Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2007

Saying sorry!

The word "sorry" is going to figure on the political landscape in Australia in the next little while - as the nature and extent of the apology to made or given to the aboriginal community is debated.

There is already a divide between the new Rudd Government elect and the Opposition.

Professor Lowitja O’Donoghue, venerable and venerated elder in the indigenous community, weighs into the debate in a piece inCrikey:

"I am saddened to hear that the new opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, will not say Sorry to Aboriginal people. But I am not surprised.

Brendan Nelson represents a party that is out of touch. They just don’t get it. He would do well to talk to former Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, to learn something about genuine liberal values.

Nelson’s are the mean-spirited responses of denial that diminish him as a person and diminish Australia as a nation. At the very historical moment when new, courageous collaboration is possible, this new Liberal leader, just like Ho…

The winds of change?

Two pieces in the SMH reflect on what changes may be wrought by and from the change of Federal Government in Australia.

First, a more open and accessible FOI:

"Politicians rarely talk about freedom of information, and the few that do are usually in opposition. So when a politician in government raises the issue, it's worth taking notice, especially when it's the new prime minister who's under no pressure to do so.

Have a look at what Kevin Rudd said on the 7.30 Report this week and it's hard not to get a bit excited that the obsessive secrecy fostered by John Howard's administration might be about to change.

Asked about a recent letter in which former prime ministers Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser urged an inquiry into declining standards of ministerial accountability, Rudd agreed there were declining standards of Westminster government and promised a code of conduct with which ministers would be required to comply.

And then he volunteered this: "But let me …

Been there, done and said that....

Much has been said and written post the Annapolis meeting but Robert Fisk, venerable and the most experienced journalist and writer on the Middle East - after all he has lived in Beirut for some 30 years - puts the whole thing into context in his latest piece in The Independent:

"Haven't we been here before? Isn't Annapolis just a repeat of the White House lawn and the Oslo agreement, a series of pious claims and promises in which two weak men, Messrs Abbas and Olmert, even use the same words of Oslo.

"It is time for the cycle of blood, violence and occupation to end," the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday. But don't I remember Yitzhak Rabin saying on the White House lawn that, "it is time for the cycle of blood... to end"?

Jerusalem and its place as a Palestinian and Israeli capital isn't there. And if Israel receives acknowledgement that it is indeed an Israeli state – and in reality, of course, it is – there can be no "ri…

Baghdad dangerous as ever: Journalists

For some reason Iraq has been relegated down the totem-pole in the news. TV, radio or print. Perhaps it has something to do with the pr and hype being put out, by the Americans especially, that things are looking up in the war-torn country, the strikes by insurgents are allegedly down, etc. etc.

The facts, according to this Reutersreport, are far different to the positive ones out of Baghdad [or Washington]:

"Nearly 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit, despite a recent drop in violence attributed to the build-up of U.S. forces, a poll released on Wednesday said.

The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed that many U.S. journalists believe coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict.

A separate Pew poll released on Tuesday showed that 48 percent of Americans believe the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going very or fairly well, up from 34 percent in June, amid signs of declining Iraqi civilian casu…

Organising your life via India.....American style

It's an all too familiar thing......the almost now ubiquitous call from someone in India offering something or other. Then, too, call your so-called "local" credit card company or bank and you are as likely to end up speaking with someone in Bangalore or elsewhere in India.

Now, a twist to outsourcing......Americans having their lives "organised" by someone in India - as Spiegel International reports:

"Stressed-out Americans are now having their day-to-day lives organized by assistants in Asia. From tutoring to restaurant reservations, call centers half way around the world are taking care of their every need.

When asked to describe his new life, Michael Levy goes into rhapsodies. "You become lazy," he says. "It's just wonderful."

Up until this summer, the 42-year-old led a normal middle-class life in New York, working as a lawyer for the Department of Justice. Lately, though, he's had an entire staff at his disposal, who take car…

Maureen Dowd: Jump on the Peace Train

In her usual style and eye to matters, in her column in the NY Times "Jump on the PeaceTrain" Maureen Dowd reflects on the Annapolis conference and the role of Condi and George W:

"Condi doesn’t want to be Iraq.

She wants to be a Palestinian state. It has a far more hopeful ring to it, legacy-wise.

The Most Powerful Woman in the History of the World, as President Bush calls her, is a very orderly person.

Like her boss, she loves schedules and routines and hates disruptions. As a child, she was elected “president” of her family, a position that allowed her to dictate the organizational details of family trips, according to “Condoleezza Rice: An American Life,” a new biography by The Times’s Elisabeth Bumiller.

As an adult, Condi was worried about taking the job of top diplomat because it would mean traveling and being away from her things and habits.

So it is telling that in Annapolis she is running such a seat-of-the-pants operation, which seems designed to rescue the images …

CIA revealed "meddling" in Venezuela

It won't come as a surprise to read in this piece in CounterPoint of the actions of the CIA in relation to Venezuela:

"On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which will influence the referendum this Sunday, December 2, 2007.

The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the Director of Central Intelligence, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled 'Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer' and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym 'HUMINT' (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA's polls concede that 57 per cent of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted …

Pakistan: Warning about Taliban Crossing

Yesterday saw Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf step down as commander of the army - to pave the way to his becoming civilian President in the next days.

Perhaps not surprisingly George Bush and UK PM Gordon Brown have welcomed the move. Of course, it totally ignores the background to the dictatorial actions of Musharraf.

Arthur Keller is a former C.I.A. case officer in Pakistan and in an op-ed piece in the NY Times reflects on where Pakistan stands in relation to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

"In the early 1900s, a crusty British general, Andrew Skeen, wrote a guide to military operations in the Pashtun tribal belt, in what is now Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. His first piece of advice: “When planning a military expedition into Pashtun tribal areas, the first thing you must plan is your retreat. All expeditions into this area sooner or later end in retreat under fire.” This was written decades before the advent of suicide bombers, when the Pashtuns had little bu…

The Nation magazine "reports" on the Oz election

Probably America's most pre-eminent magazine, The Nation - and certainly its oldest - interestingly publishes a perspective of the Rudd election win, written by an Australian and giving it prominence as its lead piece.

Antony Loewenstein's piece, "Kevin Rudd, Agent of Change?" evaluates the outcome of the election and where Australia is headed under its new PM, Kevin Rudd:

"..... the election of Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership may not necessarily represent a repudiation of the worst excesses of the past decade. An "It's Time" factor became almost infectious as soon as Rudd assumed the Labor leadership in late 2006. Voters wanted change, a younger personality to replace the near 70-year-old Howard, and Rudd offered, in his cautious technocratic way, a sense of slight change without seriously challenging the fundamentals of relatively prosperous, conservative capitalism. No polls indicated intense dislike for Howard before the e…

Meanwhile in the real world.......

All the principal players have spoken, the platitudes have been flowing, the photos taken, and some might feel some sort of warm glow from the Annapolis Middle East one-day meeting, but as everyone at the meeting heads back home, the reality on the ground in Gaza is clearly highlighted in this piece on The Independent:

"Big Israeli armoured bulldozers, guarded by a stationary escort of tanks and armoured personnel carriers half-hidden in the adjacent sandbanks, were operating all along the exposed walk south on the Palestinian side of the hi-tech Erez terminal separating Gaza from Israel yesterday.

As the great and good of the Western and Arab worlds were gathering in Annapolis, this no-man's land crossed on foot by the small privileged minority of Palestinians allowed to enter and leave since Hamas's enforced takeover in June, has been extended to almost two kilometres.

Yesterday the road seemed like a metaphor for the ever- deepening isolation of Gaza. Much of it is now r…

It's all falling into place

Speaking at the so-called Annapolis Middle East Conference - well, meeting actually - George Bush said:

"Second, the time is right because the battle is under way for the future of the Middle East, and we must not cede victory to the extremists."

Of course!....the US wants to be in the middle of the action in the Middle East. That's why other news to emerge yesterday is "interesting" and puts things into context:

"In Sunday's New York Times U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker was quoted as saying Iraq is "going to be a long, hard slog." Sound familiar? It should, because here was then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- four years and one month ago: "It will be a long, hard slog." This thing has been going on for so long, the administration is reusing excuses. The Times also reports "the Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country." Really? I'd say t…

The Bush Touch: Turning Friends into Enemies

Scott Horton, writing in Harper's Magazine, questions the Bush touch - which appears to make enemies of those whose were previously friends:

"George W. Bush came to power on January 20, 2001. He inherited the most powerful military force ever assembled in human history, and the most significant system of military alliances that any nation had ever constructed. It would be wrong to say that this was the product of the Administration of Bill Clinton. More accurately, it was the result of a bipartisan tradition in foreign policy and defense planning that stretched back to the era of Truman. Bush, however, was intent on using foreign adventures as a partisan political tool to enhance his grip on the helm of state. And he had little patience for or interest in alliances. The theme of his seven years of foreign and defense policy has been unilateralism.

One by one the leaders on the world stage who put their faith in Bush and thoughtlessly did his bidding have fallen in disgrace, usu…

Putin's Soviet-style "democracy"

So much for the faith George Bush expressed about Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.

Putin is cracking down hard, Soviet-style, as he seeks to consolidate his position in the Russian political firmament. Bear in mind that Putin's background is that of KGB Chief. Lessons learned.......

Katrina Vanden Heuvel writing in The Nation, catalogues Putin's crackdown on the press and opposition:

"With Russia's parliamentary elections scheduled for December 2 and the pro-Kremlin United Russia party expected to win an overwhelming majority in the voting, President Vladimir Putin has intensified attacks on his opponents--most recently, accusing them of being in the pocket of Western governments. Most of the country's state-run media have fallen in line.

Attacks on opposition forces are not confined to verbal demonization. On Wednesday, Farid Babayev--the head of the Yabloko party ticket in Dagestan was shot at the entrance of his apartment building. Babayev, a human…

Unhindered grabs for Power

Anyone who has watched a White House news conference will instantly recognise veteran journalist Helen Thomas - a doyen of the Washington press corps - in the front row.

"While President Bush has been distracted with his unpopular war against Iraq, friends and foes are busy grabbing power to perpetuate themselves in office.

Among them are Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia.

There is little the United States can do about the drift toward authoritarian rule."

So begins a piece by Thomas in a column "US Friends and Foes Grabbing Power" in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer - as she assesses the actions of what look like 4 dictators or dictators in the making.

How George Bush saved Iran's Neocons

The magazine FP [Foreign Affairs] in a piece "How Bush saved Iran's Neocons" assesses how Bush policies in relation to Iran have most likely spurred, rather than curbed, a war with the country:

"When it comes to foreign policy, the Bush administration has often made the perfect the enemy of the good. It wasted years seeking the removal of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat before it got serious about trying to broker an Arab-Israeli peace deal. Now, with barely a year left in office, it finds itself trying to reconcile a weakened Israel and a fractured Palestine. It ignored Iraqi history by dismantling powerful, centralized institutions and trying to re-create Iraq as a democratic, free-market state. More than four years later, U.S. officials are still struggling to salvage a stable nation from the wreckage.

The administration has followed a similar pattern—but with potentially even more disastrous consequences—in its policy toward Iran. In applying new unilateral sanct…

Mid-East Meeting: Demands of a Thief

The media is full of the news relating to the upcoming Annapolis Mid-East meeting tomorrow. All informed pundits give the meeting little or no prospect of success, at least in any meaningful way.

Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz "Demands of a Thief" puts into context what he rightly sees as the basis upon which Israel fronts the meeting:

"The public discourse in Israel has momentarily awoken from its slumber. "To give or not to give," that is the Shakespearean question - "to make concessions" or "not to make concessions." It is good that initial signs of life in the Israeli public have emerged. It was worth going to Annapolis if only for this reason - but this discourse is baseless and distorted. Israel is not being asked "to give" anything to the Palestinians; it is only being asked to return - to return their stolen land and restore their trampled self-respect, along with their fundamental human rights and humanity. This is t…

A tragic dimension and outcome of the Iraq War

A topic seemingly brushed under the carpet - yet another piece of manipulation by the Bush Administration? - comes to light in this piece "120 War Vets Commit Suicide Each Week on Average" on AlterNet:

"Earlier this year, using the clout that only major broadcast networks seem capable of mustering, CBS News contacted the governments of all 50 states requesting their official records of death by suicide going back 12 years. They heard back from 45 of the 50. From the mountains of gathered information, they sifted out the suicides of those Americans who had served in the armed forces. What they discovered is that in 2005 alone -- and remember, this is just in 45 states -- there were at least 6,256 veteran suicides, 120 every week for a year and an average of 17 every day.

As the widow of a Vietnam vet who killed himself after coming home, and as the author of a book for which I interviewed dozens of other women who had also lost husbands (or sons or fathers) to PTSD and sui…

Disasters Quadruple Over Last 20 Years: Oxfam

Not very comforting news for a Monday morning......

Reuters reports:

"Weather-related disasters have quadrupled over the last two decades, a leading British charity said in a report published on Sunday.

From an average of 120 disasters a year in the early 1980s, there are now as many as 500, with Oxfam attributing the rise to unpredictable weather conditions cause by global warming.

"This year we have seen floods in South Asia, across the breadth of Africa and Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people," said Oxfam's director Barbara Stocking.

"This is no freak year. It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people.

The number of people affected by disasters has risen by 68 percent, from an average of 174 million a year between 1985 to 1994 to 254 million a year between 1995 to 2004.

"Action is needed now to prepare for more disasters otherwise humanitarian assistanc…

A road to peace? - or dead at birth?

Syria has now agreed to come aboard for the Anapolis Middle East meeting. Bear in mind it's not even being billed as a conference. And it's for one day only. It's hard to conceive that despite all the talk and photos, that anything can come of the meeting. All the signs are far from positive.

The Washington Post, viewing things from an American perspective, assesses the upcoming meeting:

"When the Middle East peace conference kicks off Tuesday in Annapolis, President Bush will deliver the opening speech and also conduct three rounds of personal diplomacy with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Such an active role is notable for a president who has never visited Israel while in office, who has made only one trip to Egypt and Jordan to promote peace efforts, and who has left the task of relaunching the peace process largely in the hands of his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

Rice logged 100,000 miles shuttling back and forth to the Middle East eight times o…

An election postscript.......

"Saturday night's victory was not just a victory for the Labor Party; it was also a victory for those Liberals like Malcolm Fraser, Petro Georgiou and Judi Moylan, who stood against the pernicious erosion of decent standards in our public affairs.

The Liberal Party of John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Alexander Downer and Peter Costello is now a party of privilege and punishments. One that lacks that most basic of wellsprings: charity."

Who could have written this post the Australian election on Saturday? - and the defeat of the Howard Government. None other than one-time PM, Paul Keating, in am op-ed piece in the SMH and The Age.

Read Keating's analysis of the Howard years here.

An American Perspective on Howard's Defeat

At least one perspective on John Howard's electoral defeat comes from this piece "Good riddance to John Howard" on Salon.com:

"There's a tendency in the U.S. to view the elections in other countries based on the self-centered perspective that the result is always some sort of referendum on the U.S. Hence, all sorts of unwarranted conclusions are typically drawn whenever a pro-Bush foreign leader is defeated or re-elected.

Like most foreign elections, the humiliating defeat of Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, was driven largely by their own domestic concerns, and it had little (though not nothing) to do with the U.S. Still, it is worth celebrating Howard's defeat in light of how pernicious a presence he was, as one of the very few remaining world leaders who loyally supported the worst and most war-loving aspects of the Bush/Cheney foreign policy.

Back in February of this year, Howard inserted himself into U.S. domestic politics by spouting this Bill…

The ipod lecture circuit

The onslaught of technology continues.....with those Apple ubiquitousipods in the forefront in doing so. Just as a sidebar, in the last quarter Apple sold a staggering 25 million ipods.

The LA Times reports on a dimension to the "use" of ipods and the underlying technology:

"Baxter Wood is one of Hubert Dreyfus' most devoted students. During lectures on existentialism, Wood hangs on every word, savoring the moments when the 78-year-old philosophy professor pauses to consider a student's comment or relay how a meaning-of-life question had him up at 2 a.m.

But Wood is not sitting in a lecture hall on the UC Berkeley campus, nor has he met Dreyfus. He is in the cab of his 18-wheel big rig, hauling dog food from Ohio to the West Coast or flat-screen TVs from Los Angeles to points east.The 61-year-old trucker from El Paso eavesdrops on the lectures by downloading them for free from Apple Inc.'s iTunes store, transferring them to his Hewlett-Packard digital media …

Bill Moyers, his father and FDR

Bill Moyers is a well known and highly regarded commentator and journalist in the US and president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.

The Nation reports on Bill Moyers remarks at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute's twentieth-anniversary Four Freedoms ceremony, where he received the Freedom of Speech award:

"Thank you for this recognition and the spirit of the evening. Thanks especially for giving me the chance to sit here awhile thinking about my father. Henry Moyers was an ordinary man who dropped out of the fourth grade because his family needed him to pick cotton to help make ends meet. The Depression knocked him off the farm and flat on his back. When I was born he was making two dollars a day working on the highway to Oklahoma City. He never made over $100 a week in the whole of his working life, and he made that only when he joined the union on the last job he held. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt in four straight elections, and he would have gone …

Capital Punishment, DNA.... and Freedom

The debate about capital punishment continues unabated around the world. The practice is rife in China and the US - although in America executions are on hold as the US Supreme Court is to hear a case challenging death by lethal injection.

The NY Times explores the case of a man vindicated from a murder and rape conviction after 16 years exonerated by a DNA test. Released in September 2006 the NY Times piece records in a rare insight, how this man, robbed of his freedom for 16 years, adjusts to freedom:

"As a boy, Jeffrey Mark Deskovic could swim the length of a pool underwater without coming up for air. On sultry days at the Elmira state prison, where he spent most of his 16 years behind bars for a rape and murder he did not commit, Mr. Deskovic would close his eyes under a row of outdoor showers and imagine himself swimming.

Jeffrey Deskovic swims for the first time since his release, at a hotel pool near Albany.
For months after his release in September 2006, he had been yea…

9 years later......Victory!

Australians wake up today to a new PM, Kevin Rudd. It is a testament to the man that he only entered Federal Parliament 9 years ago and only assumed the mantle of Leader of the Opposition on 4 December last year.

The task the new PM, and his Party, faces is formidable. Rudd's acceptance speech was a good portent of things to come.

Meanwhile, it looks like goodbye, not au revoir, to John Howard. Also gone - banished into Opposition - is the arrogance and often disgraceful and insulting behaviour of Peter Costello, the mad Monk Tony Abbott, Lord Downer of Baghdad and Nick Minchin.

The newspapers are covering the outcome of the election this way - Time, here, the NY Times, here and Haaretz, here and Times on Linehere.

BREAKING NEWS: Just over an hour ago [12.50 pm AEST] Peter Costello announced that not only would he not seek leadership of the Liberal Party, but would leave politics. See the SMH report here. Now that's responsible! Within 24 hours of the electi…

Coalition: Binned?

SMH political commentator, Alan Ramsay, reckons that the result of today's Australian election can be determined from this rather revealing fact:

"The end of the line. Remember that heading in the Herald a few weeks back, after one of the opinion polls bumped up the Government's lousy standing a point or two? "Lazarus stirs", it said optimistically of John Howard. Wrong. It was just the flies moving. Yesterday, in the nation's Parliament, with hardly a politician to be seen anywhere, we got some election realism. Three rows of recycling bins, whacking big green ones with yellow lids. More than 300 of them.

Where? In the basement corridor of the ministerial wing. The bins seemed a more apt commentary than all the desperate, last-minute Coalition windbaggery going on around the nation on what is about to descend on the Prime Minister after 33 years in public life and almost 12 years remaking Australia in his own miserable, disfigured image. They arrived two days…

Taliban making strides in Afghanistan

The sad news in Australia that an Oz soldier was killed there yesterday, again highlights the question of what the various countries stationed are doing there - and the more critical issue of whether any progress is being made in defeating the Taliban, introducing democracy to the country that George Bush has asserted, etc. etc.

It seems that things are more negative than ever in Afghanistan - with the Taliban now occupying something like 54% of the country. The Guardian reports:

"The Taliban has a permanent presence in 54% of Afghanistan and the country is in serious danger of falling into Taliban hands, according to a report by an independent thinktank with long experience in the area.

Despite tens of thousands of Nato-led troops and billions of dollars in aid poured into the country, the insurgents, driven out by the American invasion in 2001, now control "vast swaths of unchallenged territory, including rural areas, some district centres, and important road arteries"…

That Annapolis Conference

The Saudis are reported this morning as indicating that they will attend next week's Annapolis Middle East meeting - for it is not being billed as a conference any more. The NY Timesreports on the attendees post a meeting of Arab countries in Cairo.

Most informed pundits say the meeting will be no more than a photo-op for some of the main players in the region. Bear in mind that Syria won't be attending and certainly Hamas won't be there.

Writing in the New York Review of Books, "Annapolis: The Cost of Failure", Henry Siegman, the president of the US/Middle East Project, says:

"One of the first on-line responses to the publication of the letter to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a simple, straightforward question: "What is in it for Israel?" The "it" referred to guidelines the letter proposed for an agreement that would end Israel's occupation of the territories the IDF overran forty yea…

Tomorrow......the luck runs out?

Robert Manne, professor of politics at La Trobe University, reflects on tomorrow's Australian Federal election in an op-ed piece in The Age:

"Unless scores of astonishingly consistent opinion polls have been systematically misleading, tomorrow the Howard Government will be voted out. How will historians judge it?

Not every judgement will be negative. Even though foreign and personal debt are at record levels, the nation is far wealthier than ever in its history. The Howard Government will be praised for its part in creating the conditions for non-inflationary growth, with low levels of unemployment, but without dismantling the basic pillars of the welfare state. It will also be praised for introducing the GST and using this new tax to finance the states; for introducing effective gun control; and, despite early missteps, for helping East Timor gain its independence.

Compared to the harm it has done to Australia, however, all this will seem relatively trivial. Stimulated by the H…

Memories of John Dean?

Those old enough to know will recall John Dean [who ultimately spent time in jail] in the Nixon White House. He was Nixon's attorney.

Now, comes news of George Bushs' former White House Press Secretary "spilling the beans" in relation to the now infamous Valerie Plane affair - as John Nichols writes in The Nation "Scott McClellan = John Dean?":

"Scott McClellan's admission that he unintentionally made false statements denying the involvement of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the Bush-Cheney administration's plot to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson, along with his revelation that Vice President Cheney and President Bush were among those who provided him with the misinformation, sets the former White House press secretary as John Dean to George Bush's Richard Nixon.

It was Dean willingness to reveal the details of what described as "a cancer" on the Nixon presidency that served as a critical turning point in the struggle by a …

Holocaust Denial, American Style

The use of the word "Holocaust" will doubtlessly offend some, who say it is confined to the World War II Holocaust of the Jews, but Mark Weisbrot in his piece in AlterNet "Holocaust Denial, American Style" says it applies to what has happened in Iraq as a result of the Iraq War - and the way in which Americans have simply ignored what has been wrought in the war-torn country.

"Institutionally unwilling to consider America's responsibility for the bloodbath, the traditional media have refused to acknowledge the massive number of Iraqis killed since the invasion.

President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's flirtation with those who deny the reality of the Nazi genocide has rightly been met with disgust. But another holocaust denial is taking place with little notice: the holocaust in Iraq. The average American believes that 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the US invasion in March 2003. The most commonly cited figure in the media is 70,000. But the actua…

A PM with "form"on racism.....

PM Howard's track-record isn't a good one on the racism-front. In the 1980's he advocated restricting Asian immigrants. Then he has always refused to say sorry to Australia's indigenous population. Add to that his adoption of much of Pauline Hanson's policies and his defence of her that she should be allowed to express her views. Not a word of condemnation or rebuke for what she was articulating. Then in the 2001 election there was the clear racist-card being run in relation to the Tampa.

So, his critical words today - 2 days out from an election - about the pamphlet-affair in Sydney [check out the SMH here] must be seen as hollow and Howard in his best lying mode. Remember that Margo Kingston in her books "Not Happy John" and "Still Not Happy John" [both published by Penguin] has catalogued Howard's lying down the years.

Bottom line.......Howard is a racist. Don't overlook, either, that the outgoing member, Jackie…

Paul Keating weighs into Oz election

Some would say that one can't keep a good man down! Others would say that he has become bittered and twisted since losing the 1996 election to John Howard. Who? Former PM Paul Keating!

Keating weighs into the Australian election - thankfully only 2 days to go now to election-day - in an opinion piece "Australia has lost its moral compass underHoward's rule" in the SMH [and The Age] today:

"The principal reason the public should take the opportunity to kill off the Howard Government has less to do with broken promises on interest rates — or even its draconian WorkChoices industrial laws — and everything to do with restoring a moral basis to our public life.

Without this, the nation has no standard to rely upon, no claim that can be believed, not even when the grave step of going to war is being considered. When truth is up for grabs, everything is up for grabs.

Cynicism and deceitfulness have been the defining characteristics of John Howard and his Government…

According to law? - or barbaric?

It is hard for Westerners to grapple with the entire concept, but a Court in Saudi Arabia sentencing a 19 year old rape-victim to 200 lashes and a 6 month imprisonment?

The IHTreports:

"Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a controversial verdict sentencing a 19-year-old gang rape victim to six months jail and 200 lashes.

The Shiite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia's rigid Sharia Islamic law on segregation of the sexes.

In its decision doubling her sentence last week, the Saudi General Court also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping her, Saudi media said."

And:

"Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of the Sharia.

Reports on the story triggered debate about the country's legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and some…

Israel's attack on Syria: The story unfolds.....

The attack by Israel on Syria back in September has basically been shrouded in mystery. That the Americans were involved in some way now appears to be beyond doubt. Interestingly, the fact that one country has bombed in another sovereign State appears to have drawn little or no criticism.

Asia Times on Line now reports on the alleged reasons for the attack - to flag a signal to Iran:

"Until late October, the accepted explanation about the September 6 Israeli air strike in Syria, constructed from a series of press leaks from US officials, was that it was prompted by dramatic satellite intelligence that Syria was building a nuclear facility with help from North Korea.

But new satellite evidence has discredited that narrative, suggesting a more plausible explanation for the strike: that it was a calculated effort by Israel and the United States to convince Iran that its nuclear facilities could be attacked as well.

The narrative promoted by neo-conservatives in the George W …

Iran: Cyber-feminist arrested

Reporters Without Bordersreports:

"Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of journalist Maryam Hosseinkhah, a member of the editorial team of websites Zanestan (The city of women - http://herlandmag.net/ ) and Tagir Bary Barbary (Change to equality - http://we-change.org/), which campaign against violations of Iranian women’s rights.

She was arrested on 10 November for “publishing false news, threatening public order and publicity against the regime” after refusing to submit to an order from a judge at the Tehran revolutionary court to name all her colleagues.

Zanestan, a women’s online bi-monthly founded in 2005, has been closed since 12 November 2007 on the orders of the Internet bureau of the ministry of culture and Islamic orientation, after publishing reports about the sentencing of four women who campaigned for signatures for the web petition “One million signatures to amend laws which discriminate against women.

“We are dismayed by this arrest. Maryam Hosseinkhah…

Nuclear weapons in the Middle East

"George Bush and Gordon Brown are right: there should be no nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The risk of a nuclear conflagration could be greater there than anywhere else. Any nation developing them should expect a firm diplomatic response. So when will they impose sanctions on Israel?

Like them, I believe that Iran is trying to acquire the bomb. I also believe it should be discouraged, by a combination of economic pressure and bribery, from doing so (a military response would, of course, be disastrous). I believe that Bush and Brown - who maintain their nuclear arsenals in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty - are in no position to lecture anyone else. But if, as Bush claims, the proliferation of such weapons "would be a dangerous threat to world peace", why does neither man mention the fact that Israel, according to a secret briefing by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, possesses between 60 and 80 of them?

Officially, the Israeli government maintains a positio…

Former PM reflects on Oz election

Malcolm Fraser was a Liberal Party PM in Australia in the 1970's. He was often described as being akin to an Easter Island statue.

Since leaving office Fraser has often spoken out on what might be described as liberal issues - reconciliation with Australia's indigenous peoples, the detention of illegal immigrants, the attack on people's personal freedoms, etc. etc.

With the upcoming Australian Federal election Fraser weighs in with an op-ed piece, "Voting to restore the decent values Australia once held dear", in The Age.

"In deciding how to vote, Australians should make a judgement about which set of policies will do best for the future, will build a stronger nation and invest in the basic fabric that will enable Australia to compete throughout the world. Above all, we need to return to our traditional sense of fairness, justice and again guarantee the rule of law and due process for all people. We need a vision for the future based on these values.

Educatio…

Who decides who the good and the bad guys are?

Will Durst is an actor, comic, writer and radio talk-show host who thinks George Bush determining proper international conduct is scarier than a Rudy-Giuliani-in-drag compilation tape.

Writing on truth.comdig, perhaps with something of a tongue-in-cheek, he asks a pertinent question about what he dubs the nuclear two-step:

"This might be a good time to try and explain George Bush’s Mideast nuclear policy, which to the untrained eye must seem trickier than doing calculus on a solar-powered calculator in the front seat of a high-speed roller coaster while wearing gloves, at night. As leader of the free world, he’s taken a monumental task upon himself to divide the world into two distinct and separate groups: those countries sober and sensible enough to handle the whole nuclear thing in the mature manner of a good democratic nation like the United States, and all those other fourth-rate, scorpion-infested hellholes that still allow barnyard animals to board airplanes.

And what of the b…

A Myth in the Unmaking

Michael Tomasky is editor of Guardian America.

His takes a stick to Fox News in a piece in The Guardian. It casts severe doubt on anything one reads or see emanating from the Fox or News Limited stable:

"Britons may be familiar with Rupert Murdoch, but I don't think the UK has a beast quite like the American Fox News Channel. Celebrating its 11th year on the air, Fox is a breathtaking institution. It is a lock, stock and barrel servant of the Republican party, devoted first and foremost to electing Republicans and defeating Democrats; it's even run by a man, Roger Ailes, who helped elect Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior to the presidency. And yet, because it minimally adheres to certain superficial conventions, it can masquerade as a "news" outfit and enjoy all the rights that accrue to that.

Journalism with a point of view is a fine thing. It's what I do. The difference is that I say I'm a liberal journalist while Fox executives and &…