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Showing posts from January, 2007

A "memorial" which must be preserved at all cost

"Auschwitz is disintegrating.

Over 60 years of winter snow, summer drought and millions of visitors have taken a heavy toll on the former Nazi death camp.

Just as survivors visiting the camp dwindle each year, so time is bearing down on the prison buildings, the rusting barbed-wire fencing and remnants of the gas chambers left behind when the Germans fled in January 1945.

Evidence of the victims -- hair, spectacles, children's toys and other belongings -- is also falling to pieces, eaten away by insects and mildew, its disappearance giving slow support to those who try to deny the Holocaust ever happened.

Unless conservation is stepped up there may soon be little left of the biggest graveyard in Europe, where up to 1.5 million men, women and children, mostly Jews, were slaughtered."

This testiment to man's inhumanity to man must be preserved. Read the full article on what is being done from Reuters [published on SMH] here.

Need any more be said?

The text of a letter written by David Hicks as reported in today's Australian:

"This is the text of the letter by Australian terror suspect David Hicks, released by his lawyers today. The letter is addressed to an Australian consular official sent to visit him at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay yesterday. Hicks refused the visit.

"To the Counsul: 30 Jan 07.

I don't want to see you.

I am afraid to speak to you.

Only last week an American impersonated an Australian embassy official by claiming he was "from the Australian embassy in Washington".

This deteriorates my trust even further.

In the past I have been punished for speaking to you. I am not well, I am not OK and yet you have not done anything for me and the Aust govt keeps saying I'm fine and in an acceptable situation.

To speak with you and tell you the truth and reality of my situation "once again" would only risk further punishments. You are not here for me but on behalf of the Aust G…

What the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister didn't see

Yet another Foreign Minister has visited Israel. This time it's the Canadian one. As this piece in ZNet clearly spells out the Minister would not have witnessed, let alone visited, what the UN describes, in Gaza, as some of the worst conditions under which people are living anywhere in the world.

Let it not be forgotten that it is 40 years this year that Israel has occupied Gaza and the West Bank - with all that has entailed.

"Despite the impression cast by corporate news coverage, there is never anything like "calm" here in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The casualty count for 2006 released by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem reports that Israeli forces killed 660 Palestinians, while 17 Israeli civilians were killed, 13 of them in the West Bank [pdf]. The violence is often spectacular, as during the summer and fall siege operations in Gaza that killed more than 450 Palestinians under withering aerial bombardment, artillery barrages and two major ground inv…

Engagement with War

One cannot but wonder how Bush, Blair and Howard - all avowed Christians preaching values and the like - can even contemplate allowing the terrible conditions in Iraq to continue, let alone ramping them up as Bush is with his latest "surge".

Kathy Kelly, writing in Common Dreams, puts the situation of ordinary people in Iraq in its full and awful context:

"Earlier this week, I received a joyful phone call from Baghdad. Members of a family I've known since 1996 announced that one of their younger daughters was engaged. Broken Arabic and broken English crossed the lines -"We love you! We miss you!" My colleague here in Amman, who also knows this family well, shook her head smiling when I gave her the happy news. "What an amazing family," she said. "Imagine all that they've survived." A few hours later, the family sent us a text message: "now bombs destroy all the glasses in our home - no one hurt."

No one was home when the e…

En route...

Mahler's Prodigal Son is travelling home the next 24 hours. So, postings will most likely be non-existent or sparse.

Normal "transmission" will continue on 31 January..........

Don't go away! Come back then!

Bloggers 4 Freedom

On ABC Radio National's Breakfast website last Friday:

"Today will be the last time we run our traditional daily Brekkie blog spot.

In an innovation for radio, we've invited bloggers around the world to write us a blog entry, especially for Summer Breakfast.

They've oscillated from heavy political arguments, to an insider's opinion about loud restaurants, and the Icelandic way of coping with stress - we've aired them all.

The next story looks at the role of bloggers world-wide, and especially in the Middle East.

It's about how people from different part of the world use cyberspace to communicate a certain message, and why they do it.

Our reporter Hagar Cohen spoke to four different bloggers: an Iranian expat in Canada, an Iraqi woman and two Australians."

Listen to this interesting dissection, of blogs and blogging, and discussion here. Be patient as you track down the relevant item to listen to.

Tim Blair "exposed"

Tim Blair, formerly of the Bulletin and now with the Daily Telegraph, is one of Australia's most popular bloggers.

Blair is a bigot, offensive, far right-wing and defamatory in much of his writing - and his "correspendents" seem illiterate and so misguided on most topics for it to be most troubling. Bottom line, Blair panders to the lowest common-denominator in his writing and the responses he attracts.

The true Blair is revealed for what he is in this piece "Tim's pre-Christmas Tirade" on the blog planet irf.

Blair, and his blog, is best ignored. He won't necessarily go away but perhaps he will just slowly wither.....

Proof of Israeli apartheid policies in its own document

"President Jimmy Carter angered Israel and its friends by describing "the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine's citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank."

Now, The Electronic Intifada has obtained an Israeli Ministry of Defense Powerpoint presentation which provides a frightening glimpse into the mindset of the bureaucracy of apartheid."

Nothing need to be added to or said about the Israeli document. It speaks volumes on it own!

Cheney - at his very worst!

Maureen Dowd, writing in the NY Times, has been a severe and acerbic critic of George Bush & Co.

This week's column "Daffy Does Doom" [only available on subscription] goes for the jugular in relation to what seems to be the increasingly delusional and demented Vice-President Dick Cheney:

"Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S…

Vale Ryszard Kapuscinski

Ryszard Kapuscinski's chief metier was Africa and Latin America in the throes of violent revolution. As a roving foreign correspondent for Poland's state press agency for more than two decades, he likely witnessed more tumult than any of his peers.

But Kapuscinski, who died Tuesday at age 74, was much more than a man who took great risks to get the best insights - heading into the bush when colleagues were fleeing on the last planes out.

In the early 1960s, when Africa was shaking off colonialism's shackles, he got frustrated with the limitations of daily journalism and began to write books, establishing himself as a poetic chronicler of the human condition.

Along with the likes of Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this charismatic, probing Pole with a philosopher's gravitas and a bon vivant's lust for life has been credited with creating a ``New Journalism'' - literary reportage."

So begins almost a homage to this great reporter and…

Inside Baghdad

This morning brings news of yet another bombing in Baghdad killing and injuring many - and a march in Washington protesting against the Iraq war and the policies [?] of George Bush.

Whilst the press has articles from time about a specific bombing incident or the TV shows footage of some carnage here or there in Iraq, rarely does one read or see what life is actually like in downtown Baghdad [as it were!].

Writing in The Independent [reproduced on ZNet] Patrick Cockburn says:

"Baghdad is paralysed by fear. Iraqi drivers are terrified of running into impromptu checkpoints where heavily armed men in civilian clothes may drag them out of their cars and kill them for being the wrong religion. Some districts exchange mortar fire every night. This is mayhem beyond the comprehension of George Bush and Tony Blair."

No less importantly....

"It is extraordinary that, almost four years after US forces captured Baghdad, they control so little of it. The outlook for Mr Bush's strategy…

Australian Government savages NGO's

Next week sees the publication of Silencing Dissent: How the Australian government is controlling public opinion and stifling debate, edited by Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison. [Allen & Unwin, rrp $24.95]

If the extract from the book is anything to go by [published in The Age] not only is what the Howard government doing very, very troubling - and should be of grave concern to all Australians - but Howard & Co. need to be tackled on their actions full-on.

"A decade is a long time to be in government. Any government in power for so long will leave an indelible mark on the society it governs, changing the culture, identity, values and direction of the nation. For those in the community who disagree with government policy, there is some comfort in the knowledge that at the very least they can express their dissenting opinions through the recognised institutions of democracy. This capacity for public debate and dissent ensures that governments must continue to publicly j…

A happy ending for Maher Arar?

It will be recalled from yesterday's posting "Call to investigate torture and rendition" that the case of the Canadian, Maher Arar,was specifically referred to.

Today comes this news from the NY Times:

"Maher Arar, the Canadian software engineer who was detained by American officials in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was jailed and regularly tortured, will receive 11.5 million Canadian dollars ($9.75 million) in compensation from the Canadian government, under a settlement announced Friday.

The compensation ends a lawsuit brought by Mr. Arar and follows a recommendation from a judicial inquiry into his case. That inquiry said the expulsion to Syria was caused by false assertions made by the Canadian police to United States officials, saying that Mr. Arar was an Islamic extremist linked to Al Qaeda."

Is this what they call "your taxes at work?" The situation is no different in Australia where untold millions of dollars [not disclosed allegedly for…

Jimmy Carter speaks

The assault on Jimmy Carter for accusing Israel in pursuing apartheid-like policies has been relentless from certain quarters - the "usual suspects" one might say! The "critics" have trotted out the usual epithets and criticisms. Carter is anti-semitic, he is anti-Israel, he is pro-Palestinian, the book is biased, facts or maps are wrong, etc. etc.

What should not come as a surprise is that these accusations are almost identical, to a tee, to those levelled at anyone who writes critically of Israel. The "critics" certainly aren't original!

That settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is near-enough central to resolution of issues in the Middle East was recognised as recently as by the Iraq Study Group Report.

This morning [in the USA] Carter was interviewed on National Public Radio [NPR]. The interviewer certainly was more than pointed in his questioning of Carter.

"Former President Jimmy Carter finds himself in a defensive posture af…

Call to investigate torture and rendition

"The new head of the Senate Judiciary Committee was angry. Sen. Patrick Leahy was questioning U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about a man named Maher Arar.

Arar is a Canadian citizen the U.S. detained without charge then sent to Syria in 2002. Leahy fumed: "We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated. We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured."

Leahy was responding to Alberto Gonzales' comments that "there were assurances sought that he would not be tortured from Syria." Assurances? From the country that President Bush recently described as the "crossroads for terrorism"? From the country that Bush has vilified and threatened to attack? But before we point the finger at other countries, we have to look here at home.

Gonzales knows about torture. Arar was detained less than two months after Gonzales' office produced the notorious "Torture Memo…

Otto Frank's letters discovered

One of the most popular sites to visit in Amsterdam is Anne Frank's house. It recalls and evokes the memory of not only this young woman - and the diary which has now become so famous - but all that goes with the Holocaust and World War II.

Time reports today:

"Two summers ago, Estelle Guzik, a volunteer archivist at New York City's YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, came across a curious file previously not indexed: a cache of letters written by Anne Frank's father, Otto. The roughly 80 documents, including considerable correspondence from Otto Frank to friends, family and officials, reveal just how desperately Mr. Frank—who survived the Holocaust—was trying to save his wife Edith, his mother-in-law Rosa Hollander and his daughters Margot and Anne. The until now undisclosed trove of documents include letters Otto Frank wrote between April 30, 1941 and Dec. 11, 1941 (when Germany declared war on the U.S.), as well as correspondence from his U.S. relatives and a uni…

Hillary's up and running

The news everyone expected! Hillary Clinton has thrown her hat into the ring for the 2008 Presidential race.

But who is Hillary Clinton? - apart from Bill's wife.

AlterNet says:

"Hillary Clinton is like our national Rorschach: She stokes our every emotion, from our deepest fears to our darkest hatreds."

Read this Alternet "profile" of Hillary.

Meanwhile, George Bush hasn't been getting much traction from his State of the Union address [see yesterday's posting]. AlterNet in reproducing a piece from Mother Jones says:

"Bush's seventh State of the Union speech was loaded with proposals that will go nowhere and had little relationship with reality. So much for hoping that a 28 percent approval rating would teach him anything."

Over at the NY Times its editorial deals with the Bush address in the context of how it sees things in the US in early 2007.

David Hicks: Former Supreme Court judge speaks out

PM Howard has issued an ultimatum to the US to charge David Hicks within a month. And if they don't? That aside, this clearly political act in the face of mounting criticism of Australia's total inaction on behalf of Hicks cynicism of the first order. Probably, if no other reason other than to assuage Howard and help out a political mate, the US will charge Hicks with "something" however Mickey-Mouse it is likely to be.

For some the whole Hicks affair is seen from a political perspective. For others it's simply a matter of fairness and justice which should see Hicks released from Gitmo after 5 years, much of it in solitary confinement - with no seeming prospect of being charged let alone getting anything resembling a fair trial.

For some time lawyers have spoken out about the disgraceful way in which Hicks has been dealt with by the Americans and Australia's response to that. Now, Stephen Charles, recently retired Victorian Supreme Court judge, ha…

The State [and mistatements] of the Union

Each January the President of the US goes to Congress to present his State of the Union address.

For a foreigner observing, and reading, all of this [which Mahler's Prodigal Son is, as he is in the USA at present] it's all "political theatre" of the first order - from the President's entry to the Chamber, observing who claps when, and how, during the speech, who is snubbed and who isn't, and an almost word-by-word analysis of what was said post the speech.

Of course, listening to George Bush deliver his State of the Union address yesterday - widely covered in both the Fairfax and Murdoch press and on ABC and SBS TV - it is quite clear that what Bush said are not his words at all. They are, obviously, the "script" of a speech-writer. Bush would not be capable of stringing together the 49 minute speech let alone the catch-phrases, hyperbole, etc.

NPR [National Public Radio] this morning analysed the speech for the accuracy of the statements, ass…

A tragedy and travesty in Turkey

"Hrant was an inspiring, wonderful man. He believed in redemption through memory, through reconciliation. He set up amazing channels of dialogue between Armenians and Turks - and those networks are going to carry on."

Author and Turkish literary translator Maureen Freely

The slaying of the writer Hrant Dink in Istanbul a few days ago can only be seen as tragedy on a whole range of levels. Most importantly, he was prepared to raise an issue which the authorities simply do not allow - namely, the genocide of some 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks in 1915.

The outpouring of grief and the uniting of groups to mourn the death of such a brave person as Dink is recorded in this piece from the NY Times:

"More than 50,000 mourners, including senior Turkish and Armenian officials in a rare display of unity, poured into the heart of Istanbul on Tuesday to bid farewell to Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who wa…

A librarian's lament

Despite the internet and the accessibility of books [even spoken if wanted] it seems the humble library book isn't what it used to be, according to this lament by a Thomas Washington writing in the Washington Post:

"When I started in this profession five years ago -- I used to teach English -- I presumed that librarians were mostly united in their attraction to books. But as I moved along in my library science program, I found that books weren't really our focus. Information management, database networking and research tools claimed the largest share of the curriculum. In other words, literacy today is defined less by how English departments or a librarian might teach Wordsworth or Faulkner than by how we find our way through the digital forest of information overload.

Typically, many people in my line of work no longer have the title of librarian. They are called media and information specialists, or sometimes librarian technologists. The buzzword in the trade is "inf…

How much more evidence is needed?

Jimmy Carter is presently "in the gun" from the usual suspects because he says Israel is pursuing apartheid-like policies. Meanwhile, more and more articles published in various publications are reporting on the diabolical state of the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, and Israel's deliberate actions in seemingly seeking to subjugate and oppress the Palestinian population in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel itself

Now The Independent has published an article on a report dealing with the effect of the so-called "separation barrier" - and confirming what has already been said previously by others and denied by the Israelis.

"A British government-funded report says the route of Israel's separation barrier is trapping 250,000 Palestinians in enclaves designed to protect Jewish settlers in the occupied territory.

It says that creation of the enclaves cutting Palestinian communities off from the rest of the West Bank "almost totally ignores the daily ne…

Now why doesn't that come as a surprise?

Reutersreports today:

"The image of the United States has deteriorated around the world in the past year because of issues such as Iraq and prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, according to a poll by the BBC World Service released on Tuesday.

The proportion of people believing the United States has a mainly positive influence in world affairs dropped seven points from a year ago -- to 29 percent from 36, the results from 18 countries that were also polled the previous year showed.

Fifty-two percent thought U.S. influence was mainly negative, up from 47 percent a year ago, the poll found.

The survey, released on the day President George W. Bush gives his State of the Union speech to Congress, found sharp disagreement with U.S. policy on Iraq which is ravaged by violence nearly four years after the U.S.-led invasion."

Does George Bush and his cohorts get it? No way! His view, blinkered and ignorant, is that history will judge his actions as having been the correct ones. Meanwhile, …

What a paradox! - and how offensive

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the US Supreme Court handing down its decision in the now famous Roe v Wade case. In the years since pro-choice and pro-life groups around America have, literally, been slugging it out as each puts forward their position.

Today, as in all past years, large numbers of vocal pro-choice and pro-life groups will be out, demonstrating, at the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington.

It was reported on NRP Radio this morning that George Bush will address the pro-life group. What a paradox!- and how offensive. Here is the "chief-architect" of the Iraq War speaking to pro-lifers when his very actions have resulted in over 3000 Americans lives being lost in Iraq and thousands more being injured, physically and mentally - and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis being killed and maimed.

Meanwhile, NRP also reports that a humanitarian crisis has developed for the Iraqis who have fled Iraq - some 1 million to Jordan, more than 1 million to S…

George Bush - at his best and worst!

Slate magazine has been collecting and collating what it calls "Bushisms: The president's accidental wit and wisdom."

The first Bushism for 2007 has now appeared:

"The best way to defeat the totalitarian of hate is with an ideology of hope—an ideology of hate—excuse me—with an ideology of hope."—Fort Benning, Ga., Jan. 11, 2007.

If you want to be appalled, despair, laugh - whatever your predilection - check out Slate's collection of Bushisms here.

A horrifying trauma - which must not be ignored!

"When I was last in Gaza, Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist, showed me the results of a remarkable survey. "The statistic I personally find unbearable," he said, "is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma. Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma you see why: 99.2 per cent of their homes were bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shootings; 95.8 per cent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured or killed." Dr Dahlan invited me to sit in on one of his clinics. There were 30 children, all of them traumatized. He gave each pencil and paper and asked them to draw. They drew pictures of grotesque acts of terror and of women streaming tears."

So writes John Pilger in a piece on ZNet. The above figures are truly horrifying - as is, equally, how the West is ignoring the plight of 1.4 million Palestinians. One doesn't have to be a rocket-scientist to see…

Changes blowin' in the wind?

Jimmy Carter's book is climbing the best seller lists in the US - and the Israel Lobby continues to hurl epithets of all sorts at the author, seemingly to no avail.

"The Israel lobby retains its grip inside the Beltway, but it’s starting to lose its hold on the broader public debate. Why? You can’t brutalize the Palestinian people in the full light of day, decade after decade, without claims that Israel is a light among the nations getting more than a few serious dents. In the old days, Mearsheimer and Walt’s tract would have been deep-sixed by the University of Chicago and the Kennedy School long before it reached its final draft, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux wouldn’t have considered offering a six-figure advance for it. Simon & Schuster would have told President Carter that his manuscript had run into insurmountable objections from a distinguished board of internal reviewers. But once a book by a former president with weighty humanitarian credentials makes it into books…

Ouch! Those numbers hurt!

The Pentagon has in the last days reported that it estimates the cost of the Iraq War to the US will reach US$8.4 billion dollars per month. Yes, you read that correctly! US$8.4 billion per month.

The entire cost, in monetary terms, of the Iraq War is fully detailed in this examination and analysis by the NY Times - and how the money spent might have been much better directed to something truly worthwhile. Bottom line, the money-sums involved in the Iraq War are truly staggering and hard to come to grips with. And bear in mind this is all basically the cost of the military operation. It does not take into account the cost to Iraq, its infrastructure [what's left of it!] and its people. Also not included in the figures is what the War has cost UK and Australian taxpayers.

"The human mind isn't very well equipped to make sense of a figure like $1.2 trillion.

We don't deal with a trillion of anything in our daily lives, and so when we come across such a…

Whither the Oz household

Forget about the movie "Honey, I've Shrunk the Kids".

It's the Oz household which is shrinking in fairly alarming numbers and likely to continue to do so - as Hugh Mackay documents in this article in the SMH:

"By 2026, more than 3 million Australians will be living alone and more than 6 million will be living with just one other person. The size of the average Australian household will by then have fallen from the current record low of 2.6 persons to a jaw-dropping 2.3 or even 2.2 persons per household.

At present, about 50 per cent of Australians live in what were once regarded as conventional family households - mum, dad and the kids. Twenty years ago, that's how 60 per cent of us lived, but "couple with children" households are in statistical freefall: 20 years from now, a mere 40 per cent of us will be living in the traditional version of the family household. (All these figures come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics - one of our very few…

Those ingrate Iraqis!!!

"'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!" complained Shakespeare's King Lear. But Lear didn't know from ingratitude. Think it stings to have a thankless child? Just try the sting of a thankless occupied nation!

President Bush on Sunday shared his lamentations on "60 Minutes," the modern equivalent of the storm-swept heath. Assuming the time-honored role of Fool, CBS' Scott Pelley asked the president, "Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?"

Bush retorted: "That we didn't do a better job, or they didn't do a better job?…. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude…. We've endured great sacrifice to help them…. [Americans] wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."

Rosa Brooks, writing in the LA Times, makes more than a biting tongue in…

Israel and the Palestinians: The facts speak for themselves

Isreal has made much of the fact that it withdrew from Gaza. Despite that the strangehold, in effect, by Israelis of Gaza continues. Meanwhile, notwithstanding Israel stating that it would not further develop settlements on the West Bank it has just announced funding for the very such thing.

Israel speaks with a forked-tongue, especially as all the evidence is there to support what Jimmy Carter has been saying - Israel is conducting apartheid-like policies - with which many Israelis agree, whilst Jews outside Israel loudly condemn Carter as been anti-semitic and dead wrong.

"All the promises to relax restrictions in the West Bank have obscured the true picture. A few roadblocks have been removed, but the following prohibitions have remained in place. (This information was gathered by Haaretz, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Machsom Watch)"

Amira Haas writing in Haaretz pulls together the facts and statistics. They are hor…

An overlooked travesty of the Iraq War

George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard all profess to be good Christians and speak long, and often, of values, decency, making Iraq a better place without Saddam etc. etc. So, what does the Iraq War show and tell us? - other than what has been wrought on the country Iraq, and its people, is a travesty of monumental proportions. These 3 leaders of the Coalition of the Willing stand sorely and strongly condemned for what they have wrought on by the war initiated and prosecuted by them.

The plight of the Iraqis, this time its children, is revealed in this piece in TheIndependent [reproduced on Information Clearing House]:

"The desperate plight of children who are dying in Iraqi hospitals for the lack of simple equipment that in some cases can cost as little as 95p is revealed today in a letter signed by nearly 100 eminent doctors.

They are backed by a group of international lawyers, who say the conditions in hospitals revealed in their letter amount to a breach of the Gene…

The most worthy nominee for Australian of the Year

Mike Carlton says it all - and to a t - in his latest column in the SMH:

"My nominee for Australian of the Year is Major Michael Mori of the United States Marine Corps. His efforts to extract David Hicks from the horrors of Guantanamo Bay exemplify our values of a fair go and equality before the law.

Not for the Howard lot, though. There is not a lawyer of standing in Australia now who believes Hicks can get a fair trial, but Howard, Ruddock, Downer and Co do not care. Their subservience to the White House, the Pentagon and the US Attorney-General is sickening. They twist and bluster to do Washington's bidding.

The game got rougher again this week. The new Pentagon plan for military commissions would allow Hicks and other "terrorist suspects" to be tried, convicted and executed on hearsay evidence or coerced testimony.

The major went on the attack yet again. The rules "just don't provide for a fair trial", he said on Friday. "The right to a speedy tri…

Howard ever the used-war salesman

Phillip Adams in his weekly column in The Australian challenges PM Howard's truthfulness and says that Howard is in the same league as a used car saleman when it comes to the Iraq War. Even George Bush appears a tad chastened by it all. Not our Johnny Howard!

"I'm not going to mince words," said John Howard, signalling that rare occasion at a prime ministerial press conference. A moment of truth. A degree of candour. Surprise, surprise, neither eventuated. Instead, words were minced as never before into the political counterpart of hamburger grind while truth and candour were crushed into dust, specifically bulldust.But you had to admire Howard's chutzpah, standing there feigning rectitude. How does he do it? How can he continue to talk such twaddle? One felt the same trust you'd have in the shonkiest second-hand car dealer. Would you buy a used war from this man? Where George W. Bush took the blame for the failures in Iraq on himself, Howard, as usual, ke…

Condi's cynical junket to the Middle East

The Bush Administration has not, in 6 years in office, evinced any real or meaningful intention to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - even if wise-heads have been saying for years that this issue must be addressed if some sort of peace is to be achieved in the Middle East and anti-Western militants to at least be curbed.

Information Clearing House publishes this piece which points up that Condi's visit to the Middle East was essentially a misdirected junket. The writer certainly suggests there there was no real aim to come to grips with the Palestinian issue, despite what she has been saying:

"Condoleezza Rice has used her trip through the Middle East to announce her intention to “accelerate the road map and move to the establishment of a Palestinian state”. (NY Times) She plans to convene a summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert so that “informal talks” can be held on the main issues related to a permanent settlement.

W…

George Bush: Doofus to madman?

Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and in this piece on AlterNet [from the Huffington Post] makes it more than plain how she sees George Bush....

"Back in the year 2000, when George W. Bush lost the popular vote and was shoe-horned into office by the Supreme Court in spite of clear conflicts of interest on the part of Scalia and Thomas, the psychology of Little George was known to only a few.To most of us he seemed like a doofus -- a more or less well-meaning guy who enjoyed running things like baseball teams and the State of Texas if not too much work was involved. Had been an alcoholic and a drug user, but had apparently come clean in some hazy, quasi-religious way -- that was his personal history to many Americans (if not to all those who met with Karl Rove behind closed doors and heard the truth)."And:

"The small pathologies of Bush the candidate have, thanks to the purposes of the neocons and the religious right, been enhanced and upgraded. We have a bon…

Watch that space....disappear!

It gets ever-harder to avoid the "invasion" or intrusion of advertising of one sort or another into our daily lives. Now it seems nothing is sacred - if this article from the IHT is to be believed:

"Add this to the endangered list: blank spaces.American advertisers seem determined to fill every last one of them.Supermarket eggs have been stamped with the name of a new CBS television show.Subway turnstiles bear messages from Geico auto insurance. Chinese food cartons promote Continental Airways. US Airways is selling ads on motion sickness bags. And the trays used in airport security lines have been hawking Rolodexes.Marketers used to try their hardest to reach people at home, when they were watching television or reading newspapers or magazines. But consumers' viewing and reading habits are so scattershot now that many marketers say the best way to reach time-pressed consumers is to try to catch their eye at every turn."Sigh!!!!


The State of our Planet

Crikey reports:

China to spend big on wind power: China , the world's biggest energy consumer after the US, plans to invest 45.6 billion yuan ($US5.8 billion) to more than triple wind-power generation capacity by 2010: Bloomberg

Oil industry giant considers U-turn: Exxon Mobil Corp., a longtime opponent of mandatory regulations to combat climate change, met with US environmental groups last month to discuss how the oil behemoth might respond to global warming: Reuters

India embraces solar cooking: A choice is now available for those living in apartments to switch over to the renewable energy mode of cooking. Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd. (KREDL) is now promoting a solar-powered steam-based cooking system that suits apartments, hostels, big hotels and the institutions that take up mass feeding:
The Hindu

Canada’s car makers face emissions targets: Canada's largest private sector union said on Thursday that thousands of jobs in the auto industry could be at risk if a le…

Stumbling around the world

"With Iraq sliding off a cliff, and now tugging another 20,000 young Americans along as well, it's worth wrestling with a larger question: Why is America so awful at foreign policy?

Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize, dropped by the other day, and she made the same point with characteristic bluntness. "It amazes me that the United States, with all its scientific accomplishments, is so shortsighted in its foreign policy," she noted.

It is pathetic. We can go safely to the moon but not to Anbar Province. We can peer into the farthest reaches of the universe, but we fail to notice (until it's too late) that many Iraqis loathe us. We produce movies that delight audiences all over the world, but we can't devise a foreign policy that anybody likes."

So starts an insightful piece by Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times and re-produced in the IHT. It's a balanced and objective assessment, by an American, on why the US just doesn'…

Attack on Iran by April '07?

Ahmed Al-Jarallah is the Editor-in-Chief of the Arab Times. Yes, he might well have his own agenda, and doubtlessly a political position on the USA, but his piece published on InformationClearing House ought not be dismissed just for that - for the consequences of what is being claimed are simply too serious to ignore . Al-Jarallah is presumably well-connected in the Arab world and what he is asserting isn't all that inconsistent with reports from various other sources.

"Washington will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, say sources. The attack will be launched from the sea and Patriot missiles will guard all oil-producing countries in the region, they add. Recent statements emanating from the United States indicate the Bush administration’s new strategy for Iraq doesn’t include any proposal to make a compromise or negotiate with Syria or Iran. A reliable source said President Bush recently held a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secr…

24 hour newspaper people

"Like a lot of modern newspaper people, I have a blog.

For those of you who don’t have a blog yet, think of one as a large yellow Labrador: friendly, fun, not all that bright, but constantly demanding your attention."

So begins a quirky, yet informative, article in the NY Times by David Carr on blogging and bloggers. It's the new paradigm and world out there! - and as the article suggests it is changing the way we communicate.

Howard challenged on support for Iraq "surge"

Andrew Wilkie isn't someone whose opinions can be lightly dismissed. It will be recalled that Wilkie is a former army lieutenant-colonel and senior Office of National Assessments intelligence analyst who resigned over the Iraq war. He made headlines at the time and remains a gad-fly for the Federal Government.

In an op-ed piece in The Age, Wilkie writes:

"Prime Minister John Howard said of the Bush Administration's plan to escalate the Iraq war that "an American or Western defeat in Iraq will be an unbelievable boost to terrorism, and if America is defeated in Iraq, it is hard to see how the longer-term fight against terrorism can be won".

But Howard's assessment is deeply flawed - and misleading - because it hinges on the assumption that Iraq is not lost already. The conflict obviously failed to achieve the original aim of reducing weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. So too it failed to achieve more recent justifications such as improving the humanit…

Surprise! Donations to Republicans, oil and Iraq

Now, why won't it come as a surprise to read this piece "Shock and Oil: Iraq's Billions & the White House Connection" from The Independent:

"The American company appointed to advise the US government on the economic reconstruction of Iraq has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican Party coffers and has admitted that its own finances are in chaos because of accounting errors and bad management.

BearingPoint is fighting to restore its reputation in the US after falling more than a year behind in reporting its own financial results, prompting legal actions from its creditors and shareholders.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, BearingPoint employees gave $117,000 (£60,000) to the 2000 and 2004 Bush election campaigns, more than any other Iraq contractor. Other recipients include three prominent Congressmen on the House of Representatives' defence sub-committee, which oversees defence department contracts."

Maureen Dowd: Bring it on!

Maureen Dowd, who has weekly column in the NY Times, could not be accused of being anything other than acerbic in her writings, and certainly tongue in cheek, as she deals with various issues - especially the increasingly dysfunctional George Bush, his motley White House crew and the policies being pursued by the Bush administration.

This week's piece carries on Dowd's best "tradition":

"I feel good about the new war with Iran.

How can you not have confidence in the crackerjack team that brought you Operation Iraqi Freedom, which foundered and led to Operation Together Forward, which stumbled and led to Operation Together Forward II, which collapsed and was replaced by The New Way Forward, the Surge now being launched even though nobody's together and everything's going backward?

I say, bring it on. If a pre-emptive war in Iraq doesn't work, why not try a pre-emptive war on Iran in Iraq?"

Is George Bush going to do a u-turn on global warming?

If this report from The Observer is correct, then George Bush is set to do a u-turn on global warming:

"George Bush is preparing to make a historic shift in his position on global warming when he makes his State of the Union speech later this month, say senior Downing Street officials.

Tony Blair hopes that the new stance by the United States will lead to a breakthrough in international talks on climate change and that the outlines of a successor treaty to the Kyoto agreement, the deal to curb emissions of greenhouse gases which expires in 2012, could now be thrashed out at the G8 summit in June.

The timetable may explain why Blair is so keen to remain in office until after the summit, with a deal on protecting the planet offering an appealing legacy with which to bow out of Number 10."

With Australia and the US being 2 principal nations which have held out on ratifying the Kyoto agreement, if George Bush does his alleged u-turn, what will little "me too" John Howard d…

Doomed from start to finish

Last night CNN's "World Report" reported that Condy Rice was on her way back to the Middle East where her "diplomatic skills" would be tested as she attempted to get the Palestinian-Israel negotiations underway and sought support generally in the region for the latest Bush initiative - "the surge" as it has become known - with respect to Iraq.

What diplomatic skills? It is impossible to think of one thing Rice has successfully negotiated or even mediated either as Bushs' Security Advisor or now the US Secretary of State.

That aside, it looks very much like the the scenario the Americans see in relation to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli issue is doomed. All simplistic and totally unrealistic! - as this piece in the IHT clearly steps and spells out:

"The latest American and European bid to revive the long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process apparently goes something like this: Tighten the squeeze on Hamas's government to curt…

White House sinks to a new low

First it was the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as US Attorney- General - the man who, in effect, advised George Bush that the US could simply avoid the Geneva Convention. Then, the Americans have the outrage of Guantanamo on their hands as hundreds of men, and even teenagers by all acccounts, languish there without being charged with anything and with no prospect, even if charged, for a trial that comes anywhere close to judicial in any meaningful way.

Now comes this contemptible and thoroughly dishonest attack on lawyers representing Gitmo prisoners, as the NY Timeseditorialises:

"No one who has followed President Bush’s policies on detainees should be surprised when a member of his team scorns American notions of justice. But even by that low standard, the administration’s new attack on lawyers who dare to give those prisoners the meager representation permitted them is contemptible. Speaking this week on Federal News Radio, a Web site and AM radio station offering help…

Reading between the lines of the new Bush plan

Anthony H. Cordesman is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He will be familiar to listeners of ABC radio and viewers of ABC Lateline as a sober and moderate person commenting on various global events and issues, notably Iraq of late.

In an op-ed piece in the latest IHT Cordesman does an analysis of the latest Bush plan starting out with this:

"The president was refreshingly candid, saying that "where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." But taken as a whole, the speech raised more questions than it answered.

I've selected a number of important phrases from the address that beg for more detailed discussion, and included my own analysis of the validity and practicality of what the president seems to have in mind."

A must read here.

A rare direct inside view from Gitmo's darkness

"I am writing from the darkness of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo in the hope that I can make our voices heard by the world. My hand quivers as I hold the pen.

In January 2002, I was picked up in Pakistan, blindfolded, shackled, drugged and loaded onto a plane flown to Cuba. When we got off the plane in Guantanamo, we did not know where we were. They took us to Camp X-Ray and locked us in cages with two buckets — one empty and one filled with water. We were to urinate in one and wash in the other."

So begins a piece on Information Clearing House written by Jumah Al-Dossar, a 33-year-old citizen of Bahrain who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002. The article was excerpted from letters he wrote to his attorneys. Its contents have been deemed unclassified by the Department of Defense. It serves as a rare insight from inside Gitmo. In reading the full piece, appalling and disgraceful are the only words which immediately come to mind.

Another perspective on …

Bush gets thumbs down in the Middle East

Apart from the usual cheer-leading suspects [take John Howard as one of the few] the"surge" announced by George Bush has attracted an almost univeral negative response if not downright condemnation. Americans don't seem to be buying the message - and why should they? - and in Europe they are far from supporting Bush in where he is headed.

And what about in the Middle East? The LA Times, under the banner "Mideast shaking its head" reports:

"In ordering more American troops into Iraq, President Bush said he was sending a message of hope to millions of Arabs and Afghans trapped in violence. But to many on the ground in the Mideast, the speech spoke volumes of a gaping disconnect between high-flown U.S. promises and a deadly, turbulent reality.

After long years of war and political disillusionment, Bush would have been hard-pressed to come up with any message that would please the Arab world. Analysts say public opinion of the United States has sunk to an …

Vietnam all over again

Bobby Muller is President of Veterans for America (formerly the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation), and a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

Now that George Bush has confirmed more troops being committed to Iraq - and of course PM Howard endorsed the move! - writing on AlterNet Miller says:

"As a soldier who fought in the Vietnam War -- the United States' only lost war -- President Bush's imminent decision to increase the U.S. force in Iraq by thousands of troops brings to mind events more than thirty years old. In 1968, shortly after Clark Clifford succeeded Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, Secretary Clifford met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the war in Vietnam. He quickly learned that America's top military leaders did not know how many troops were needed nor did they know what constituted victory."


Yes, Jimmy Carter is right! - says prominent Israeli

"There is an ugly cynicism to the attack on Jimmy Carter that has been launched by Americans who well recognize that the former president's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, says nothing that has not already been said about the Middle East conflict by Israeli politicians and commentators. So why is Carter, a longtime friend of Israel and the Jewish people, being smeared as an anti-Semite for suggesting that the occupation by Israeli forces of Palestinian territory inspires troubling comparisons with the apartheid system that white South Africans once imposed on their country's black majority? One of Israel's most prominent political figures suggests that it has a lot to do with the determination of Carter's critics to allow their emotions to trump the facts. "The trouble is that their love of Israel distorts their judgment and blinds them from seeing what's in front of them," argues Shulamit Aloni, a veteran of Israel's war of independenc…

What? Iran running out of oil?

For what makes for more than surprising reading the IHT reports:

"Iran has ensnared itself in a petroleum crisis that could drive its oil exports to zero by 2015. While Iran has the third- largest oil reserves in the world, its exports may be shrinking by 10 to 12 percent per year. How can this be happening?Heavy industry infrastructure must be maintained to remain productive. This is especially so for oil, because each oil well's output declines slightly every year. If new wells are not drilled to offset natural decline, production will fall.This is what is happening in Iran, which has failed to reinvest in new production. Why?"

Iraq: A lynching and a quagmire of the vanities

With George Bush about to announce as sure as eggs are eggs - unless all the reports and leaks are incorrect - that the US will commit another 20,000 troops to the Iraqi conflict [the so-called "surge" - whatever that means!] and spend some $1 billion in aiding Iraqis secure employment, one has to wonder what this man and his so-called advisors, really have any clue about what they are doing.

James Caroll, in a hard-hitting piece in the Boston Globewrites:

"The hanging of Saddam Hussein Dec. 30 offered a view into the grotesque reality of what America has sponsored in Iraq, and what Americans saw should inform their response to President Bush's escalation of the war......

The harsh fact is that the Shi'ite dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki, in its contemptible treatment of a man about to die, laid bare the dark truth of Bush's war. This is what revenge looks like, and revenge (not weapons of mass destruction, not democracy) drove the initial US attack on …

Long-range forecast - fewer continents

It will come as a surprise to read that the face of the earth is predicted to change immeasurably - long after this blogger and any reader of Mahler's Prodigal Son has passed on.

The NY Timesreports the rather startling assessment and forecast of geologists where our planet is headed far, far down the track:

"Kiss the Mediterranean goodbye. Ditto the Red Sea and its wonderland of coral reefs and exotic sea life. And prepare for the day when San Francisco has a gritty new suburb: Los Angeles. Indeed, much of Southern California, including the Baja Peninsula, will eventually migrate up the west coast to make Alaska even more gargantuan.

Geologists have long prided themselves on their ability to peer into the distant past and discern the slow movements of land and sea that have continuously revised the planet’s face over eons. Now, drawing on new insights, theories, measurements and technologies — and perhaps a bit of scientific bravado — they are forecasting the shape of terra fir…

What Al Gore hasn't told us about global warming

There can be few who haven't now heard about Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth.

Now, as AlterNetreports:

"George Monbiot's new book Heat picks up where Al Gore left off on global warming, offering real solutions without sugar-coating the large personal sacrifices they will require."

And:

"For it [Monbiot's book] is not written to convince the unconvinced global warming, but to educate the already-persuaded, those who exited the theater after watching An Inconvenient Truth with fire in their bellies, ready to fight the incoming menace about what must be done, and ready to face the significant sacrifices that will have to be made along the way."