece, it is well worthwhile spending the time to read [here] the full transcript of the Murrow program on 9 March 1954. At least read…

The Truth Just Keeps On Coming Out....

George Bush and Co. must be wondering whether there is some sort of conspiracy against them - given the almost daily revelations from somewhere on how the the US Administration misled [lied?] the American public, and the world, about WMD's in Iraq, the alleged threat of terrorism from Saddam Hussein, the "link" between Saddam and Bin Laden, etc. etc.

At long last the American press is beginning to shine a light under the bushel [no pun intended!].

Today's LA Times reveals in a report sourced from France that the French told the CIA many times in the year before George Bush kept on asserting otherwise, that there was no proof that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. Read the article here.

Meanwhile read this fascinating analysis by Nir Rosen in The Atlantic Monthly on what is actually happening on the ground in Iraq, what would happen if America quite the country and how Iraqis see things. You might just want to send the article to John Howard who keeps banging on …

Propaganda - On a Massive Scale

"The media center in Fayetteville, N.C., would be the envy of any global communications company.

In state of the art studios, producers prepare the daily mix of music and news for the group's radio stations or spots for friendly television outlets. Writers putting out newspapers and magazines in Baghdad and Kabul converse via teleconferences. Mobile trailers with high-tech gear are parked outside, ready for the next crisis.

The center is not part of a news organization, but a military operation, and those writers and producers are soldiers. The 1,200-strong psychological operations unit based at Fort Bragg turns out what its officers call "truthful messages" to support the United States government's objectives, though its commander acknowledges that those stories are one-sided and their American sponsorship is hidden.

"We call our stuff information and the enemy's propaganda," said Col. Jack N. Summe, then the commander of the Fourth Psychological Ope…

The Oz Landscape in 2006 and Beyond.....

"The new industrial relations legislation is supposed to be about flexibility, choice and the creation of thousands of jobs. There's no doubt it will give employers more freedom, but, in the time-honoured phrase, what about the workers? The repeal of the unfair dismissal laws, for instance, certainly makes the workplace more flexible, but for whom?"

So starts an excellent opinion-piece in the SMH by Hugh MacKay, well-known psychologist, social researcher and writer - and hardly a radical.

More depressing is his analysis of what the outcome and fall-out of the IR legislation will be for ordinary workers and those most vulnerable in the community. It certainly gives the lie to the Government's pronouncements - spin, if not downright lies - that the new IR laws will be family-friendly and advantageous to all Australians.

As if MacKay's piece isn't sobering and depressing enough another excellent opinion piece, also in the SMH, by Adele Horin, spells out the…

Spin? - or the L Word?

We all know that politicians spin the facts or truth. Just think of Peter Costello this past week. Oops, Peter, caught out?

Spin, and whether there has been active lying by politicians in relation to the Iraq War is an ongoing and active discussion-point in Great Britain [Tony Blair] and in the USA [Bush & Co.]. Sadly, there has been little if no discussion in Australia. Is that because Australians believe they were lied to and there is nothing to debate? QED!

Be that as it may, The Washington Post's Media Notes columnist, Howard Kurtz, undertakes an interesting analysis of spin and, that word politicians take umbrage to, lying - not only that of the Bush Administration but its predecessors. Read it here.

The Consensus on Iraq

Martin Walker is an Editor of United Press International.

You will often hear him being interviewed on ABC Radio or ABC's Lateline program.

He also writes a column Walker's World. This week's column addresses the Consensus on Iraq. It makes for interesting reading by an acute and seemingly accurate "reporter" of the scene in the US.

Yes, This Is What We Want....

David Pogue is a writer and reviewer of things technical. You will often find his reviews of various new gadgets and gizmos in the New York Times.

Perhaps in time for the holiday season Pogue has put out his Wish List of 10 things he wants for us customers - like, for instance, manuals in readable English. Read his complete List here and reflect - is that your teeth grinding as you concur and think of your own experiences? - on what we have all encountered. Or should that be endured?

UN Human Rights Day - 10 December

It may seem ironical at the very time the world is actively "discussing" torture and mayhem around the globe - look at Darfur and reditioning amongst other topical subjects - that today is the UN's Human Rights Day.

A sad and sobering reflection of where the world is at. Perhaps of even greater concern is that whilst we are quick to accuse "them" [that is, others] of human rights abuses, "we" are absolutely no different in what we allow to happen right in front of our very own eyes.

With the US slowly having dragged out of it that it might have engaged in torture, is not Australia, as an ally of America, and in relation to which our PM is happy to tell us that there is a sharing of intelligence-information between the 2 countries, complicit in what is happening? And then there is David Hicks, the new security laws, the way the arrests of suspected terrorists was carried out recently, etc. etc.

In fact Alan Ramsay's column in today's SMH is…

Rumsfeld Meets Saddam Hussein

You probably read the title of this piece and thought - eh?

Well, Rumsie did meet with Saddam back in the 80's when the US had good relations with Iraq. In fact, 11 months after the 2 met in Baghdad, the US resumed diplomatic relations with Iraq. Remember, too, that it was the US which in the 1980's supplied chemicals [aka poison gas] to Iraq for use in its war with Iran.

Read this most, most interesting background piece by Norman Solomon on the relationship of the US and Iraq - and the photo of Rumsfeld meeting with and shaking hands with Saddam. Interestingly, American newspapers are evidently reluctant to publish the photo. On the other hand you can readily pick it up by doing a Google search.

Rendition aka Torture

"When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and proceeded to carry out their savagery, many in the outside world asked how this could have happened in the land of Goethe and Beethoven. Would the people of other societies as readily accept tyranny? Sinclair Lewis, in 1935, imagined Americans turning to dictatorship under the pressures of economic distress in the Depression. He called his novel, ironically, It Can't Happen Here."

This is the opening paragraph to Anthony Lewis's extremely compelling article in The Nation.

Lewis cogently puts a case for how the US Administration has clearly sanctioned torture and been actively involved in it. It makes for sad reading - and highlights the hypocracy, and dishonesty, of George Bush and his Administration.

Meanwhile, for an intersting take on how things are travelling for Bush & Co in Washington listen to this most interesting interview by Fran Kelly on ABC National Radio's Breakfast program this morning of J…

Oops! - Maybe I Was Wrong

Paul Wolfowitz was well known for many years going back to the late 1980's as a leading neo-con in Washington. Before being appointed to his current position as President of the World Bank he was US Deputy Defence Secretary.

Wolfie and his cohorts pushed the WMD in Iraq line loudly and clearly. That aside, they had a seemingly grander design for the Middle East. Democracy for all, etc etc.

Today comes news that Wolfie says that perhaps the US would not have gone to war had it known there were no WMDs. Read a report here from The Huntington Post.

It is interesting to reflect on whether Wolfie, George, Dick, Condie and their fellow-travellers will now "apologise" - for what that is worth! - to the families of those killed and maimed in Iraq and to the general American people for the extraordinary cost to the taxpayer of what is increasingly a debacle in Iraq.

Nguyen, Singapore and Howard & Downer [revisited]

It is hard to believe that a week has passed since the hanging of Van Nguyen in Singapore.

This last week saw the funeral service for Van Nguyen here in Melbourne with what was reported to have been some 2000 attendees at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Much has been written and said about whether there should have been such a high profile funeral and the attendant publicity.

It will be recalled that in what many see as PM Howard and Lord Downer of Baghdad engaging in a lot of hand-wringing but little real effort made to spare the young man, that both men made mention of some 26,000 people who might have been affected had the drugs sought to be imported by Van Nguyen reached Australia.

Richard Ackland, in his excellent weekly opinion piece in today's SMH, highlights the falsity of much of Howard's and Downers actions in the whole issue, and more importantly, that the figure of some 26,000 potential "users" of the drugs which would have ben imported is plainly wro…

Renditioning & Condi Rice Revisited

Condi Rice is still trying to somehow address the direct question - has the US engaged in renditions and then in what countries? Her answers, if they can be described as such, are all over the place and obviously are obscure and not truthful.

Human Rights Watch has today issued a Statement on the US Policy of Torture - and how Condi has to come clean. Big ask perhaps, but the questions won't go away. Just tonight Ozs' own Mamdouh Habib has, on the BBC, outlined what he describes as the torture meted out to him as part of the rendition process. Will Lord Downer of Baghdad take any notice? Nah! He will almost certainly be dismissive of the allegations. Then, where was Mr Habib during the time he was "away"?

Race Laws - The UK Experience 40 Years On

Australia is often spoken of as a multi-cultural country. In fact Australians pride themselves on the country's diversity. Lattes, a variety of foods readily available, etc. etc. John Howard dislikes the term multi-culturalism and shies away from using it.

Whatever it means, in its broadest sense, Australia has seen an influx of immigrants resulting in something in the region of 43% of the population being either foreign- born or first generation foreign-born. As against that just reflect on the fact that with an aboriginal community - said to be the oldest in the world - here long before the white man we haven't adopted one of that culture's foods as that of Australia - but rather the pizza!

A rather revealing article in todays The Independent details the UK experience of that country's race laws after 40 years. It would be interesting to see how this all compares with Australia.

A Blot on How We Care....

"On person dies every 2 seconds from neglected diseases like malaria and TB"

"An estimated 12.5 million people of the world's poorest die every single year from curable diseases".

So says Medecins Sans Frontiers / Doctors Without Borders - in a letter seeking donations for the work it undertakes worldwide.

Like almost everyone I receive various letters and brochures seeking financial help for this or that worthwhile cause. Clearly everyone can't hope to receive a donation.

MFS is a cause which assists the sick and disadvantaged in the poorest of countries. It is a deserving cause and worthy of support - especially as so many sit down to celebrate the Xmas festivities. It is also fair to say, I believe, that MFS has been above reproach in the work it undertakes. Check out MFS here.

Finish off 2005 on a "good" and worthwhile note - or then again, start off 2006 on the same basis!

British MP Says It As It Is

In the continuing propaganada war waged through the media Israeli PM Sharon has been portrayed as "brave" in withdrawing from Gaza and allegedly striving toward some sort of peaceful accommodation with the Palestinians.

If only it were the fact! Most independent analysis would suggest that things haven't really gotten any better for the Palestinians and that peace is as elusive as it ever was. Gaza is a basket-case and the West Bank is now peopled by some 420,000 Israelis in the various settlements there. Not a recipe for peace!

Now come this report [in todays Guardian] from visiting British MP Gerald Kaufman [seemingly Jewish] - as part of a British Parliamentary delegation to the Palestinian Authority. It makes for depressing reading.

Another [Valid?] View of Rumsfeld

In a recent post on this blog I noted that Donald Rumsfeld [US Secretary of Defence] might be accused as being delusional and out of touch with reality.

Today's AlterNet has an article which is more extreme in its description of Rumsfeld - as "a nutter". Read the basis for the allegation here.

Explain This One Way Condi!

As Condi travels around Europe her explanation about renditions [strange word to start out with anyway] she sounds more and more like Bill Clinton. "I did not have sex with that woman". It all depends on your definitions - and use of language.

Whatever Condi and her spin-doctors might come up with it will be hard to overcome one very salient matter - this report in the NYT of what happened to a German man snatched up off the street, detained, taken to Afghanistan and then released when the military realised they had made a mistake. Oops! Now there is going to be court case to follow. Watch this space.

Read here how The Independent deals with the US court case - and the background to it.

Meanwhile, another dimension to renditions appears in this interview re-printed in AlterNet.

Shame on John Howard & Co.

Last night the Governmnent rammed through the welfare-to-work legislation. Informed critics say that this will see single parents with some $29 per week less income - and over all, some 150,000 vulnerable people affected.

Two other facts revealed yesterday make for stark reading alongside what the John Howard and Co have just done. First, the Brother of St. Laurence released research showing that parents were feeling financially more stressed this year than last. 15% of parents said that they could not afford tickets for the movies for their children and 12% said they were unable to buy new clothes for their children during the past year. Read the full Report here.

Second, a Senate Committe revealed yesterday that the Howard Government spent an average $127 million a year in taxpayer's money on advertising - 48% more than the Labour Government averaged in the preceding 5 years.

So, there you have it! The priorities of the Government. What an indictment of …

Examining the US Death Penalty Stats

With the execution of Van Nguyen last Friday as also, on the same day, the 1000th US citizen since the death penalty was re-introduced in America, the whole debate about capital punishment and the mode of it remains extremely topical.

Only today comes news that 2 QC's in Victoria are seeking to have the so-called Bali 9 charged in Australia so that they might be extradicted to Australia and escape the risk of a death sentence in Indonesia.

The statistics with regard to capital punishment in the USA do not make for happy reading - as this piece here clearly highlights.

The Health Effects of Global Warming

189 nations are presently meeting in Montreal to discuss global warming, Kyoto and the like.

Hard as it is to believe, global warming and the effects of it - on a variety of levels - remains the subject of some debate and questioning. Just look at the US and Australia, 2 countries which have not signed up to the Kyoto Agreement.

I don't think anyone has ever really challenged the integrity of the World Health Organisation. In a report presented to the Montreal Conference the WHO paints a grim picture of the health effects of global warming, especially in Europe, if action is not taken to address and curb the problem.

The Iraq Index

Condi is this morning trying to fudge what the Americans are doing in relation to rendition and "using" sovereign States to engage in what can only be described as torture. One ex US State Department official on ABC Radio Breakfast this morning spoke of Soviet-like "gulags".

Meanwhile, ever "reliable" Rumsi was this morning complaining about the way the American media, wrongly he says, portrays what is happening in Iraq. Its all negative he claims. He can't understand why!

Perhaps someone should email Rumsi and Co this article "The Iraq Index" from the current edition of The Nation. Then, perhaps, he might get to understand.

As for Condi's denials see these questions which The Independent has posed to Condi today.

Work Choices? - A Misnomer if there Ever Was One

As the Senate is set to pass the new IR laws today - debate having being truncated due to the Government, scandalously, gagging debate or applying the guillotine - Australia looks to 2006 with an industrial scene almost certain to create significant unrest.

To describe the legislation as Work Choices is downright misleading and deceptive - a breach of the Commonwealth Government's own Trade Practices Act. Apart from Howard and Andrews - and the ever pliant backbench agreeing to anything seemingly without dissent or voicing a contrary view to the Government line - almost all informed opinion has been critical of what the legislation will bring in its wake.

It has always been know that the large accounting and legal firms pay well - but in return expect a 25 hour day and 8 day week in return. Large companies are no different. As we head into 2006 consider this -

Mallesons, a major legal firm, allows for email feedback on its web site. It certainly would not have expect…

Please explain Condi....

Condi Rice [US Secretary of State] is about to visit Europe.

She will probably be working overtime to placate European countries through which the US has been transporting prisoners as part of its so-called rendition program.

Yesterday's Der Spiegel revealed that some 437 flights had been operated by the CIA over German air space.

The Independent reports today that Condi will probably have her work cut out in explaining away the blatent and uninvited intrusion into foreign air space - aka sovereignty - by the US military.

If the IHT is right [see the article here] the US plans on taking a strong stand on its actions.

What price Progaganda?

At first there were the usual denials...

But then the US admitted that, yes, it was writing news articles for Iraqi newspapers. Needless to say the spin in those articles had been predictably positive - even if it did not accord with fact. Why let the truth get in the way? Perhaps not surprisingly, a former aide to VP Cheney defended the practice as "entirely appropriate" in presenting images.

Anyone with half a brain and reflecting on the tactic would readily realise that propaganda is one thing but re-writing the facts or giving them a slant totally out of whack with reality is just not gonna fly! - as this Newsweek piece so clearly spells out.

SHAME - on Australia

One in six children in Australia lives in a household where no parent is in paid work - a staggering half a million children.

So says the Brotherhood of St. Laurence here.

What a shocking indictment on Australia and all Australians - in the so-called lucky country! Not for some.

The Report could not be more timely. For today the Government is under severe criticism from welfare groups as debate gets underway on the welfare-to-work proposals. It is said that what is proposed will lead to single parents losing some $29 a week in benefits. Another family-friendly policy of the Howard Government?

US Ambassador to Iraq Tells it Like it Is

We have become accustomed to Bush, Cheney, Rumsie and Condi all spinning a line on how well things are progressing in Iraq. It's just that the actual facts on the ground tell a quite different story - as we witness every day in one way or another.

Now, perhaps for the first time, a senior US official - no lesser person than the US Ambassador to Iraq - openly acknowledges the fiasco that has become the Iraq War. For instance, there was no exit strategy. I already heard that in late January 2003 when viewing a PBS current affairs program the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [senior Republican Luger] admitted as much - and that was before the invasion got underway!

The Ambassador, and the Administration, may well have their own agenda for the admissions now being made - hard to believe otherwise! - but what is being said should be read nevertheless. Read it here from AlerNet.

Mike Carleton's Column - A Must Read

Anyone who saw the Walkley Awards on SBS the other night would have seen Mike Carleton, radio personality and columnist, at his very best when being one of the presenters. Carleton could never be accused of taking no prisoners! As he said, let's throw "the rodent" into the harbour - to thunderous applause. Wow!!!!

Again, his weekly column in the SMH yesterday - sadly his last for 2005 - is a must read!

Yet Another Dimension to the War in Iraq

Almost from the beginning of the Iraqi War private contractors have been "operating" in Iraq. They have, in large measure, been something of a shadowy presence although involved in, and being paid for, fairly vital work. Virtually the entire "operation" of feeding US personnel has been contracted out - with the resultant reports of companies [principally Haliburton, Cheney's "old" company] ripping off the American taxpayer for multi-millions of dollars.

Today the LA Times reports that an investigation undertaken by it has revealed that private security guards have, in effect, operated with little suprevision or being brought to account for deaths and injuries to Iraqis. Read the report here.

Yet another dimension to the Iraqi War! - which continues on with , again today , countless deaths. The report would not seem to support any view, so often peddled, that US and its allies are winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.

A Sad End to the Week

What a sad day today is as we end the week and head into the weekend...

- Sad, because today we have seen the hanging of Van Nguyen in Singapore. Vale Van Nguyen. What else can one say?

- Sad, because the face of Australia is to be forever changed with what we now know will be the almost certain passage of the Government's Work Choice legislation today

- Sad, in yesterday seeing democracy trashed as the Government applied the guillotine and gag to any debate on the Work Choice legislation

- Sad, as the Government has successfully pushed through its anti-terrorism laws including the laws on sedition - despite a Senate Committee earlier this week detailing at least 52 issues in the proposed legislation which required amendment or deletion altogether

- Sad, that the Government is intent on changing the laws with respect to work requirements for welfare recipients - disadvantaging the most vulnerable in the community

- Sad, how the Government has clearly demonst…

An Unfetterd [Forget about Free!] Press?

Last night saw the awarding of the 2005 Walkely Awards for those in the media. There were many worthy recipients among the winners. Thank God for the ABC and SBS. TV would, otherwise, be a wasteland.

At the same time as the annual Awards are being handed out we now know that the Federal Government's anti-terrorism laws are a matter of fact - sedition laws and all.
We enter unchartered waters but the apprehension the media will now face will undoubtedly reflect itself in what we are told and see. True free speech, if we ever had it, will almost certainly be a thing of the past. With Ruddock as Attorney-General one would not feel comfortable that our rights are being preserved nothwithstanding the platitudes from John Howard and Ruddock.

As always, Richard Ackland, has an insightful article in today's SMH, on the whole topic.

Guilt in Singapore

As Singapore seeks to defend itself from the criticism of hanging young Van Nguyen it has sought to paint a picture of a society bound by the rule of law.

If this Report from Amnesty International is correct - and there is no reason to think not - then the realities which exists in Singapore in relation to drug-related offences and the rule of law otherwise, is quite something different.

It is hard to accuse Singapore of not being a First World country when the mighty USA continues to condone and give effect to the death penalty but all Singaporeans should hang their heads in collective shame.

Don't Bomb Us

As controversary swirls around whether George Bush did, or did not, threaten to bomb Al Jareeza, it is noteworthy that Sir David Frost and some noteable TV people previously with CNN and the BBC have agreed to work for Al Jareeza.

Today comes news that the people at Al Jareeza have started their own blog called - surprise, surprise at the name - "Don't Bomb Us". What might be described as the credo is interesting too. Read all about it here.

Van Nguyen - A Priest's Reflections

With time running out it seems most unlikely that Van Nguyen will be saved from the gallows in Singapore early tomorrow morning.

Singapore's High Commisioner's letter in newspapers yesterday and his interview on ABC Radio's AM Program this morning didn't throw up any valid, let alone reasonable or reasoned arguments, for going ahead with the barbaric death penalty. One "argument" the HC put forward was that Singapore wanted to "save" and protect many from getting into drugs. If that argument had any validity Singapore would have readily agreed to Van Nguyen being available to give evidence against those up the chain [bear in mind Van Nguyen was a mere "mule"] in selling and distributing drugs.

Father Peter Norden [Prison Chaplain and successor to Father Brosnan - the priest who was Prison Chaplain at the time of Ronald Ryan being hanged] was interviewed on ABC Radio's Breakfast program this morning. It is a reflective…

Iraq - 2005 US-style

George Bush made, what was described as an important speech, today, on where the USA stands in relation to its on-going commitment to Iraq.

Quit? No way! The US will stay the course, whatever that means. "Victory" is the key word. "Victory" of what? - and to whom?

Robert Scheer has a perceptive analysis of the whole Iraq situation in well worth reading. Pity that George, Dick, Rummy and Condi and Crew [Blair and Howard] probably won't read the article. Then again, would they get it?

3.30pm update 1/12/05: This interesting analysis from The Huffington Post when read alongside the Scheer article couldn't make it clearer where the Bush Administration stands - nor how it chops and changes in its use of words / language.

A Peek into Rumsfeld's 'Mind".....

To listen to Rumsfeld speak is to listen to someone who [a] can't speak lucid and coherent English, and [b] who increasingly lives in in his own little world - wherever that might be. If there is any brain-power behind what Rumsfeld ever utters is probably questionable too.

Today's article in the SMH dealing with a press conference held by Rumsfeld and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the other day sheds some insight into Rumsfeld's "mind" and "thinking". Just despair!

All the "doctored" News Fit to Print

The American military knows no bounds. If not actively involved in beating prisoners, being associated with torture or "embedding" journalists amongst its ranks, now comes news that US military "information operations" are writing news-reports for Iraqi newspapers.

Needless to say the spin is pro-American and pro-Iraqi. According the LA Times report whilst the articles are not necessarily factually incorrect, the "news" does not provide a full or balanced picture of the newsworthy event.

Perhaps Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are reading the news reports out of Iraq - and therefore totally oblivious to what is actually going on there. Listening to Rumsfeld on the radio today "beating up" how well things are going in Iraq suggests to this listener that he is as delusional as Messrs Bush and Cheney.

What? - Parties on Friday to "celebrate Van Nguyen's hanging?

"Let's hope that more than sports fixtures are scheduled for the same day, the event of his death should be marked with parties."

So Piers Akerman concludes his column in the Sydney Daily Telegraph today.

I would not even deign to provide a link to the entire column. And, given Piers Akerman's "record" on so many things perhaps his view comes as no surprise.

There are, no doubt, some low-lifes out there, who would be cheering for the hanging of Van Nguyen. The majority of the Oz population is not! Whilst it might have been far too much to expect from Akerman, for an "individual" [he is not worthy of the appellations "person" or "human being" ascribed to him] to advocate parties to celebrate a hanging of 25 year man is breath-taking. It is crass, insensitive and obscene.

One must really wonder what the Editor and management of a major daily newspaper think about all of this. Then again, perhaps the answer to that question lies in…

Cheney - International War Criminal?

Larry Wilkerson was Chief of Staff to Colin Powell when Powell was US Secretary of State.

Read this most interesting article from The Nation dealing with a BBC interview with Wilkerson. His remarks are extraordinary - remembering who is making them.

Need anything more be said? Perhaps that noose is closing around the neck of Cheney and crew. It ought to!

10.30 pm update on 30 November: Given Cheney's recent attack on the integrity of those criticising the entry into the Iraq War - in effect calling them liars - just in from the Washington Post is this article putting Cheney's honesty on the line yet again.

Singapore's Double Standards

Dr. Damien Kingsbury is the Director of International and Community Development at Deakin University.

Here, in part, is his comment on the Van Nguyen discussion and debate in reation to the death penalty in Singapore -

"Because of its quasi-state sanctioned trade in drugs, as well as its
consistently appalling human rights record and military dictatorship, Burma is
shunned by most of the world. But Singapore does not shun Burma, and is after
China its second largest foreign investor, trading partner and military
hardware supplier.

The Burmese military – which is also the government - is deeply involved in the
country's heroin trade, through direct ownership of growing and refining and
through massive kick-backs from heroin warlords. Heroin funds around half of
Burma's economy.

In that the Burmese government has recently limited opium production, it has
largely been in areas it does not receive profits from. And much heroin
production has been replaced by production of amphetamines.


Politicians - with NO Principles

Members of Parliament are known as MP's. From now on the title MP should be amended to MwP [Member without Principles].

Last night, the House of Representatives passed the anti-terror laws. Yes, a bi-partisan Senate Committee did on Monday report that the proposed laws should be amended in 52 ways - and the sedition part dropped altogether.

So, what did all these MP's do? With the exception of 1 independent and 1 Labour Member, the House passed the Bill without amendment. What spineless and unprincipled people - and most certainly not people in whom to entrust the preservation of our rights and even basic democracy.

Coincidentally, yesterday Senator Bob Brown put forward a motion in the Senate to the effect that the death penalty should be regarded with "abhorence". Did the Senate pass that? - especially in the light of all the alleged concerns about Van Nguyen articulated by Messrs Howard, Downer and Ruddock. No! - not in that form. The word "abhorent" wa…

A Macabre [and Barbaric] Milestone

With the news dominated by the plight of Van Nyugen [what a State that won't even allow someone on Death Row some sort of physical contact with a parent] tomorrow marks a macabre milestone in the US.

With the re-introduction of the death penalty in the early 1970's tomorrow will, bar unforseen circumstances, see the 1000th execution in 28 years in America. The SMH has an opinion piece today about the state of the States in relation to the death penalty. Yep, the land of the free and the brave also continues to "murder" its citizens - even when, after all these years there has been compelling evidence that people have been wrongly convicted and languished on Death Row for years before being released.

George Bush - you know that one - when Governor of Texas on no occassion ever commuted a death sentence in 152 cases. And here is silly me thinking that a born-again Christian who now, as President, preaches and espouses Christian "values" might have shown some me…

Jack Murtha and the Iraq War [continued]

As the debate about the Iraq War, the reasons for going into it in the first place and whether the US should withdraw [not "cut and run" as Bush, Blair and Howard keep on asserting] continues in America an op-ed piece by NYT columnist Bob Herbert ["Worse than Pointless"] in the IHT, undoubtedly reflects considerable opinion in the USA. The article is only available as a subscriber, but the piece concludes thus

"America needs to cut its losses in Iraq. The folly of the Bush crowd and its apologists is now plain for all to see. Murtha is right: The war is not sustainable. Even Republicans in Congress are starting to bail out on this impossible mission. They're worried - not about the welfare of the troops, but about their chances in the 2006 elections.

To continue sending people to their deaths under these circumstances is worse than pointless, worse than irresponsible. It's a crime of the most grievous kind"

What is "interesting" to refle…

Ruddock - And those Sedition Laws

Phillip Ruddock, as Attorney-General, ought be #1 law officer in the Nation.

Sadly, all the actions of Ruddock are totally opposite to the responsibilities with which he is vested. Just consider Ruddock's dismissal, yesterday, of the valid and compelling arguments of the Senate Committee against the proposed anti-terrorism laws, in particular, the sedition laws.

Well-known international author, Thomas Keneally, can't be easily dismissed as some rabid reactionary. Read here his opinion piece in this morning's SMH on the very real dangers lurking in the proposed sedition laws. Note too the incidents of the A-G's department to which Keneally refers. Very, very troubling - and something every Australian should be critically concerned about.

Another [Awful] USA Import?

The other day Melbourne University announced that it plans on introducing an undergraduate program [a la that found in the USA] as a pre-requisite to a graduate program such as in law or medicine. The proposal seems to have drawn some approval.

Yesterday's AFR revealed that the cost of a law degree for a full fee-paying student can now total between $120,000 and $140,000. Obviously John Howard scoff at anyone paying $100,000 to gain a degree has been long forgotten.

With economists already detailing the impact of HECS on graduates post Uni - a debt which potentially limits spending-power - the general introduction of what Melbourne University proposes is yet another import from the USA which Australia can do without.

A piece in Alternet, yesterday, "Burying College Grads in Debt" spells out what be be ahead for graduates in Australia. There is no reason to believe things will be any different in Oz.

Food for Thought

Yes, many deplore what is happening in Singapore in relation to the young Vietnamese Van Nguyen.

There is talk of protests and boycotts. Don't fly Singapore Airlines, by pass Singapore, drop the Optus account, etc. etc.

Crikey today editorialises on the outburst of indigation and action people may want to take and offers this sober assessment and reflection

"If you seriously believe that capital punishment is abhorrent, and you genuinely want to register a strong protest against the execution of Van Tuong Nguyen, think very hard before you start boycotting Singaporean companies and products. Because if, like the Australian government, you're dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment and you want to express that view logically through your hip-pocket, you should be just as logical in how you apply your moral indignation. Which means boycotting companies and products from all countries and jurisdictions that still use the death penalty, not just one of them.

You coul…

Favour Hanging? You Won't After You Hear This!

Although public opionion seems to support the abolition of capital punishment - and be against Nguyen Van being hanged in Singapore - there are those who loudly proclaim that hanging is ok and that the young Vietnamese in Singapore should be executed.

Deterrent is often cited as the reason for capital punishment. Assuming there to be any validity to that viewpoint [which overwhelming evidence shows there is not] to be consistent the hanging, or whatever, should be public. Say, the City Square or such like. Oh yeah? No way would be the response. Too repugnant, unsightly and unpleasant.

Ronald Ryan was the last person to be hanged in Australia. That was in Victoria in 1967. Phil Opas QC represented Ryan. A then Radio 3AW news editor, Brian Morley, witnessed the hanging. It is so obvious that Morley is still, to this day, traumatised by what he saw that fateful day when Ryan was hanged. Listen to an interview with Phil Opas and Brian Morley [this morning on the ABC Radio National Breakfast…

Bush Administration - "Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt

Frank Rich, who writes for the NYT, is no friend of the Bush Administration. He has for some time been critical, in a constructive, sober and incisive way, about Bush and Cheney and how they got America into the Iraq War.

Yesterday's op-ed piece by Rich - Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt - pulls together the facts and figures and how things are evolving and unravelling in Washington.

Do read this excellent piece - and ponder when our press will start asking some critical and pertinent questions of John Hoawrd and Co. It can only be a matter of time [hopefully] that Howard will have to answer for his complicity in getting Australia into what can only be described as the mess in Iraq.

30 Years in the Making...

Anyone even remotely familiar with journalism and the Middle East will know that Robert Fisk is unquestionably the doyen of all journalists in the region. He can draw on being there "at the coal-face" for some 30 years. Who hasn't he met and at what conflict in the region hasn't he been an eye-witness.

Many don't like Fisk. One may not always agree with him but one cannot ignore his knowledge, expertise, insightful analysis and ability and capacity to take on what many would rather not. No comfort-zones for Fisk. It will be told as it is - with no prisoners taken!

With such an extensive experience to draw on, Fisk has now just had published [recently arrived in nearest your book store] The Great War for Civilisation. No lesser other doyen in journalism, Phillip Knightley, reviews the Fisk book here. At 1366 pages it would appear to be book well-timed to be read over the summer vacation-break.

Cheney's Revisionism [aka Lies]

It is reported that tensions have arisen between George Bush and his side-kick Carl Rove and even with Dick Cheney. Well they might. Whatever the true position, Cheney obviously just can't help himself in going out there and trying some more revision of history - or, in plain English, simply lying.

This piece from the in the LA Times analysing Cheney's attempt to revise the facts in relation to what was being said and done pre the Iraq War makes for interesting reading.

Probably the nub of the matter lies in the very first paragraph of the article

"IF the debate over the war in Iraq now raging across our front pages and airwaves proves nothing else, it already has demonstrated that this administration believes the people's attention span can be measured in nanoseconds and that memory has the shelf life of fresh bread".

A Timely Reminder on those Anti-Terrorism Laws

With debate in the media centreing on the proposed new IR laws and the fate of Nguyen Van in Singapore, probably, mercifully for the Government, the anti-terrorism law debate has slipped out of the limelight.

It musn't! - as this timely and compelling article and analysis in The Age Friday last by barrister and former Victorian law reform commissioner David Neal makes more than abundantly clear.

Whilst you reflect on Neal's article ponder on what can happen when our legal safeguards go unchecked. This rather frightening report in the NYT needs no explanation to show how things pan out when we lose those so-called sacred protections of our liberty and access to justice.

Howard's Nosedive in the Polls

This past week has seen electoral polls showing PM Howard and his Government fall mightily in popularity. Deservedly so! Sadly, the Opposition hasn't really gained traction with the electorate - except in relation to the proposed IR laws.

Mike Carleton - broadcaster and columnist for the SMH - has in his column yesterday, as always, succinctly and cogently, put the case for why the IR laws are a backward step. Read his column here.

Carleton also ventures the view [remember the column was published yesterday - polling day] that the Liberal candidate for the NSW seat of Pittwater will lose. He was more than spot on! A mighty swing of 26% against the Liberal candidate if the ABC news this morning is right. Is there also a message to John Howard about the IR laws and the anti-terrorism laws?

Finally Carleton in his column , sadly, reflects on Singapore and more particularly on the fate of Nguyen Van.

Who Needs Postcards?

Postcards? A thing of the past? Not quite, but it would seem that savvy travelers are embracing the internet and, to boot, using their own blog, to make it a running commentary / postcard of their daily "adventures".

Why have the tedium of writing multiple cards [which will probbaly get lost in the mail!] when, voila, instantly, family and friends back home can find out what you have been up to in the South America, swanning around Paris, visiting the Taj Mahal or just vegging out in Hawaii. This is what the New York Times has to say about this new way of "keping in touch" -

"READING an online travel blog will perhaps never have the romance of receiving a dog-eared postcard in the mail, but intrepid travelers armed with digital cameras are finding that keeping a blog on the road can be a compelling and viable way of maintaining contact with friends and family.

A travel blog is a real-time online journal that allows users to post text and photographs to the Inter…

Road Warriors

As many of us seem to be accumulating more and more plugs, fittings, laptops, ipods, pda's, super-duper mobile phones and other devices needing "juice" [ie power] some businsses are looking to see how to accommodate road warriors. Starbucks, for one, has seen an opening in providing the facility for customers to re-charge their mobile phone or laptop. Of course wi-fi is all the buzz as the world seems to go increasingly cord-less for those moving around with a laptop or notebook.

Obviously road warriors have found wi-fi much to their liking - as this article in the IHT notes.

On a related topic, a number of airlines are already geared for access to the www on board. That's ok! But with the facility to use mobile phones on board aircraft are we all destined to be driven mad as one of the last bastions to escape from the ever-present mobile disappears?

Wither Bush?

The Iraq War grinds on - and the casualties and injuries mount. Notwithstanding the blinding obvious - and even a leak that Pres Shrub wanted to bomb Al Jazeera [now that is bizarre!] - the Coalition of the Willing still live on in cloud-cuckoo land that things are going well in Iraq and that they cannot "cut and run".

Yes, it might be a quagmire in Iraq but something must be done to stop the senseless carnage both of Iraqis and mainly Americans.

Bush is on the horns of a dilemma! - as this analysis from the Washington Post clearly articulates.

False Wringing of Hands

With one week to go before the scheduled hanging [how barbaric!] of Nguyen Van in Singapore hope of saving this young man from the gallows seems to fade by the minute.

Meanwhile the Australian Government wrings its hands, falsely in my view, and says there is little it can do. Hey, what about the International Court of Justice? All informed legal opinion suggests that that is a course open to the Australian Government. So what if Singapore won't come along or agree to participate. Isn't that what happened when Israel was taken to the same Court a little while back?

Messrs Howard, Downer and Ruddock - heaven-forbid to have to rely on anything in their hands - make "noises" but do nothing. It all has an element of falsehood and duplicity about it. After all trade with Singapore can't be put in the way of principle! But then again, has this Government ever shown anything by way of leadership or principle? John Howard is far more intent on "strutting" the wor…

An Easy Solution?

What is the message from the Government? Either we do need employees to reflect an ageing population or we act, most-often in the most disgraceful manner, in deporting people.

All the evidence seems to indicate that even those described as queue-jumpers or one-time illegal immigrants, make good citizens and work hard - mostly in jobs Australians don't want. Then there are many young people visiting Australia from overseas, on one year work-visas, who would love to stay.

So, when one reads this report of statements made by Minister Kevin Andrews today [citing stats released by the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University] is not the answer to "harness" those people who want to stay in Australia - and WORK and contribute taxes, etc.

Missing in Action?

We have all read or heard about reporters being embedded with the military forces - especially in Iraq. That unfortunate, to say the least, loss of journalist independence is to be deplored. We are being "delivered" santised "news".

With Democratic Murtha having now publicly spoken out about the Iraq War - and seemingly an awakening, certainly in the USA - about the whole debacle and why the Americans went into Iraq in the first place [were they lied to?] now comes a degree of debate about where the media was all along in all of this.

This article in The New York Observer [While We Were Sleeping] makes for interesting reading as it poses the question - Where was the media between invasion and Murtha?

What? - Change a Leopard's Spots?

Ariel Sharon is being hailed in some quarters as dispalying a seeming change of heart in seeking peace. An opinion-piece in the SMH today by someone from the Lowy Institute suggests that Sharon may have changed his position. Yesterday's Murdoch press spoke of Sharon as a "dove".

Well, the truth is out! Sharon hasn't changed his spots one iota. Just to the contrary if this report in today's The Independent is correct. If anything Sharon seems to be one-tracked in where he is headed. Peace seems as elusive as it ever was.

On another note one wonder what it is which propels a 77 year old to want to continue in politics - let alone people prepared to give a vote to yesterday's man.

Read - and Weep

I have previously written about the genocide in Darfur - and the world averting its eyes.

Nicholas Kristof of the NYT has been in Darfur and reported extensively from there. This Op-Ed piece is not on the web other than via subscription. So, here is Kristof's lastest piece in full -

"Sudan's Department of Gang Rape

Kalma Camp, Sudan

When the Arab men in military uniforms caught Noura Moussa and raped her the other day, they took the trouble to explain themselves.

"We cannot let black people live in this land," she remembers them telling her, and they used racial epithets against blacks, called her a slave, and added: "We can kill any members of African tribes." (Watch Ms. Noura in the Op-Ed special report, "The Forgotten Genocide.")

Ms. Noura is one of thousands of women and girls to be gang-raped in Darfur, as part of what appears to be a deliberate Sudanese government policy to break the spirit of several African tribe…

Be Afraid!

The news is almost daily full of news about bird flu, the possible fall-out from the spread of it or even the diabolical consequences of a pandemic.

Driving along in my car today listening to Radio National's The World Today I was severely jolted by an interview with Dr. Alan Dupont [of the Lowy Institute] an international risk expert.

They might have spoken of "Be Afraid!" in the film Jaws, but if you want to hear the really scary impact a bird flu pandemic could have in and for Australia listen to the interview here. The fall-out could be horrendous on levels and in areas you would probably not even have thought about.