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Showing posts from June, 2007

So, what does the world think of Uncle Sam?

Uncle Sam ought not be too happy how the world views the so-called leader of the democracies in the world. The results of a Pew Research Center survey and analysis of America's position in the world, ought not come as a surprise to anyone who follows politics.

The IHT reports:

"Distrust of the United States has intensified across the world, but overall views of America remain very or somewhat favorable among majorities in 25 of 47 countries surveyed in a major international opinion poll, the Pew Research Center reported Wednesday.

"Anti-Americanism since 2002 has deepened, but it hasn't really widened," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. "It has worsened among America's European allies and is very, very bad in the Muslim world. But there is still a favorable view of the United States in many African countries, as well as in 'New Europe' and the Far East."

Nonetheless, majorities in many countries reject the main…

Vice President? - or VP involved in vice?

For many Dick Cheney, US Vice President, personifies evil and the blatent abuse of power. As things are shaping up in Washington both Cheney and his "boss" George Bush are headed for more than an "interesting" confrontation with Congress.

It might well be said that it hardly lies in the mouth of John Dean, one-time cohort and key players in the "team" in the White House during the second term of Richard Nixon, to criticise Dick Cheney - but he does so in a fairly incisive and well-put together piece on FindLaw. Some might be tempted to say that one wrongdoer is well-placed to recognise another.

"Vice President Dick Cheney has regularly claimed that he is above the law, but until recently he has not offered any explanation of why.

In fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a law that Cheney believes does apply to him, whether that law be major and minor. For example, he has claimed that most of the laws passed in the aftermath of Watergat…

Not such healthy Olympics

It's nothing new that Beijing is heavily polluted. But now people have woken up to question how all this pollution might easily effect the Olympic athletes next year in Beijing. Not well it would seem.

Spiegel OnLine addresses the issue full-on:

"The Beijing smog feeds on itself. Whenever the city periodically disappears into a brownish-yellow haze, the traffic only gets worse. Those who are fortunate enough to own a car leave their bicycles at home, choosing air-conditioning over the unfiltered cocktail of coal smoke, particulate matter and ozone in the air.

But escaping to the relative comfort of a car's interior won't be an option for those traveling to Beijing in August 2008, when more than 10,000 athletes will compete in the Olympic Games in one of the world's dirtiest cities. China has promised what it calls "Green Games," but its pollution figures suggest the more grayish hue of smog and pollution. "The athletes could be exposed to unhealth…

Israel in the West Bank: We're here to stay

As if he debacle and tragedy in Gaza and the West Bank wasn't bad enough - and that's without taking into account the actions of the US and Israel in seeing the collapse of the Palestinian government and a weak President Abbas allegedly take control and the complicity of people such as Condi Rice and most Western governments in what has occured for the Palestinians - if this piece is Haaretz is even half right then the problems between the Palestinians and Israelis, and the region generally, are about to get a lot worse.

Bottom line it is said that Israel will remain in the West Bank for the long haul. As if 40 years occupation and expansion [seizure of lands in fact] of settlements wasn't bad enough!

"The demonstrators and writers of articles commemorating 40 years of Israeli occupation of the territories this month can save their placards and high-brow expressions for repeated use - they will need them in the coming years.

There is a growing consensus in Israel th…

US hand in Gaza tragedy

Writing in Foreign Policy in Focus [as reproduced in CommonDreams] Stephen Zunes [professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco] Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus writes:

"There is much blame to go around regarding the tragic turn of events in the Gaza Strip. While Hamas is the most immediate culprit, responsibility also rests with Fatah, Israel - and the United States.

The seizure of power in the tiny coastal territory by Hamas militants after bitter factional fighting with Fatah militiamen has only encouraged anti-Palestinian hardliners in Israel and the United States who claim that the Palestinians are unworthy of statehood and that Israel should continue its occupation and colonization of major segments of Palestinian territory seized by the Israeli armed forces in June 1967. The scenes of the bloody infighting among Palestinians have seemingly reinforced racist notions common in the United States and Israel, as exemplified by the statement by former Isr…

Going global....

MPS - this blog - is traveling the next weeks......

Postings will continue, although perhaps quite so regularly and fully. Stay stuned for what are, hopefully, interesting and thought-provoking postings not generally widely available or accessible.

An upcoming anniversary - with more bad news?

Frank Rich, who writes in the NY Times, is no friend of the Bush Administration. He makes no bones about it - as his recent best-selling book clearly shows. Richs' latest column [only available on line on subscription] is yet again feisty - or some would say - but spells out what is probably the scene being played at the White House in relation to Iraq and that "surge". Look out for that 9/11 anniversary, says Rich:

"By this late date we should know the fix is in when the White House's top factotums fan out on the Sunday morning talk shows singing the same lyrics, often verbatim, from the same hymnal of spin. The pattern was set way back on Sept. 8, 2002, when in simultaneous appearances three cabinet members and the vice president warned darkly of Saddam's aluminum tubes. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," said Condi Rice, in a scripted line. The hard sell of the war in Iraq — the hyping of a (fictional) nuclear thre…

The PA Authority, Quislings, the CIA and a multitude of issues

Dissident Voice has a penetrating and clear-headed analysis of the present issues in Gaza, the West Bank, the US-Israel dimension in events in recent days and how this might all play out. One certainly can't hope to see any resolution of the myriad of issues confronting the Palestinians and Israelis in this on-going problem.

"It’s no secret that the Bush administration has been funneling money to Palestinian militias that are preparing to overthrow Hamas. On Monday, Condoleezza Rice announced that the US would resume “full assistance to the Palestinian government” and end the year-long boycott to the people in the West Bank. The new aid — which could amount to as much as $86 million — will be used to shore up the PA security apparatus and pay the salaries of officials in the “emergency government.” The uncovering of the CIA documents in Gaza will cast a cloud over the administration’s largesse and make Abbas look like a Palestinian Karzai who gets financial treats from Wa…

Iraq: Paying for non-existent WMD's

The US accused Iraq of having WMD's. A chorus of people [well a small one anyway] like Tony Blair and John Howard joined in the refrain. Oops ........they were wrong! And they knew that all along! So, while a charade was being played out searching for those non-existent WMD's a huge cost in manpower and the like was being incurred.

So, who pays for all this nonsense? Yes sir, the poor ole Iraqis - to the tune of US$10 billion per annum. They have been repaying the money to the USA, as Press Esc reports:

"Iraq has been forced to pay US$10 billion a year to the US-led team searching for weapon's of mass destruction, even after it emerged that such stockpiles did not exist, a US Congressional report has found.

The Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security report by the Congressional Report Service notes that The formal US-led WMD search ended December 2004 but the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) is still formally …

You gotta be kidding! Tony Blair as ME envoy?

The suggestion that Tony Blair, when retired as PM from next week onwards, might be appointed ME envoy in some sort of role as peace-maker draws the ire and condemnation of Robert Fisk. Writing in The Independent, Fisk takes his pen [sword?] to Blair with no holds barred. Fisk is right! Blair, the show-pony, is certainly not the one to become engaged in any dialogue in seeking to bring about a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. With Blair's record he would, in effect, be a dead man walking.

"I suppose that astonishment is not the word for it. Stupefaction comes to mind. I simply could not believe my ears in Beirut when a phone call told me that Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara was going to create "Palestine". I checked the date - no, it was not 1 April - but I remain overwhelmed that this vain, deceitful man, this proven liar, a trumped-up lawyer who has the blood of thousands of Arab men, women and children on his hands is really contemp…

The grubbiness of lobbying and lobbyists

We all know it goes on. Lobbying. Just think the gun lobby and AIPAC in the USA. Lots of money and shadowy figures meeting, greeting and paying their way with and through politicians. It is a "disease" spreading through many countries.

Now, Harpers Magazine [reproduced on AlterNet] has gone undercover to "expose" how the lobbyists operate. It doesn't make for pretty reading.

"In March, when the U.S. State Department announced its new global survey of human rights, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that the report demonstrated America's commitment to civil liberties, the rule of law, and a free press.

"We are recommitting ourselves to stand with those courageous men and women who struggle for their freedom and their rights," she said. "And we are recommitting ourselves to call every government to account that still treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, in President Bush's words, the no…

The [contrived?] Howard 2007 "issue"

No one can deny that the recent Report on Aboriginal welfare is devastating - and a blight on all Australian governments down the years and Australians in allowing such deplorable conditions and situations to continue to exist.

But, the wide-ranging response by the Federal Government so obviously smacks of political opportunism in this election year. It has all the grubby paws of PM Howard over the policy initiatives clearly hastily cobbled together.

Gregory Phillips, a medical anthropologist specialising in healing, post-traumatic stress syndromes and addictions in indigenous communities, writing an op-ed piece in The Age, also questions the Government's actions - and is cynical to boot:

"Far from being a radical saviour concerned with the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse in the Northern Territory, the Prime Minister is mostly concerned with painting all Aborigines as being useless crooks and abusers. That way, he can put up a smokescreen to justify the…

Arab unease about Hamas victory in Gaza

The US and Israel may be congratulating themselves on what they have achieved with the endorsement of Pres Abbas in the West Bank, the lock-down in Gaza with Hamas in control, and some talk of revived peace-talks, but that is not a view shared by many Arab countries. They see the Hamas victory in Gaza - for that is what is - causing wider ripples in the region, as IHT reports:

"The fight over control of the Gaza Strip has frightened Arab leaders because it was characterized by the same dynamics that have been roiling the region. It pitted a Western-backed leadership in power for years against a newly empowered, radical Islamist group aligned with Syria and Iran.

The Western-backed group lost and the Iranian-Syrian group won, again.

That outcome demonstrated the rising threat to the status quo posed by political Islam in places like Cairo, Amman and Riyadh. And it gave Iran yet another foothold on Arab borders.

"We have a big problem here that is much deeper," said Abde…

Fight for world's food

This is, literally, food for thought - as The Independent reports:

"Most people in Britain won't have noticed. On the supermarket shelves the signs are still subtle. But the onset of a major change will be sitting in front of many people this morning in their breakfast bowl. The price of cereals in this country has jumped by 12 per cent in the past year. And the cost of milk on the global market has leapt by nearly 60 per cent. In short we may be reaching the end of cheap food.

For those of us who have grown up in post-war Britain food prices have gone only one way, and that is down. Sixty years ago an average British family spent more than one-third of its income on food. Today, that figure has dropped to one-tenth. But for the first time in generations agricultural commodity prices are surging with what analysts warn will be unpredictable consequences.

Like any other self-respecting trend this one now has its own name: agflation. Beneath this harmless-sounding piece of jargon …

CIA to air its dirty washing

Many will be intrigued to read the revelations almost certain to emerge from CIA documents, previously classified, to be released for public viewing next week. All those dirty tricks, etc. On one level, open government is commendable, but is what is planned by the CIA going a tad too far?

The Washington Post reports:

"The CIA will declassify hundreds of pages of long-secret records detailing some of the intelligence agency's worst illegal abuses -- the so-called "family jewels" documenting a quarter-century of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying, kidnapping and infiltration of leftist groups from the 1950s to the 1970s, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday.

The documents, to be publicly released next week, also include accounts of break-ins and theft, the agency's opening of private mail to and from China and the Soviet Union, wiretaps and surveillance of journalists, and a series of "unwitting" tests on U.S. civilians, incl…

Now that's not a record to be proud of

Climate change, and all the issues surrounding it, just won't go away. It's got to be the hot-button topic of 2007 - with justifiable good cause.

A report, just out, detailed in The Guardian, makes for rather frightening reading as China, and its economy power along. For all the leaps and bounds now occuring in the fast-growing China, the negative effects of that growth will extend way beyond its borders right around the globe. It is, indeed, a small world!

"China has overtaken the US as the biggest producer of carbon dioxide, a development that will increase anxiety about its role in driving man-made global warming and will add to pressure on the world's politicians to reach an agreement on climate change that includes the Chinese economy.

China's emissions had not been expected to overtake those from the US, formerly the biggest polluter, for several years, although some reports predicted it could happen next year.

But according to figures released yesterday…

The richest country? - going broke?

Figures recently released in Australia show that every Australian owes $160 for every $100 income. One needn't be a genius in maths to see that this won't work for very long. Also, it gives the lie to the suggested financial well being of the populace. The rich may be doing well, but the majority are not.

The great US of A - with its allegedly powering economy and polulation of 300 million - seems to be traveling badly on an economic level, with troubles afoot down the track, if this report in USA Today is to be believed:

"Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.

Unfunded promises made for Medicare, Social Security and federal retirement programs account for 85% of taxpayer liabilities. State and local government …

How will some Frenchmen live?

They are everywhere - and people are seemingly hooked on / to them. What? Those [damned] BlackBerrys.

But, no longer in France, as this piece in The Independent reveals:

"Seven million people worldwide may be addicted to them but the French government has said "non" to Le BlackBerry, fearing US intelligence agents could be snooping on state secrets.

"The risks of interception are real. It is economic war," Alain Juillet, who is in charge of economic intelligence for the government, told Le Monde newspaper.

The concern is that information sent from a BlackBerry gets routed via servers in the United States and Britain, and that this poses "a problem with the protection of information".

Research In Motion, the company that makes the handheld devices, poured cold water on the French fears, saying there was no way that the US National Security Agency could see the content of messages that were transmitted .

But Paris is clearly not convinced. France's …

"West Bank First": It won't work

To see events unfold in and in relation to the West Bank, Gaza and the newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister is odd to say the least. Clearly all vestiges of democracy have been swept aside. PM Olmert, and the Israelis, have again conned the world. Does anyone seriously think that the Israelis will adopt any policies of fairness and justice for the Palestinians let alone addressing issues like that awful Wall, the enclaves set up in the West Bank and those countless crossings? Meanwhile, the US and the West are falling over themselves to bolster the Fatah regime and provide previously wrongly withheld monies to the Palestinian Authority.

The Washington Post puts a realistic position, pretty pointedly, this way:

"Having embraced one illusion -- that it could help isolate and defeat Hamas -- the Bush administration is dangerously close to embracing another: Gaza is dead, long live the West Bank. This approach appears compelling. Flood the West Bank with money, boo…

Talk about a very, very long haul!

Things aren't on the impove in Iraq. The news, daily, from that war-ravaged country couldn't be worse. One almost gets the impression that we are all now enured to things going badly there. A bombing here, a car-bomb there.....and casualties in large numbers.

On that other war-front, Afghanistan, things aren't too rosy either - so much so that the new British ambassador to Kabul has made what can only be seen as a dire prediction [as the TimesOnLinereports]:

"Britain will need to stay in Afghanistan for "decades" to fight terrorism and pull the country out of poverty, the UK's new ambassador to Kabul said today.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who has been in his post for six weeks, said efforts to stabilise and rebuild the war-torn country would have to be a "marathon rather than a sprint".

In an interview this morning the ambassador, considered one of Britain's biggest diplomatic heavyweights, admitted that the UK should have stepped up it…

Pete's missing ticker

Christian Kerr, political pundit and journalist, writing in Crikey [only on subscription - well worth taking out] has some interesting political analysis on recent opinion polls and how Treasurer Peter Costello might want to consider them:

"Here are two facts most journalists would be astonished to discover. Labor has led every Newspoll since August and the Government has led only once since June last year.

Look at Labor’s two-party-preferred vote in Newspoll so far this year: 56, 54, 57, 61, 57, 59, 57, 59, 57, 55, 60, and 56. And in ACNielsen: 58, 61, 58, 58, and 57.

A few more of these in the parliamentary recess and a challenge might be on – if Costello has the b-lls. He has little to lose – except perhaps at least a three-year stint in opposition. If he took over now, he would be PM pro tem, with the chance to win and become PM in his own right.

If Costello became PM now and lost, but the election result ends up closer than the current polls, then he could take credit for a turn…

World Refugee Day 2007

You might not know it given the scant, if any, marking of the day in the media or elsewhere, but today, 20 June, has been designated by UNHCR as World Refugee Day.

As the UNHCR records on its website:

World Refugee Day: Displacement in the 21st Century. A new paradigm

"The refugee challenge in the 21st century is changing rapidly. People are forced to flee their homes for increasingly complicated and interlinked reasons. Some 40 million people worldwide are already uprooted by violence and persecution, and it is likely that the future will see more people on the run as a growing number of push factors compound one another to create conditions for further forced displacement.
Today people do not just flee persecution and war but also injustice, exclusion, environmental pressures, competition for scarce resources and all the miserable human consequences of dysfunctional states.

The task facing the international community in this new environment is to find ways to unlock the potential of…

New defence minister comes in with guns blazing

Let's just hope that this report on TimesOnLine is not correct - for if it is, stand back for the carnage and fallout of a disgraceful act of aggression of the first order.

"Israel's new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there.

According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas’s military capability in days.

The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings.

Barak, who is expected to become defence minister tomorrow, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armoured divisions and an infantry division, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets, against Hamas."

When things come around......and bite!

Americans have always been good at lecturing the world on what is said to be right and wrong. That double-standards have always been present goes without saying. And, so it has now happened to the Americans yet again.

Post 9/11 the Americans have had their "detainees". Not charged with anything. Just locked up. The US has virtually ignored the outrage from certain quarters inside the country and from around the world. Now those pesky Iranians have taken their own "detainees" - Americans. Ah, that's different! - as Karen Greenberg highlights in this piece on Tom Dispatch:

"For Americans, it should be startling to see the word "detainee" suddenly appear in a different country, on a different continent, and referring not to alleged jihadi terrorists but to a group of Americans. After all, "detainee" is the word the Bush administration coined to deal with suspected terrorist captives who, they argued, should be subjected to…

In for the long haul view in Iraq

Roger Cohen, veteran columnist, writing in the IHT, gives a sober, but probably realistic assessment, of where the US stands in relation to Iraq and the fallout of the invasion and what has been wrought in this now war-torn country. Sadly, the ramifications of the totally misconceived and illegal invasion extend way beyond the Iraqi borders. Cohen concludes that the US, and the West, is in for a long haul.

"The Iraqi conflict is going to be with us for years if not decades. The country has become the focus of a crisis of Islamic civilization that is closer to its onset than its conclusion. Violent conflict between the now dominant Shiite community and Sunnis nostalgic for power is but one aspect of this epochal upheaval.

As in the Palestinian territories, the Iraqi struggle has been complicated by the presence of forces driven not by national goals but by the global objectives of jihadist Islamism. These jihadists, finding inspiration in their reading of the sacred texts …

Palestinians: External pressures? Western hypocrisy?

It looks quite unseemly. All of sudden the West and Israel are embracing the new Abbas-appointed Palestinian government - and in the process people like Condi Rice spouting forth about democracy. Wait a minute! The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Government was democratically elected and has now, on one view at least, being wrongly displaced by President Abbas.

That Palestinian has been pitted against Palestinian goes without saying. What has caused this appalling state of affairs? Karma Nabulsi, fellow in politics and international relations at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University, seeks to address the issue in a piece in Guardian Unlimited.

"There is nothing uglier and more brutal to the human spirit, nothing more lethal to that universal hope for freedom, than to see a people struggling for liberty for such a long time begin to kill each other. How and why did we get here? Above all: how do we get out of here? These are the questions everyone watching events unfold…

Abu Ghraib revisited - with revelations

This paragraph, from another excellent piece by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker sets the tone:

"In January of 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. “This is your Vice,” he told Taguba. “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” No pleasantries were exchanged, although the two generals had known each other for years, and, Taguba said, “He offered no reason.” (A spokesperson for Cody said, “Conversations regarding general officer management are considered private personnel discussions. General Cody has great respect for Major General Taguba as an officer, leader, and American patriot.”)

“They always shoot the messenger,” Taguba told me. “To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.”
Taguba went on, “There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff”—the explicit images—“was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that thi…

A disaster unfolding

First Israel and Western governments wanted democratic elections in Gaza and the West Bank. They got them, to universal recognition that the elections were fairly and duly held. But, the outcome was not the desired one. Hamas won! So, Israel and the US embarked on efforts to undermine the new government including, with the assistance of European nations, starving the Palestinians of both aide and monies due and payable to them.

So, today we witness an allegedly new Palestinian government whilst Gaza is completely isolated. PM Olmert has already spoken of the benefits for peace this all brings about. A more sober assessment where this is all headed is that of Steven Erlanger, NY Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief:

"After the failure of the Palestinian unity government, Mr. Olmert said in an interview with The New York Times, “I suggest we look at things in a much more realistic manner and with less self-deceit.”

But like all seemingly elegant solutions in this region, thi…

Laughable if it weren't so serious

In his weekly column in the NY TimesFrank Rich [no friend of the Bush Administration] draws a few parellels between the Goti Mafia family and the final episode of "The Sopranos" in the US - but more pointedly deals with the testimonials submitted to the Court on behalf of Scooter Libby the other day when the judge was considering whether to allow Libby to escape his jail term pending the hearing of his appeal.

Richs' column [only available on line against subscription] speaks for itself. Just don't laugh too much when you read why Libby's attorneys resisted public disclosure of the testimonials:

"True, the Washington mob isn't as sexy as the Gotti or Soprano clans, but there is now a gripping nonfiction dramatization of its machinations available gratis on the Internet, no HBO subscription required. For this we can thank U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who presided over the Scooter Libby trial. Judge Walton's greatest move was not the 30-month se…

Blair caught out having lied - yet again!

This report from The Guardian says all that needs to be said - PM Tony Blair has, yet again, been shown to have lied about something in relation to the ill-fated Iraq War. Not surprising but hardly a good note to go out on!

"Tony Blair agreed to commit British troops to battle in Iraq in the full knowledge that Washington had failed to make adequate preparations for the postwar reconstruction of the country.

In a devastating account of the chaotic preparations for the war, which comes as Blair enters his final full week in Downing Street, key No 10 aides and friends of Blair have revealed the Prime Minister repeatedly and unsuccessfully raised his concerns with the White House.

He also agreed to commit troops to the conflict even though President George Bush had personally said Britain could help 'some other way'.

The disclosures, in a two-part Channel 4 documentary about Blair's decade in Downing Street, will raise questions about Blair's public assurances at the …

Iran: Frightening return to 1979 strictures

It's bad enough that the country's President threatens the existence of Israel or is seemingly hell-bent on Iran going nuclear, but the crack-down on the citizenry would suggest that things are are going to go from bad to worse, on many levels, for the country as a whole.

This report by The Washington Post paints a very bleak picture of how events are clearly spinning out of control in Iran:

"Iran is in the midst of a sweeping crackdown that both Iranians and U.S. analysts compare to a cultural revolution in its attempt to steer the oil-rich theocracy back to the rigid strictures of the 1979 revolution.

The recent detentions of Iranian American dual nationals are only a small part of a campaign that includes arrests, interrogations, intimidation and harassment of thousands of Iranians as well as purges of academics and new censorship codes for the media. Hundreds of Iranians have been detained and interrogated, including a top Iranian official, according to Iranian and i…

What / which "Palestine?"

Any commentary by Robert Fisk on what is really happening in the Middle East - and how events are likely to shape up in the future - can be assured to be both perceptive and probably right on the money.

Fisk's latest piece in The Indepenent, dealing with events in the last 72 hours in the Middle East, makes for an incisive and biting read - and raises questions and issues which will need to be addressed by all the main "players" in and "involved" in the Middle East:

"How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party - Hamas - and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today "Palestine" - and let's keep those quotation marks in place - has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Wel…

The real "event" at Kirribilli revealed

Trust Mike Carlton, writing his weekly column in the SMH, to expose the real goings-on at Kirribilli House:

"Such an event there never had been, nor ever could be again. It would be a grand winter ball, to which all the quality of the county and the officers of the regiment were invited. Oh, the clatter of hooves and the rumble of carriages in the long cobbled drive, the swirl of silken gowns and the bobbing of footmen's wigs beneath the portico and, within the great house, what gaiety of the orchestra, what a profusion of elegant decoration and plenitude of refreshments. Rainbows of light from a Baccarat chandelier twinkled upon the diamonds of the ladies, on ribbons and stars and orders, on the crimson pelisse of a dashing colonel of Hussars. The ballroom was a-whirl to the sprightly step of the quadrille, the gavotte, the schottische.

"And there is the Prime Minister!" cried Mrs Bennet, raising her lorgnettes to peer across the milling throng. "The Master of K…

Gaza, Hamas - and the whole mess

Events have moved so quickly in Gaza and the West Bank that it now appears that Israel has an Islamic Hamas-led Gaza on its doorstep. Meanwhile, the West has already flagged its support for the President Abbas and his Fatah organisation in the West Bank. One doesn't need to be much of a political-animal to see that this just isn't going to work. What? - in effect starve out the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza?

At coincidence has it, The Spectator this week has an interview with Dr. Ghazi Hamad, official spokesman for the Palestinian National Authority, who seeks to explain where Hamas stands in the whole Gaza-West Bank-Israel mess:

"It’s a sunny afternoon in London, and I am having tea with Hamas. Or rather, I am having tea with Dr Ghazi Hamad, official spokesman for the Palestinian National Authority and the man tipped to be the new Interior Minister. Dressed in a finely tailored suit, Dr Hamad, a handsome former journalist who holds a doctorate in pharmacology…