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Showing posts from October, 2006

Positioning for war? - with Iran


"Twenty five nations took part in a U.S.-led naval exercise on Monday in waters not far from Iran aimed at training forces to block the transport of weapons of mass destruction and related equipment.

The exercise comes as tensions rise between Iran and the West over its nuclear program, which critics say has as its goal the production of a nuclear bomb. Iran says it is designed to meet energy needs."

All the hallmarks in escalating tensions in the region are falling into place. Has no one heard that gunboat diplomacy doesn't work!

Ouch! -The cost of using the www in Europe

A study has analysed the cost of the internet across top European travel destinations, including London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza, Rome and Amsterdam.

It was conducted by offline web technology firm Webaroo, which has produced free software claiming to allow people to search and browse web content on their laptop or handheld when they have no internet connection.

Wi-fi use and internet cafes may not be as inexpensive as you think. Hotels and airports can be really pricey. Read the resuls of the survey, reported in Travelmole, here.

The Stern view on climate change

Just watch Howard & Co wriggle this and that way in order to avoid addressing the dire predictions disclosed in the Stern Report on Climate Change released in the UK overnight - the Report PM Tony Blair describes as one of the most important of his tenure in office. Blair goes so far as to say that to not do something now would be "disasterous".

Read the key points of the Stern Report, as listed by The Guardian,here. It makes for sober and rather scary reading.....ceratinly for future generations.

Update: On ABC Radio National's Breakfast program this morning:

"The Stern Review on Climate Change is a report by former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern that warns that global warming could cost the world economy up to $AUD 9 trillion.

But that massive cost could be avoided if the world decided to spend one per cent of global GDP on measures to address climate change now.

Michael Grubb is a chief economist at Britain's Carbon Trust and a profess…

Telling numbers

A veteran of the Korean War has, via his blog, done the stats:

The duration of America’s involvement in World War II in Europe - 3 years 6 months and 1 day
(Dec 7 1941 - May 8 1945)

In Japan - 3 years 9 months and 8 days
(Dec 7 1941 - Aug 15 1945)

The duration of the 2nd Iraqi War so far is 3 years 7 months and 1 day
(March 20 2003 - Oct 21 2006)

The length of time since Bush declared "mission accomplished": 3 years 5 months and 19 days
(May 2 2003 - Oct 21 2006)

As of October 23, for Americans, Iraqi War II was 1 month longer in duration than WW2 was in Europe.

By December 28 2006, the Iraqi war will be longer in duration than World War II in its entirety.

By February 8 2007, the time from "mission accomplished" will also be longer in duration than the entire World War II.

Work, education and prosperity

Dr Bob Birrell is the director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University and author with Virginia Rapson of Clearing the Myths Away: Higher Education's Place in Meeting Workforce Demands. He writes in The Agetoday:

"Is Australia's prosperity delivering dividends in the education and training that the country needs?

Clearly not. Popular myths about education and training seem to have hijacked public debates.

As a result, recent Federal Government policy on higher education and training has been misguided.

The three principal myths are:

1. There has been too much emphasis on university education.

2. There is inherent conflict between expanding trade training and maintaining or increasing university education.

3. The number of young people entering the workforce will fall".

Let children be just that

The New York Timesreports:

"By no means is the child trafficking trade uniquely African. Children are forced to race camels in the Middle East, weave carpets in India and fill brothels all over the developing world.

The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, estimates that 1.2 million are sold into servitude every year in an illicit trade that generates as much as $10 billion annually.

Studies show they are most vulnerable in Asia, Latin America and Africa."

The real price of coffee

"Around the world more than 2 billion cups of the stuff are consumed each day. In Starbucks in south London the cheapest shot of espresso costs £1.35. A coffee worker in Ethiopia earns less than half of that in a day."

So reports The Independenthere. As is always all too often the case, the actual workers in a Third World country are the losers. Read the full article on what is being sought to overcome the problem at least in relation to Ethiopian-grown coffee.

US Terror Laws: George Bush goofs again

"Washington's new anti-terrorism law could end up violating international treaties protecting detainees, with some provisions denying suspects the right to a fair trial, a key U.N. rights expert said Friday.

Martin Scheinin, the United Nations' expert on protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism, said the Military Commissions Act signed into law earlier this month by U.S. President George W. Bush contains provisions "incompatible" with U.S. obligations to adhere to treaties on human rights and humanitarian law.

"One of the most serious aspects of this legislation is the power of the president to declare anyone, including U.S. citizens, without charge as an 'unlawful enemy combatant' - a term unknown in international humanitarian law," said Scheinin, a legal expert from Finland."

Looks like George Bush has got it wrong - yet again. Read the full piece from CommonDreamshere. Sadly, it probably means David Hicks will remain im…

A frightening prospect

"Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians?

We know that the Israelis used American "bunker-buster" bombs on Hizbollah's Beirut headquarters. We know that they drenched southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the war, leaving tens of thousands of bomblets which are still killing Lebanese civilians every week. And we now know - after it first categorically denied using such munitions - that the Israeli army also used phosphorous bombs, weapons which are supposed to be restricted under the third protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which neither Israel nor the United States have signed."

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, poses the critical question. If there is even the remotest possibility that Israel did use uranium-based weaponry then it deserves the strongest condemnation from all quarters.

Israel's siege of Gaza must end

"Israel has killed 2,300 Gazans over the past six years, including 300 in the four months since an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, was captured in a cross-border raid by Palestinian fighters on June 25. The wounded can be counted in the tens of thousands. Most of the casualties are civilians, many of them children.

The killing continues on a daily basis - by tank and sniper fire, by air and sea bombardment, and by undercover teams in civilian clothes sent into Arab territory to ambush and murder, an Israeli specialty perfected over the past several decades.

How long will the "international community" allow the slaughter to continue? The cruel repression of the occupied territories, and of Gaza in particular, is one of the most scandalous in the world today. It is the blackest stain on Israel's patchy record as a would-be democratic state."

Read this op-ed piece from IHT highlighting the devastating result of Israel's siege of Gaza and what must be done…

The real Alan Jones "revealed"

"Despite the furious cries of Alan Jones's admirers, Jonestown is not a "dirt book" about their hero's homosexuality. It is about his dishonesty as a broadcaster, his abuse of power to pervert the workings of politics, and his ruthless attacks upon hapless innocents who, often for the maddest reasons or for no reason at all, have attracted the great man's displeasure. And much more."

Mike Carleton is, as always, on the money in his weekly column in the SMH on the recently released book on Alan Jones. Carleton clearly outlines why Jones is such an appalling shock-jock.

A letter to the US President

The former US ambassador to the UN has written an open letter to George Bush, published in the Washington Post:

"Dear Mr President: As soon as the midterm elections are over - and regardless of their outcome - you will have to make the most consequential decision of your presidency, probably the most complicated any president has had to make since Lyndon Johnson decided to escalate in Vietnam in 1965, and far more difficult than your decisions after September 11, 2001. Then, you rallied a nation in shock, overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and confronted Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs - acting in all cases with self-confidence and overwhelming national approval.

Now all four projects are in peril. With far less public support and time running out on your presidency, you must reverse the recent decline in Afghanistan, get North Korea back to the six-party talks, isolate a cocky, dangerous Iran that thinks events are going its way and, …

Shock-jock plumbs the depths

Rush Limbaugh is a hugely popular shock-jock in the US whose reputation is less than savoury. He is uncouth, loudmouthed and lacking in any sense of proportion. So his actions the other day plumb new depths, as The Independentreports here:

"In a new embarrassment for the Republicans, Rush Limbaugh, the doyen of conservative talk radio hosts, has issued a graceless apology after suggesting the actor Michael J Fox might have faked the effects of Parkinson's disease in an election campaign advertisement pleading for embryonic stem cell research.

The 30-second advert, running in support of Democratic candidates in several key contests, shows Mr Fox, who announced in 1998 that he suffered from Parkinson's, sitting in a darkened room, his body lurching from side to side as he stares into the camera, making the case that such research offers hope of a cure for his own and other illnesses."

You can also actually see the visual of the man himself and what he said here.

Bloggers need protection - and freedom

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to free the bloggers jailed for telling the truth about repressive regimes.

Many bloggers around the world risk life and limb, literally, to publicise and reveal the actions of their governments.

The Independentcatalogues the situation of bloggers around the globe imprisoned for "publishing" their blogs.

Satire and the ABC

"I thought Australian politics had become surreal when George Bush and John Howard were seen planting a tree together in Washington and a reporter from commercial television said the two men did it to show how deeply rooted their relationship is.

But we are now entering previously uncharted territory with the argument being advanced in tones of overpowering earnestness that the ABC needs to have balance in its humour. Cut these calls out. They will become to future ages what clippings from Pravda on the official line in humour are to our own.

Yesterday, Gerard Henderson (Opinion, 23/10) brought before us the matter of ABC satirists Clarke and Dawe. It's an open secret that the Government has been worried about them for some time, and why wouldn't they be? They're good at what they do. They go after people with power and say exactly what they think. That, obviously, makes them dangerous. As I see them, Clarke in particular, they're a case of people advancing a long w…

Iraq: The truly staggering cost!

The figures and repercussions in the US from the Iraq War are truly staggering - as this New York Timesarticle highlights so very graphically:

"For every additional second America stays in Iraq, U.S. taxpayers will end up paying an additional $6,300.

So aside from the rising body counts and all the other good reasons to adopt a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, here's another: America is spending vast sums there that would be better spent rescuing the American health care system, developing alternative forms of energy and making a serious effort to reduce global poverty.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld estimated that the overall cost would be under $50 billion. Paul Wolfowitz argued that Iraq could use its oil to "finance its own reconstruction."

But now several careful studies have attempted to tote up various costs, and they suggest that the tab will be more than $1 trillion - perhaps more than $2 trillion. The higher sum would amount to $6,600 per Am…

Bigots harness the internet

"Human rights experts from around the world gathered in Poland recently in a bid to counter the misuse of the Internet by hate groups. Sitting in a Warsaw conference room, the group viewed the latest online content produced by neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic hate groups, all reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda seen in that city more than 60 years ago.

Gone are the days when hate groups met in dingy rooms. Now, the Internet is the platform of choice for fringe groups that want to look mainstream. And as the promoters of intolerance and hate well know, on the Internet, video is king.

In Poland, the experts on Internet hate speech viewed a kind of "hate film festival" - slickly produced videos promoting white power and demonizing Jews, blacks, gays and other minorities, all available online. The music videos and film were Hollywood quality. A kid looking at what effectively are recruitment ads to join the intolerance movement would be impressed with the producti…

George Bush on "kinda" Googling

In a CNBC interview yesterday, Maria Bartiromo asked President Bush: "Have you ever Googled anybody? Do you use Google?" Here's his answer to the hardball question that's on everybody's mind.

"Occasionally. One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see that. I forgot the name of the program, but you get the satellite and you can -- like, I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, reminds me of where I want to be sometimes. Yeah, I do it some. I tend not to email or -- not only tend not to email, I don't email, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don't want to receive emails because, you know, there's no telling what somebody's email may -- it would show up as, you know, a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn't be able to say, `Well, I didn't read the email. 'But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn't?' So, in…

About as hard-hitting as it gets

"No matter what President Bush says, the question is not whether America can win in Iraq. The only question is whether the United States can extricate itself without leaving behind an unending civil war that will spread more chaos and suffering throughout the Middle East, while spawning terrorism across the globe.

The prospect of what happens after an American pullout haunts the debate on Iraq. The administration, for all its hints about new strategies and timetables, is obviously hoping to slog along for two more years and dump the problem on Mr. Bush’s successor. This fall’s election debates have educated very few voters because neither side is prepared to be honest about the terrible consequences of military withdrawal and the very long odds against success if American troops remain."

So begins a hard-hitting editorial in the NY Timeshere.

Iraq Blair's Achilles Heal

The facts speak for themselves - as reported in The Independenthere:

"72 per cent predict that Iraq will descend into civil war if British and American troops withdraw

61 per cent believe Britain's experience in Iraq makes them less likely to support military intervention

72 per cent say that Tony Blair's support for George Bush calls into question his political judgement

62 per cent believe that British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible

72 per cent believe that the war in Iraq is unwinnable.

Demands for an urgent Commons debate on pulling British troops out of Iraq were stepped up last night at Westminster after an opinion poll found that 62 per cent of voters support a withdrawal before the country has been made stable.

The poll dealt a blow to efforts by Tony Blair to shore up his strategy of keeping British forces in Iraq "until the job is done". In talks in Downing Street with the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, Mr Blair again sai…

Not an anniversary to celebrate!

"In a few months, we will mark 40 years of "enlightened" occupation by our famed army in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel pretends to be an enlightened state and signatory of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which rules that "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" (Israel ratified the Convention in 1951.)

Over the years we deported, robbed land and stole water, destroyed crops, uprooted trees, turned every village and town into a detention camp, and set up hundreds of communities on land that doesn't belong to us.

We allowed the settlers to make a living by providing them with huge amounts of money (more than 5 times per capita compared to residents of southern development towns.)

We paved roads for Jews only, a case of blatant apartheid, while defending it using witty Jewish self-righteousness in the absence of fair and public reporting of the budgets involved, deeds committ…

John Howard: Australia's Emperor Nero

It is actually a myth that Emperor Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned.

That aside, John Howard & Co. have certainly sat back and watched "climate change", and its effect on the country, happen under their very noses.

As Paul Sheehan wrote in a hard-hitting op-ed piece in the SMH yesterday:

"I wonder what history will say about us when we are gone, off to that great absolute water frontage in the sky?

That we fiddled while Rome burned? That we were the wealthiest society in our history, worth more than $350,000 for every man, woman and child, with the biggest homes, the most cars, the highest debt, the lowest savings, the highest rates of obesity and excess weight, and the greatest amount of consumerism, gambling and drug consumption, while the landscape, the lifeblood of the nation, died around us, a disaster drowned out by the clamour of consumerism.

Harsh? We have elected a prime minister, four times, who has led Australia through an era of unbroken and unprecedented pros…

Ex German Chancellor on George Bush

"But while Schröder and Bush's initial meetings were friendly, in the end the German leader could not accept the fact that religion seemed to be the driving force in the US president's political decisions.

"If a person adopts a political policy based on what he gleans from his prayers, in other words a personal talk with God, it can lead to difficulties in a democracy," Schröder told the newspaper."

So reports Deutsche Welle in relation to ex-Chancellor Schroeder's memoirs. Read the complete article here.

A number of perspectives of America and Americans

America's image and support across the world is low, and it's a concern for big business and policy makers.

A panel of young people discuss - in this most interesting program on the ABC's BackgroundBriefing Radio National program here - why this has happened, whether it's justified, and also whether it's important. And, if so, what can be done to fix it. A forum from the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

Seeing and hearing blind prejudice at play

Although it is now too late to catch the program - it was on ABC TV yesterday afternoon - Terry Lane in a piece in yesterday's The Age discusses this orchestra composed of Israeli and Arab musicians:

"Agonising over the never-ending punishment of the Palestinians, Barenboim and his friend, Edward Said, a Palestinian Christian, developed the idea of an orchestra composed of young Arab and Jewish musicians.

"Our point of departure," Barenboim has said, "was one very simple conclusion … that the destinies of the Palestinian and Jewish peoples are inexorably linked. All the people playing in this orchestra are Semitic — it's not a word specific to Jews. When you see these kids together, not only can you not tell who is the Arab and who the Jew, but they have the same temperament."

Read how plain blind prejudice has been allowed to cause "issues" for this worthwhile project. Sadly, not even the making of music, in harmony, can overcome blind bigo…

An admission to be condemned

"Israel has acknowledged for the first time that it attacked Hezbollah targets during the second Lebanon war with phosphorus shells. White phosphorus causes very painful and often lethal chemical burns to those hit by it, and until recently Israel maintained that it only uses such bombs to mark targets or territory."

So reportsHaaretz today. It's an admission which deserves the strongest condemnation. Listen out for Condi, John Howard, Lord Downer of Baghdad and all those who so loudly speak in praise of Israel. You might be waiting a long time to hear from them.

A year on Paris still burning!

The IHTreports:

"When the call came about a car burglary in this raw suburb north of Paris one night last weekend, three officers in a patrol car rushed over, only to find themselves surrounded by 30 youths in hoods throwing rocks and swinging bats and metal bars.

Neither tear gas nor stun guns stopped the assault. Only when reinforcements arrived did the siege end. One officer was left with broken teeth and in need of 30 stitches to his face.

The attack was rough but not unique. In the past three weeks alone, three similar assaults on the police have occurred in these suburbs that a year ago were aflame with the rage of unemployed, undereducated youths, most of them the offspring of Arab and African immigrants.

In fact, with the anniversary of those riots approaching in the coming week, spiking statistics for violent crime across the area tell a grim tale of promises unkept and attention unpaid. Residents and experts say that fault lines run even deeper than before and that widespre…

O Oh! - Now it's an "attack" on SBS

Not content with trying to emasculate the ABC, certain shrill Federal Liberal politicians now have SBS in their sites:

"Key Howard loyalists are set to launch a scathing attack on multicultural broadcaster SBS and force it to answer accusations of blatant left-wing bias.

Influential Victorian Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson will lead the assault on SBS and its executives at a special Senate estimates hearing next week.

He is expected to be joined by Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Senator Alan Eggleston.

Senator Ronaldson, a key player in the Howard Government's long campaign against perceived political bias at the ABC, told The Sunday Age that SBS was "out of control" and needed to be reined in. "I am very concerned about SBS's impartiality and balance."

So reportsThe Age today. Every Australian should strongly condemn and deplore this relentless attack on the media especially the ABC and SBS. If you want to register your protest do so to Sen…

Farewell on a dark tarmac

"His commanders gave Airman 1st Class LeeBernard E. Chavis the proud emblem of their squadron -- a blue-and-yellow flag known as a guidon -- because they knew he would rather die than lose it.

The 21-year-old District native carried it from the unit's home base in the hills of Georgia to the sands of Kuwait and onto the streets of Baghdad, where, on Saturday, he was killed by a sniper as he tried to keep civilians away from a suspected roadside bomb."

These are the open paragraphs of a stark and sombre piece in The Washington Post on what is known as patriot detail in Baghdad. It ought to be mandatory reading for all the politicians and their followers who were so eager to go into Iraq and are now figuring out how to extricate themselves. As the article says:

"This type of ceremony, known as a patriot detail, is rarely observed by anyone outside the military -- not by the president, not by members of Congress, not by the children or spouse of the fallen service m…

Chip, chip, chipping away.....

Two pieces in today's SMH highlight where things are headed in Australia.

As Mike Carleton writes in relation to the recently announced new ABC Guidelines:

"The right-wing war on the ABC is not over yet, not by a long shot. Chortling at the tangled, almost certainly unworkable new editorial policies devised by the Government's hand-picked stooges on the ABC board and announced this week, the usual ratbags are queueing to sink the boot in still deeper."

Read the excellent piece here - including a reflection on the stupidity of some of our Federal Minister's recent pronouncements - and whilst doing so, consider yet another assault on our so-called open society and right to know.

Matthew Moore, the SMH's freedom-of -information editor, writes:

"Hardly a week passes when there's not another reason to get depressed about the failure of Australia's freedom-of-information laws."

Moore cites a most interesting survey comparing FOI in a number of countries…

SIEV-X: Australia's unending shame

Tomorrow sees the start of Refugee Week.

Well-known author Arnold Zable, writing in The Age about the SIEV-X an din particular Amal Basry and her life and death, says:

"The SIEV-X sinking is our Australian story writ large. It highlights the trauma and dangers that flow from placing asylum seekers on temporary visas that prevent them from seeing their loved ones for years. It is a reminder of the good fortune of those who made it, and the tragedy of those who did not. It is a testimony to all who have undertaken perilous journeys in search of freedom, and it remains a searing reminder that we assess who we are as a nation by the way we treat those who come to us in a search of a better life."

Read Zable's moving piece here - and note that Zable joins Actors for Refugees and Julian Burnside, QC, to commemorate Amal Basry's life and launch refugee week tomorrow at 5pm in the Carillo Gantner Theatre, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne.

Piers Akerman's "journalism" challenged

Today's Crikey [mostly via subscription but some items on line at - by the way, a sub to Crikey is well worthwhile] has this:

"Piers Akerman calls himself a journalist

Misha Ketchell writes:

Last December Daily Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman had this to say about Crikey:

It can be argued that almost anyone can call themselves a journalist these days, as evidenced by the nonsense published by people claiming to be journalists on websites such as Eric Beecher and Stephen Mayne's Crikey.

This week a NSW judge had this to say about Piers Akerman, in the course of awarding a $200,000 defamation payout (plus costs) to NRMA director Richard Talbot (judgment here).

The inaccuracies of fact by the defendant... are gross. To accuse the plaintiff of failure to attend committees that do not exist when he consistently attended meetings of the board which did consider such issues is so extreme a misstatement of fact as to vitiate any defence of comment for any imputation based …

Baghdad Burning returns

The blogger Baghdad Burning returns:

"This has been the longest time I have been away from blogging. There were several reasons for my disappearance the major one being the fact that every time I felt the urge to write about Iraq, about the situation, I'd be filled with a certain hopelessness that can't be put into words and that I suspect other Iraqis feel also.

It's very difficult at this point to connect to the internet and try to read the articles written by so-called specialists and analysts and politicians. They write about and discuss Iraq as I might write about the Ivory Coast or Cambodia- with a detachment and lack of sentiment that- I suppose- is meant to be impartial. Hearing American politicians is even worse. They fall between idiots like Bush- constantly and totally in denial, and opportunists who want to use the war and ensuing chaos to promote themselves."

This blog isn't Bush or Howard speaking [not that Bush can string any 2 sentences together,…

Calling a spade a shovel....

"The war in Iraq has been a "catastrophic blunder" that has substantially increased the terrorist threat to Australia, one of the nation's most distinguished former diplomats said today.

Richard Woolcott, a retired foreign affairs chief who advised seven prime ministers, launched a sweeping attack on the federal government, saying that Australian democracy was not functioning as it should."

So reported the SMH, here, yesterday - in an item of news which seems to have gained little air-play. It gets worse.....

"He branded the Iraq war a "disaster", saying the Prime Minister seemed unable to admit the obvious.

"The Iraq war has been a disaster and has substantially increased the terrorist threat Mr Howard said it would reduce," he said.

"The aim of foreign and defence policy is to make Australia secure - ironically some of our policies have placed Australians at greater risk."

Middle East: Time running out

Editorialises The Boston Globe:

"Seeking to lift the economic boycott of his people by creating a national unity government joining his secular Fatah movement to Hamas, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday: ``To maintain the status quo is impossible." Abbas was alluding to a political deadlock. To break that deadlock, he has broached various moves -- dissolving the Hamas government, calling a referendum, or forming a government of non political technocrats.

Whatever choices Abbas and his compatriots make, he evoked a larger truth when he recognized that the status quo cannot be maintained. This is a truth that applies not only to Palestinians, but also to Israel. Indeed, the untenable quality of the status quo is becoming a premise of statecraft from Beirut to Baghdad and from Tehran to Cairo. And if President Bush were attuned to such realities, he too would realize that all parties, including the United States, will be imperiled if they do not halt the …

John Howard should get onto the phone.....

Whilst the Federal Parliament has been in uproar in debate about whether Australia should stay on in Iraq and the PM this morning sprouts forth on the ABC's AM program that Australia couldn't cut and run from Iraq leaving the US and the UK behind there, it seems like he isn't across where the US is headed.

The Independent reports:

"George Bush and Tony Blair were looking more isolated than ever last night as the ground shifted further under their strategy of remaining in Iraq "until the job is done".

The President and the Prime Minister were left clinging to the dream of establishing a lasting democracy in Iraq as their advisers urged them to look for a new, more realistic, exit strategy.

A leaked report by the Iraq Study Group, chaired by former US secretary of state James Baker, a close friend of the Bush family, paved the way for a large-scale withdrawal of US forces and a dramatic shift of US policy.

It suggested that instead of the "stay the cours…

More about "your ABC"...

Scott Burchill, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Deakin University, raises an important question:

"Q: How do you get a job at the ABC?

A: Beccome a prominent public critic of the organisation, a la Albrectsen, Bolt, Henderson, Windschuttle, Akerman,Blair, Salusinszky, etc, etc,

What other organisation - media or otherwise - permits its employees to be its chief public critics?"

Meanwhile, Matthew Ricketson, media editor for The Age, in his piece in his newspaper under the headline "Need for a change a mystery" critically challenges what might have driven these newly announced changes at the ABC.

Delusional? - or mad?

"Rush Limbaugh interviewed Vice President Cheney on his show today. At one point, Limbaugh asked Cheney to respond to growing frustration over U.S. efforts in Iraq.

Cheney acknowledged there is a “natural level of concern out there” because fighting didn’t end “instantaneously.” (Next month, the war will have lasted longer than U.S. fighting in World War II.) Cheney then pointed to various news items to paint a positive picture of conditions in Iraq and concluded, “If you look at the general overall situation, they’re doing remarkably well.”

So reports Think Progresshere. One has to wonder what orbit or planet Cheney inhabits.

Hiding behind a veil? - of prejudice?

The debate is heating up. Should Muslim women be allowed to "hide" behind their veils in what is perceived as an "act" of separation?

The topic has all the hallmarks of scape-goating. It is also the slippery-slope to a whole range of triggering prejudices and bigotry of all sorts and against people and issues not presently on the radar.

As the NY Timesreports:

"Prime Minister Tony Blair today joined a passionate and increasingly corrosive debate over the use of the Islamic full-face veil by some British Muslim women, calling it a “mark of separation.”

His remarks reflected a sense that British society is heading toward ever deeper fissures between its Muslim minority and non-Muslim majority, evoking questions about the nation’s readiness to embrace its Muslim minority and the minority’s own willingness to adapt.

The discussion mirrors earlier public disputes in France, Turkey and elsewhere about Muslim headgear — though, in Britain, the debate is largely lim…

Yet another blow for justice

George Bush is reported this morning as hailing the signing of the Military Commissions Act into law as the one of the most successful steps in the fight against terrorism.

George Bush and Phillip Ruddock, and that ilk, may be happy with the Act but not so lawyers and civil libertarians. As the Center for Constitutional Rights in the US states:

"The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) denounced President Bush's signing into law of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) on October 17, 2006. The final version of the bill emerged only four days before the Senate's 11th hour vote. Although President Bush declared that "time was of the essence" when he called for the legislation, he has waited nearly two weeks to sign it into law. Congress has once again been cowed into doing the President's bidding and abdicated their Constitutional powers in the process, say attorneys.

The new law strips the right of non-citizens to seek review of their detention by a court thro…

Where to for the ABC?

Amid a degree of fanfare the MD of the ABC has launched a kind of manifesto for the ABC. It's rather hard to make out what he is really saying - but then again he didn't make much of a mark at Fairfax either. That Gerard Henderson has welcomed what MD Mark Scott has announced - does anyone really care what Henderson thinks? - is a tad troubling.

Writing in Crikey, Margaret Simons says:

"Will it be when the ABC critics are quiet? Hell will freeze over first. Such people need enemies against which to define themselves, and they will continue to construct them whether they exist or not. The ABC, as Australia’s most important cultural institution, will never escape. Managing Director Mark Scott acknowledged as much in his speech at the Sydney Institute last night.

So why on earth does he say that the mere fact that criticism exists is sufficient reason to hand the critics “a massive rod for our own backs. A weapon our critics can beat us with. More grounds for more questions …

What will John Howard say now?

John Howard, Brendan Nelson and others in the Federal Government have quite positively eschewed "cutting and running" - as they have termed it - from Iraq. They have poured scorn on those who have suggested either quitting Iraq altogether or reducing the military forces there.

So, how will they view this situation as reported by the BBC today?:

"High-level White House advisers are said to be ready to call for a major change in Washington's policy on Iraq.

Members of the panel, which is led by former US Secretary of State James Baker, told the LA Times the shift could include large troop withdrawals.

A senior US official reaffirmed Washington's support for Iraq's leaders but said they must increasingly assume responsibility for security.

The Iraq situation is a key issue in November's US mid-term elections.

"There's got to be another way," is how one member of the Iraq panel summed up their views on the situation in Iraq and the failure of curr…

Unwarranted attack on Human Rights Watch

"On August 3—three weeks after a Lebanese Hezbollah raid into Israel set off a war that lasted until August 14—Human Rights Watch published a report, "Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon," that inspired a series of vitriolic attacks on the organization's credibility. According to some of the critics, the organization's executive director, Kenneth Roth, is biased against Israel and an anti-Semite. Unfortunately, the criticisms are based on misunderstandings and distortions of international humanitarian law. They contribute to an atmosphere that makes rational discussion in the United States of Israel's policies and practices increasingly difficult."

So begins a most interesting piece in The New York Review of Books. Read the complete piece here. Needless to say the "attack" on Human Rights Watch, and its CEO, comes from the usual now increasingly discredited suspects.

Some people to look up to!

John Howard was keynote speaker at Quadrant's 50th anniversary dinner a couple of weeks ago.

He cited Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan as 2 of 3 people [curiosuly, Pope Paul II was the other] as people who he admired. Really?

Andrew West, writing in New Matilda [online, but only available on subscription] reflects on these "heroes":

"Let’s start with Thatcher....

She remains unrepentant in her support of apartheid South Africa. She opposed sanctions against the White minority government and declared Nelson Mandela a terrorist who would never lead his country. She never supported a South Africa with one-person, one-vote, one-value, which is the essence of democracy. Only six weeks ago, one of Thatcher’s successors as Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, repudiated her support for apartheid but Howard still lauds her as a role model.

Thatcher’s other great pin-up boy was the homicidal Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, responsible for the deaths of 3,000 and th…

Australia's media up for grabs

Mike Carlton writing in the SMH today:

"There is not the slightest justification for the Howard Government's blustering insistence that the media ownership changes are a wonderful thing for the Australian people.

The Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan, wanders about on stage, occasionally crashing into the scenery, proclaiming that all is for the best as she leads the nation into the thrilling new world of fibre-optic this and digital that. But that world has zoomed past her at warp speed. Believe me, they are not knitting their brows at Microsoft and Google, at IBM and Time Warner, wondering what zingers Coonan will come up with next.

The ownership changes she has fumbled through the Senate, even watered down as they are, have zilch to do with expanding the choice of information available to Australian consumers and everything to do with allowing the Government's favourite media proprietors to make even more money than they are making now.

What other reason could …

A thoroughly deserving Nobel Peace Prize

The New York Times reports:

"The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, for pioneering microcredit — using loans of tiny amounts to transform destitute women into entrepreneurs."


"Though it is not the first time the committee has chosen to honor economic development as a contribution to world peace, rather than the more usual diplomacy, rights advocacy or philanthropy, it is the first time the prize has been awarded to a profit-making business.

The selection seemed to embody two connected ideas that are gaining ground among development experts: that attacking poverty is essential to peace, and that private enterprise is essential to attacking poverty."

A more than commendable choice for the Prize. Read the complete NY Times piece here or an extract of the actual Nobel Peace Prize citation here. Check out the Nobel Peace Prize Committee's web site here.

Tanya Reinhart: A beacon in Israel

Professor Tanya Reinhart has just left Australia to return home to Israel - or at least the country which she has called home all her life and which she intends, sadly, leaving next year because of the policies Israel is pursuing.

The Professor gave a series of lectures and talks around Australia. Her views don't accord with the hard-liners in the Jewish community - hence them totally ignoring her "presence" in Australia - but The Age did cover her visit, here. The Australian Jewish News did have an item, including the misguided attack on Reinhart by the pathetic and limp ADC.

As noted in The Age:

"She said she could no longer live in Israel while it did what she said was the first attempt in history to imprison a nation with a wall that cut off villages from their farmland.

"This is not something I know from history, that you could control people by simply locking them in designated areas," Professor Reinhart said in Adelaide, where she delivered th…

The General understands and knows what John Howard doesn't

"British troops in Iraq should be withdrawn "sometime soon" as their continued presence exacerbates Britain's security problems, the head of the country's army said in an interview published today.

"I don't say the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them," General Richard Dannatt told the Daily Mail newspaper, in an interview for today's edition of the newspaper, published on its website.

Dannatt said Britain should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

He went on to say, "We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear ... As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren't invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time."

So reports the SMH today. Presumably John Howard will assert that this Gen…

US has blotted its copybook

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed events in the Middle East that the US, sadly, has squandered any opportunity it might have had, to broker a peace in the region.

This report, a couple of days ago, from the BBC clearly shows where Syria [one of George Bushs' "axis of evil" countries] stands:

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the United States does not have "the will or vision" to pursue peace in the Middle East.

In a BBC interview, President Assad said Syria was prepared to hold talks with Israel but he said there needed to be "an impartial arbiter".

He said there was no sign the Americans were prepared to play this role.

President Assad acknowledged Syria and Israel could live side-by-side in peace accepting each other's existence."

FBI behind the eightball

The Washington Post reports:

"Five years after Arab terrorists attacked the United States, only 33 FBI agents have even a limited proficiency in Arabic, and none of them work in the sections of the bureau that coordinate investigations of international terrorism, according to new FBI statistics.

Counting agents who know only a handful of Arabic words -- including those who scored zero on a standard proficiency test -- just 1 percent of the FBI's 12,000 agents have any familiarity with the language, the statistics show."

Astounding! - and more than an indication of the insular attitude of Americans to anything not American. How the FBI's failure to get appropriate staff can be squared with the USA's alleged fight against terrorism and "fascist Muslims" is impossible to fathom.

The Olivebranch Network

"A few nights ago NBC TV in the USA ran a feature on the Olivebranch Network, a group blog created by 19 year old Perth youth Luke Skinner. In the feature Mike Wendland, the NBC news Tech reporter labeled The Olivebranch Network "the most insightful reporting on the Iraq war found anywhere". The more than 20 Iraqi writers, a US soldier and two professors in Middle-Eastern studies provide detailed information stories the situation in Iraq as well as about the people and their culture.

The Olivebranch Network was created in late January, 2006, after Mr Skinner won a competition ran by professional Australian journalist/author Antony Loewenstein which was to provide free years worth of domain hosting to an aspiring young Australian journalist, and the network has since grown to include the voices of 23 unique Iraqi bloggers as well a US soldier and two university professors with a background in Middle-Eastern studies."

Read all about this wonderful site here.

Drip, drip, drip.....

Today's headlines are screaming drought in Australia. Just the other day it was said that 73% of crops sown in Victoria will die. Bottom line there is a water-crisis in Australia.

In Phillips Adams' Late Night Live the other day he had a conversation with one of Canada's best known dissidents - author, feminist and water activist, Maude Barlow, about what she describes as the world water crisis. Barlow is an advocate for water rights, and a strong opponent of the worldwide trend to privatise water.

The conversation makes for fascinating listening - and the stats revealed by Barlow simply shocking. The time has come for the world to wake up to a crisis which will affect everyone, rich and poor.

The lowdown on sanctions

North Korea has detonated a nuclear device. Now the world ponders how to "deal" with the issue. Sanctions against North Korea are said to be under active consideration. But what are sanctions, how do they work and are they effective?

The Independent has attempted to answer the critical questions starting off with what sanctions actually means:

"In essence, they are economic embargoes covering a variable selection of goods and/or services applied by one country or group of countries against another, aimed at influencing the latter's behaviour.

They are as old as history; some say the first recorded instance was in 432 BC when Athens imposed punitive trade sanctions on Megara, ally of Athens' great rival Sparta. (Alas, the move helped provoke the Peloponnesian war, that would lead to the destruction of Athens as a major power.)

Sanctions are a middle option in the toolkit of international relations. They are more severe than a mere diplomatic rebuke, but stop…

More on those media laws....

Senator Fielding, of the Family First Party, has said that he is persuaded, on balance, to accept the proposed new media laws. One has to ask on which planet he lives when one considers these stats - as noted in an open letter from Crikey to Senators Joyce and Fielding

"In thinking about that personal issue, Senator Joyce, please think about the current state of the “media of influence” in your home state of Queensland. A state where one media company owns the only statewide daily newspaper (870,000 readers), the only statewide Sunday newspaper (1,493,000 readers), almost all the suburban newspapers in Brisbane (850,000 readers), and the daily newspapers in the state’s big regional markets of the Gold Coast, Townsville and Cairns (274,000 readers). Your vote to allow dilution of cross-media rules will mean that, in addition to their existing audience of 3,487,000 readers, the same company will have the potential to own a statewide television network as well. How will that enhan…

Proposed new media laws loss for Australians

As the Senate today debates the proposed new media laws - evidently not seen by anyone outside Parliament - an editorial in Crikey today encapsulates the issues in one hit:

"Abolishing the cross-media rules is an outright attack on journalism, mainly quality journalism, by a government that espouses support for the role of the so-called Fourth Estate. Because when people talk about the Fourth Estate what they’re really talking about is independent, fearless, well-resourced, serious journalism that reports, dissects, analyses and scrutinises the serious issues of the day."

Read this excellent, complete piece, here.

Israel's double standards

With the world displaying its concern about North Korea's nuclear test and capabilities and how this might all play out in relation to Iran's nuclear intentions, needless to say Israel eyes where Iran is headed with more than a degree of apprehension - as well it might.

That said, this item from the Jewish Telgraphic Agency displays a double-standard not only by the Israelis but in the West's attitude to the well-known fact of Israel possessing a nuclear capacity:

"Shimon Peres said he sees no reason for Israel to go public with its nuclear capabilities.

The Israeli vice premier, who helped found the Dimona reactor a half-century ago, said Monday that the Jewish state’s policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether it has an atomic arsenal is a success.

“Look, we have not conducted nuclear tests. We never said we have nuclear weaponry. We made do with the suspicions that were directed at us, as a deterrent power. I think that this was the right decision. I think such calcu…

Iraq: "Staying the course" for and to what?

".... the Bush administration and its mouthpieces insist that we must "stay the course" in Iraq -- either to bring stability to the war-torn country or out of some misguided belief that we can salvage America's dignity from an embarrassing Vietnam-style defeat.

Underlying the "stay the course" argument is a fundamentally flawed assumption that U.S. troops are at least keeping havoc in check. But every year of the occupation has brought about worsening violence, peaking during a summer that saw thousands of Iraqi civilians killed each month. The Washington Post reported that last month "the number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq has surged to its highest monthly level in nearly two years," and Reuters added that "bomb attacks in Baghdad have hit an all-time high ..." Studies by the Saudi government and a respected (and hawkish) Israeli think tank found that most of the insurgents in Iraq had never engaged in political violence but were rad…

Living in the Age of Terror

"With chaos stretching from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, we have never lived in a more dangerous time. Over the next 15 pages and 7,000 words, our man in the Middle East looks back over a lifetime of covering war and death, and lays out a bleak future for all of us - one that even those living in the comfort of the Home Counties cannot escape".

That is the sub-heading to a feature article in The Independent by the newspaper's "man", the redoubtable Robert Fisk - the expert of the Middle East after having lived in Beirut for 30 years and having "covered" all major conflicts.

Fisk's piece, here, doesn't make for happy reading. "Bleak", as The Independent rightly says, is the operative word.

We've started eating the planet

The Independent reports in this sobering article:

"Today is a bleak day for the environment, the day of the year when mankind over-exploits the world's resources - the day when we start living beyond our ecological means.

Evidence is mounting that rapid population growth and rising living standards among the Earth's six billion inhabitants are putting an intolerable strain on nature. For the first time an organisation a British think-tank has sought to pinpoint how quickly man is using the global resources of farming land, forests, fish, air and energy.

The new economics foundation has calculated from research by a US academic group, Global Footprint Network, that the day when we use more than our fair share of the Earth ­ when "humanity starts eating the planet" is October 9".

1984 in 2006

Well-known actor, Tim Robbins is in Australia to direct George Orwell's play, 1984, at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, starting next Thursday.

"Robbins, who is still artistic director of the Actors' Gang, despite living nearly 5000km away and taking a four-year break, directed 1984 from an adaptation by Michael Gene Sullivan of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. He says he was forcibly struck by the parallels between Orwell's dystopia and contemporary Western society.

"It's relevance to the world now is truly shocking. Particularly the book-within-a-book chapters, written by Winston's enemy Goldstein. I'd forgotten they even existed, I had to reread the book after 20 years to check that Gene hadn't made anything up. (The chapters) are called War is Peace, and Freedom is Slavery, and the prescience with which Orwell was writing in 1947 nails the political situation we're in right now regarding war, regarding fear, regarding the use of fear…

Rupert says....

As the Federal Parliament approaches dealing with the Government's proposed media laws, it would appear that there is more than a creeping realisation that the implications could be considerable if the Government has its way.

Crikey, bluntly puts the more than real possibility of Rupert and the other media barons controlling what we read, see and hear this way:

"And any politicians who doubt the existence or reality of that power, or the need to retain the existing controls on it, should read Rupert Murdoch's frank comments about politicians and power in a forthcoming interview with The New Yorker:

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, whenever I'm in town they say, 'Can't you come over for a cup of tea?' When you're invited by the Prime Minister to have a cup of tea, you have a cup of tea. It's sometimes very inconvenient -- if you're only there two days and you have a month's work to do. And you have to be careful to have a cup of tea with them both,…

Six Trips = Nil results

"It happens once every few months. Like a periodic visit by an especially annoying relative from overseas, Condoleezza Rice was here again. The same declarations, the same texts devoid of content, the same sycophancy, the same official aircraft heading back to where it came from. The results were also the same: Israel promised in December, after a stormy night of discussions, to open the "safe passage" between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This time, in what was considered the "achievement" of the current visit, Israel also promised to open the Karni crossing. Karni will be open, one can assume, only slightly more than the "safe passage," which never opened following the previous futile visit.

Rice has been here six times in the course of a year and a half, and what has come of it? Has anyone asked her about this? Does she ask herself?"

So begins Gideon Levy in this perceptive piece in Haaretz. So, what can Rice show for her trips? Zip…


Reuters reports today:

"The murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist and fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, has raised fears among liberals of intense pressure on remaining outposts of press freedom in the country.

Investigators are still looking for clues to the shooting on Saturday of the 48-year-old journalist, found dead in her Moscow home. Her colleagues believe she paid the price for her vigorous opposition to the authorities on sensitive issues.

"The murder of Anna Politkovskaya is a new attack on democracy, freedom of speech and openness in Russia," the Moscow Union of Journalists said in a statement."

Meanwhile, probably one of the only interviews with Politkovskaya whilst in Australia earlier this year can be heard here.

Vale Anna Politkovskaya

Only yesterday this blog had an item on the journalists killed this year.

Today comes the tragic news of veteran Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya seemingly killed execution-style in Moscow.

"The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist renowned for her critical coverage of the Chechen conflict. Politkovskaya was found shot to death in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow, The Associated Press reported."

Read the CPJ tribute to the journalist here - a woman without peer:

"CPJ had named Politkovskaya one of the world’s top press freedom figures of the past 25 years in the next edition of its magazine, due out next month. In an interview for that profile, Politkovskaya noted the government’s obstruction and harassment of journalists trying to cover the Chechen conflict and pointed to the deadly 2004 hostage crisis in the North Ossetian town of Beslan. “There is so much more to write about Beslan,” she…

Good Grief

This reflective and very personal op-ed piece in the NY Times requires no elaboration:

"Soon after my wife died — her car slid off an icy road in 1985 — a school psychologist warned me that my children and I were not mourning in the right way. We felt angry; the proper first stage, he said, is denial.

In late August this year, my 38-year-old son, Michael, died suddenly in his sleep, leaving behind a 2-year-old son and a wife expecting their next child. When, at Michael’s funeral in Los Angeles, I was about to say a few words to the people assembled, the rabbi whispered that I need not fear speaking publicly — “Just go with the flow,” she urged.

On both occasions, I had a hard time not telling the free advice givers to get lost, or something less printable along the same lines. There is no set form for grief, and no “right” way to express it."

David Hicks: America's and Australia's shameful behaviour

Former PM Malcolm Fraser can hardly be accused of being a rabid lefty bleeding-heart liberal or rebel. Yet, he rightly writes, here, an op-ed piece in The Age taking the Americans and his fellow Liberals - ie the Howard Government - to task about their "handling of Davd Hicks and his continued detention - remembering that he hasn't been charged with anything.

"The Australian and American governments have sought to label prisoners in Guantanamo Bay as dangerous and as evil; in their terms, as terrorists. The latest to join in this litany of inappropriate, pre-trial condemnatory comment is the new United States ambassador to Australia, Robert McCallum. It is another unwise intervention in Australia's affairs.

McCallum well knows that the American courts, Congress and President would not allow any American citizen to be tried in the military commissions, formerly established by President George Bush, now to be established, slightly modified, by law of Congress.

If tho…

Snuffing out any opposition

"Bit by bit the Government is snuffling out the last flares of opposition, wherever it spots them, however feeble. Having won four elections, control of the Senate, the devoted support of the Murdoch press and talkback radio, the Government is still not content. It has planted hard-right warriors Keith Windschuttle, Janet Albrechtsen, and Ron Brunton on the ABC board to change its culture. It has undermined the independence of academics with its broad-brush sedition and anti-terrorism laws that have caused researchers to abandon studies on terrorism lest they be spied upon or detained."

Adele Horin, writing in the SMH, hits the nail on the head. The starting-point of her op-ed piece is the following:

"You would think a bunch of community legal centres that dispense advice to the down-and-outs might lie beneath the Federal Government's radar. It has a war on terrorism to wage, a war on drugs, on the unions and on the Labor Party to execute.

But no, the redoubtable Att…

Quadrant dinner: Worse than the Sleaze Ball?

"All things considered, the Sydney Sleaze Ball last Saturday night was a more attractive affair than the Quadrant magazine 50th anniversary dinner on Tuesday.

At the Sleaze - I hasten to assure you that I know this only from the pictures on the internet - you have tribes of hairy men cavorting in very small scraps of leather and fat women shoving their naked, spangled boobs at each other, that sort of thing. It is a Saturnalia of fleshy narcissism, but with a certain trashy honesty to it. What you see is what you get.

Not so with the Quadrant fling. The orgy of mutual admiration appears to have been about the same thunderous volume, although without the display of bouncing pink bits, but what you got was the political right congratulating itself on being right with an intellectual dishonesty that was, well, sleazy.

This we can judge from the Prime Minister's speech, which had the usual media toadies stampeding to lavish praise upon it. A king hit in the culture wars, they assure…

The dangers of delivering the news

Last year 58 journalists were killed around the world.

Sadly, and disturbingly, to date 75 journalists have already been killed this year. Read a piece from the World Association of Newspapershere on the subject and go here for details of the countries where these deaths have occured. Needless to say Iraq "captures the prize" with no less than 26 deaths.

The "price" for our getting the news is far to high. In the end an invalubale source of informing us what is happening around the globe will either be diminished or lost altogether.

The Israel Lobby: Watch the debate

Earlier this year Professors Mearsheimer and Walt published a paper entitled The Israel Lobby in the London Review of Books. The basic thrust of the paper is that so-called Israel Lobby - principally AIPAC and the neo-cons, many of whose leading proponents are Jewish - have had a totally disproportionate influence on US foreign policy, in particular toward Israel.

Since then controversy has raged with the professors being accused of anti-semitism and a host of other things. Yet, discussion of the topic has been ventilated fairly widely and now comes news that a book is to be published by the publishers some time soon.

Last week the London Review of Books arranged for a debate on the topic in New York with a number of people including Professors Mearsheimer and Judt and some of the author's critics. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology you too can, at least, view the debate here. Sit back and enjoy this!