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Showing posts from October, 2005

What the Wilsons Think about Lewis Libby....

The newspapers have been full of the latest "scandal" in Washinton. Perhaps some sort of justice, poetic or otherwise, will be meted out to Bush, Cheney and Co. For those of us who lived through Watergate there is a similar scenario emerging. Bushgate? However this whole thing plays out - or perhaps that should be unravels? - I found Joseph Wilson's [remember! - the husband of Valerie Plane and who triggered the whole thing off] article in the LA Times in response to the charging of Lewis"Scooter" Libby most interesting. As they say, watch this space....

Worthy Cause...and Rememberance

Anne Franks former home is to be opened as a refuge for writers facing persecution - see this. I couldn't think of a more worthy or worthwhile cause - if for no reason other than to memorialise a figure who has become so widely known, especially among young people, as a victim of persecution, bigotry and anti-semitism.

On a topic in similar vein, Haaretz reports today that the UN is to vote tomorrow on a resolution to establish a worldwide Holocaust Day. Interestingly, the resolution is the first put forward by Israel.

The Shape of Things to Come?....

Consistent with the assertions of many that the new IR laws will lead to an increase in numbers of the poor and disadvantaged - notwithstanding what Howard and his side-kick Andrews keep on saying - just like the "picture" which has emerged in the so-called "rich" USA, look where America is headed in feeding its poor [or treating them humanely and with a degree of decency] in this article in today's SMH. To say the very least not only are the actions of the Congress scandalous - but it perhaps gives an insight of things to come in Oz.

Counter-Terrorism laws [continued]

One can't help be concerned about the proposed so-called counter-terrorism laws. The Government isn't even prepared to put them "out there" for scrutiny and discussion. Why not? Debate in the Parliament will doubtlessly be cut to the barest time [will the Opposition even take a stand?] and all Coalition members will simply say yea to everything. How comforting to know that not one Coalition member has the wit or intelligence [or should that be guts?] to challenge what is afoot here. Read the ever-wonderful Richard Carlton in the SMH today [below] on his take on the proposed legislation. People MUST become motivated to object - long and loudly!

"INCREASINGLY under the Howard Government, the bureaucracy is a law unto itself. The Immigration Department was clearly out of control, drunk with power, inflamed by the dog-whistle xenophobia of "we will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come".

The Commonwealth Ombudsman r…

The Oz or American Way?

This week Bob Hawke severely, and rightly in my view, criticised the proposed new Industrial Relations laws and labelled them part of the Americanisation of Australia - be it following the US into the Iraq war / fiasco and other things - presently underway. It's all happening slowly but think about it..... The Australian character and life style is slowly and surely disappearing. Before you know it will be gone! Today's article by Adele Horin in the SMH takes up the same theme. Reflect on it long and hard!

Scowcroft on the White House and Iraq

Brent Scowcroft was Pres. Bush Snr's National Advisor. He is well-regarded and informed. He was hightly critical of Pres Shrub's decision to invade Iraq. Now the current New Yorker magazine has a rather fascinating article / interview / analysis [by Jeff Goldberg] which details Scowcroft's views on where things are at in the White House and Iraq. Look out for what appears to be criticism by Bush Snr of Bush Jnr.

Anti-terrorism Laws: An Update

As debate swirls about the constitutionality of the proposed anti-terrorism laws and whether the Government will have the gall to introduce the legislation into Parliament on Melbourne Cup Day [now seemingly unlikely] todays SMH has an interesting article on the whole topic by well known lawyer-journalist Richard Ackland. Ackland is absolutely spot-on. This is shaping up as "big" in the every sense of the word!

Also well worth reading in conjunction with Ackland's article is this story in the SMH today. It puts the whole thing into context.....

No...the iPod isn't only for Music and Video!

If you haven't already heard or read it, Apple on Tuesday announced the long-awaited arrival of the iTunes Store in Oz. It's open for business. Go see...

Meanwhile, those who might turn up their noses at iPods and the like as inhabiting the world of the young and wannabees might have to eat humble pie and become more circumspect of the new technology given today's news on cnn.com revealing the use of ipods for medical images in radiology - thereby saving thousands of dollars.

Interesting, and Frightening, Stats

- The Age reports that the 2005 Seek Survey has revealed that of 7100 workers interviewed 56% were disatisfied with their jobs compared to 45% last year

- Almost half of the NSW population is overweight and less than 9% of the State's residents eat enough vegetables each day according to a 2004 survey of 10,000 NSW residents

- The AFR reports that every year the average LA inhabitant spends 93 hours - more than 2 standard working weeks - stuck in traffic. And to top it off 44% of the daily commute takes place at a crawl. The cost? A cool US$65 billion [A$86.4 billion] in wasted time and fuel.

2005 Person of the Year

Each year since 1927 Time Magazine has put forward what used to be called the Man of the Year but has recently become Person of the Year. See this background.

It may still be early days for 2005 [Time doesn't make its "award" until the end of the year] but I would like to nominate Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Relief and UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator as the Person of the Year for 2005.

Egeland has, I believe, been at the real coal-face in being "involved" in assisting victims of disaster around the world during 2005. Who can forget his quiet, dignified yet urgent and sobering pleas for help.

Any better nominations for the Person of the Year? Let's hear them!

Pakistan Needs Help....NOW!

Yes, the world is said to be suffering from so-called "compassion fatigue" as one disaster after enough has hit here or there. But at the end of the day it is just ordinary people who are suffering. And they must be helped - whatever their color, creed or country.

It was sobering to hear on BBC Newshour the other night that there are some 15,000 villages still not "covered" by relief after recent Pakistani earthquake and that in 6 weeks time the snows will set in in the areas where recovery work has not yet got underway and people will be truly at great risk.

No less of concern was the report, as part of the BBC broadcast, that despite many nations promising financial aid most had not actually delivered a penny. The Emirates were specifically mentioned. They had promised $100 million in aid. Not a cent had yet been forthcoming.

Read this in yesterday's IHT giving a perspective of the very real humanitarian problems confronting the people of Pakistan.

Terror Laws - Be Afraid!

As debate goes on about the proposed terror laws, Christian Kerr [regular contributor to Crikey, political commentator and regular guest on Phillip Adams' Late Night Live] addresses some critically important issues in relation to the proposed legislation in today's Crikey. By the way, a subscription to Crikey is money well spent. You will read things there that our mainstream press just doesn't even venture near.

"While the proposed “shoot to kill” powers in the draft terror laws are getting the press, surely there are other key threats in the legislation.

The main causes for concern have to be:
The threat to due process – the effective removal of habeas corpus, confronting the accuser and testing the charges;
The reversal of the burden of proof, the reversal of the principle of innocent until proven guilty allowed in the proposed laws and in existing ASIO legislation;
The right to adequate early – and continuing – legal representation; and
Most significantly, the absence o…

Your ABC?

Whether we know, or realise it, or not, the ABC tv and radio network "covers" Australia on many and varied levels. There would be few people who don't "plug" into the ABC in one way or the other. Of course politicians, and others, have been quick to attack the ABC as left-wing, biased, a cultural back-water, elitist or whatever. Politicians do not like to be quizzed and challenged.

The present Federal government has, in effect, been strangling the ABC through lack of funding. ABC TV has been hit in particular. Thankfully, groups like the Friends of the ABC keep the issue of the funding of the ABC in the public eye. Good then, to see the article in The Age, yesterday, by Bill Garner [who was to speak at the AGM of the Friends last night] drawing critical attention to the plight of the ABC - and all of us too!

Make that one hamburger, Coke, coronary et al....

Last Monday night ABC TV's Four Corners program dealt with obesity in children. The stats are staggering - and more importantly given the health issues obesity throws up now, and in later years, everyone is going to have to confront the huge cost to the community down the track. Health Minister Abbott [why is it that he seems to bob up everywhere? - and then in negative mode!] could only say that it wasn't for government to become involved as it was a matter for parents what food [make that junk food] their children ate. Of course that all assumes a family with 2 parents in the household, etc. The statistics would suggest otherwise.

Coincidentally today comes an interesting article - admitedly out of America - on Alternet on junk food and where the US is at one year after the movie Supersize Me. Sit down on the couch, without becoming a potato in the process, and read with interest how junk food reins. You might want to put that hamburger, chips, cookies, Coke or Pepsi and the …

Mental Health Conditions in Oz - a Disgrace!

A report entitled, Not for Service, dealing with mental-health conditions in Australia, and released yesterday [by Health Minister Abbott], makes for distressing reading. A number of unquestionably impleccable organisations were involved in the extensive nationwide research leading to the comprehensive Report. On release of the Report Abbott was asked what he was going to do about what even he conceded made for sad reading. Well, yes, but it was a matter of how the health-dollar was spent, Commonwealth-State relations, etc. etc. So, probably very little, other than pious platitudes. For the practical issues which are a fact of life out there in Australia read a transcript of the "report" on the Report on The World Today program on ABC Radio National yesterday. You can even listen to the "report" or download it if you are so inclined.

Analysing the WWW

The world wide web [www] or "the net", in its various manifestations, is spoken and written of just about everywhere - whether its Amazon.com, podcasting, buying on line, porn or emails etc. etc. Now comes news that AC Nielson have undertaken what appears to be the first world-wide survey and analysis of how the web is used, especially with regard to on-line shopping. It makes for interesting reading in an article in the IHT today.

The Mayo Clinic on Bird Flu

With Health Minister Abbott speaking of vaccinating all Australians [really? - some 20 million people] against the bird flu virus perhaps it is timely to determine what this whole bird flu "thing" is all about. Lots is being written and spoken about the issue - most probably misguided and scare-mongering. The Mayo Clinic has, I believe, issued a sober and easily read assessment of bird flu. By the way, it is well worth subscribing, for free, to the Clinic's weekly email bulletin / newsletter.

Judges - with Trainer Wheels!

As Pres. Bush hails the success of the referendum in Iraq and Iraq's movement toward democracy and the lessening of terror in the world - all very suspect and in respect of which the jury has to still be out - today comes news [as reported in Times on Line] that the judges to try Saddam Hussein have been secretly undergoing training in the UK. A number of countries have been involved including Australia. Why this has all been kept under wraps is a questionable matter. That aside, knowing that the judges have been "trained" should instil confidence in the trial process!!!!!

Oz media - Rupert @ the Helm?

The Federal Government has made it clear that it intends changing the media laws in Oz. Many have expressed their grave misgivings about such a move - especially as it would deliver more control to 3 "players", Murdoch, Packer and possibly Fairfax [if it hasn't been taken-over]. If proof was ever needed that there needs to be more diversity and less restrictions on media-ownership it comes from News Ltd's [that is - Rupert Murdoch] Australian newspaper proudly crowing last Friday that News Ltd. has lifted its major newpaper market in Oz to 68.5%. Do we really want Rupert Murdoch controlling most of what we read, hear and see?

Food for Thought - and for Whom

Today, 16 October, is World Hunger Day! The facts in relation to the lack of food for millions of people around the world are truly staggering. 850 millions people around the world are hungry - see this. Meanwhile, the UNHRC web site the contains some rather scary numbers of the UN's count of refugees in the world. And to think that a rich country like Australia has spent countless millions of dollars to prevent a few thousand either arriving in Australia - or even worse, staying here!

Interesting Swap.....

The Jews were kicked out of Spain in 1492 unless they were prepared to convert to Catholicism. Since that time few Jews have lived in Spain. Naturally many synagogues were left behind. Sadly, most of these synagogues were "converted" to churches. Many of those one-time synagogues are still to be found in Toledo although previously "converted" churches and no longer used as such. Now comes news [The Times on Line] that one of the historic synagogues in Toledo, still used as a Catholic church, is to be returned to the Jewish community in an exchange-deal struck with the Vatican

The Benefits of Diaspora

Sadly anti-semitism, in many of its usual manifestations, is once again rearing its ugly head around the world. Whether the "trigger" for that is the current Israel-Palestinian conflict, or the wider anti-Muslim fervour gripping the world or the whole situation in the Middle East, is another issue. Whatever the underlying reason [s] it is deplorable that a small group of people [now, after 6 million Jews were "lost" in the Holocaust, probably something like 13 million in the whole world!] continues to attract such enmity. Jews do not control the media, financial centres, etc etc. - contrary to the myth peddled far and wide. Jews have, it is true, made a significant contribution to medicine, technology, music and the arts generally. The London Review of Books has just published an article Benefits of Diaspora by one Eric Hobsbawn. It makes for interesting reading.

The Spiegeltent - Go and enjoy!

The Melbourne International Arts Festival is well underway with just another week to go before it concludes. As is to be expected some things have been very good, others so-so. Reviews of various artists or performances have been mixed. One thing, though, which always seems to find favour is the wonderful Spiegeltent. For those who have not seen it, it stands in the forecourt in front of the State Theatre. It, together with the cafe and wine bar alongside the Spiegeltent, attract a variety of people all day long and well into the night. This year the Spiegeltent will continue with a variety of acts of all sorts until just before Xmas. Do go! You are in for a treat and something very different.

Industrial Relations [?] in Oz

The media is in overdrive [earning money that is!] from the Government's blatant advertising campaign in relation to the new IR laws. To say the very least the ads are blatant advertising for the Coalition - with the tax-payers of Oz footing the bill! Not a sceric of putting countervailing arguments or even attempting to refute the ACTU ad campaign. It's all gonna be great, employees will have flexibility, etc, etc. How this whole thing will play out in the real world - away from the inner-sanctum which PM Howard and his narrow-minded little friend Kevin Andrew occupy - is graphically shown in the article by Adele Horin in today's SMH.

Democracy - with a Script!

Much was made in the US of the video conference-link Pres. Bush had with soldiers in Iraq a couple of days ago on the eve of the referendum in Iraq today. Farcical would seem to be a more appropriate assessment of the so-called "inter-action" between Bush and the soldiers. What the viewr was to make of all of this must be a moot point. Read a sobering assessment of the stage-managed "affair" here.

Meanwhile, this sobering article from the Washington Post puts the whole Iraq war into some sort of context. It does not make for positive reading!

In Australia, as we know, the whole Iraq "thing" is as good off the agenda. That gad-fly Alan Ramsay in an article in the SMH this morning writes about the issue of Iraq having been raised by a Labour backbencher during the adjournment debate in the Federal Parliament the other night. The member asked by Iraq seemed to be forgotten and ignored. The response? Deafening silence from almost all quarters.

Walking the Talk

In a posting I did back on 18 September last I noted how despite what the world had said at the end of WW2 in relation to the Holocaust - "never again" - we had since then witnessed horrible genocides in China, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur amongst others. The world simply hasn't woken up to itself!

Interestingly, a year ago a group of students at an American College, Swarthmore, decided to take on an unusual extracurricular activity - stopping genocide. What has come out of their sterling efforts and their project is a Genocide Intervention Fund which has been taken up and supported by many in the USA. Money has been raised as well as fostering awareness of genocides like that presently underway in Darfur. Check out the Fund's web site. Perhaps it's a fond hope that we might see a replication here in Australia?

At the time of the Holocaust Pres. Roosevelt was uninterested as is Pres. Bush now in relation to Darfur. It can't be said …

Barnaby has a point!

Over the last days a lot has been made of Senator Barnaby Joyce having crossed the floor in a Senate vote on Government legislation. Why the hubbub? As the Senator has said - or the "National Conscience" as Alan Kohler of The Age and the Eureka Report [the latter well worth reading by the way!] describes him - if all votes are in effect automatic for Coalition members they might as well be proxy votes and made from back in his electorate rather than him having to travel to Canberra to sit in the Senate. His point is simple and nothing new - but worth refelecting on nevertheless.

Go Find Another Job......

How re-assuring to hear PM Howard tell the people of Australia [well, those in employment - bearing in mind that working for 1 hour a week qualifies as being employed!] that the new IR laws will, in effect, readily allow employees to go and look for another job. In what orbit the PM and his side-kick, Kevin Andrews, live is debateable. More to the point, how far are they removed from the real world? To say the least Australia is on the cusp of needless disputation, anguish and division in the community as the proposed IR laws are debated. And to proceed on the basis of the PM's assurance that people should rely on his record is down-right scary. Wasn't this the PM who invented core and non-core election promises? See what even the SMHs' blogger has to say on the whole IR matter.

Blogs - More and more into the Mainstream

It is interesting to see the evolution of blogs and blogging generally. Increasingly blogs are becoming the source of choice for many seeking information or news on this or that. In fact, many bloggers were given accreditation, alongside the mainstream media, to the GOP and Democratic Conventions in the USA last year. Now comes news that Yahoo will include blogs as part of its search engine. Google is one step behind but it won't be long before they too will have to acknowledge that blogs and blogging is a force to be reckoned with.

Fueling unrest in the Middle East

Contrary to what is so frequently asserted by the politicians about how democrary will spread in the Middle East following on from a successful outcome in Iraq - well, certainly Messrs Bush and Blair whilst PM Howard is to all intents and purposes silent - an opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune by Amin Saikal, a professor of political science at the ANU, makes for troubling reading.

The Arts in Australia

David Marr is probably best known as the recent presenter of the ABC's must-see program Media Watch. He is also the co-author, with Marian Wilkinson, of the award-winning book Dark Victory. Marr is now back at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Last night Marr presented the 2005 Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture - dealing with the Arts in Australia, and more particularly the funding of it.

With the Melbourne Arts Festival now underway [go see and hear especially the Spiegeltent] Marr's comments are timely. Check them out here.

What is interesting in this on-going debate about the funding of the Arts is that it is the taxpayers, in the first place, who provide the monies for their own enjoyment - and the politicians and public servants are no more than custodians of those monies. To see the strangulation of the Arts in all its manifestations is to the detriment of us all.

The Fourth Estate - AWOL

Today's Age newspaper has an article by Michelle Grattan [the newspaper's Chief Political correspondent] dealing with PM Howard's 10 years in office. How astounding then that Grattan doesn't even approach the subject of Iraq with Howard. After all the PM, against overwhelming opposition of the Australian people, committed Australia to the Iraq war as a member of the Coalition of the Willing. In return it seems to be well-recognised and accepted - certainly by those who analyse these things - that Australia is now a target of terrorism. It says something about the media in Australia that Grattan chose to ignore the subject of Iraq in her interview with Howard. How pathetic and how unfortunate for us all that the media doesn't fulfill its role of testing, challenging and probing our political leaders.

One can make the same point about the way in which the media hasn't challenged either Ministers Ruddock, Vanstone or Downer about the Alvarez and Rau affairs and the…

Watch out for These

There are 2 web sites which are very worth bookmarking, for different reasons, and keeping up to date with -

*** www.fightdemback.com - at which Mat Henderson, almost single-handedly, takes on right-wing groups and individuals and highlights their activities. For instance Matt has just emailed those on his list that a Paul Fromm, a "good buddy" of the notorious Ernst Zundel and David Duke has been allowed into Australia. You may well ask why and how come? In fact, all right-minded people should be supporting Mat in what he is doing. There is a deafening silence from those who ought to be out there at the forefront exposing and dealing with these vile bigots

*** www.badcorp.com - a brilliant site "exposing" the workings of some of the companies and brands familiar to us all. Check it out!

The Salvos have lost me

Over the years I have supported the Salvation Army - on the basis that I perceived it to be an organisation, whilst religiously based, which "rolled up its sleeves" and went about supporting everyone whatever their age, financial position, creed or religion. Having read this I will be directing my hard-earned money to an organisation which does not discriminate. It would be interesting to know what the position of the Oz Salvation Army is.

Democracy equates to protection from Terrorism?

We hear and read here and there - principally from many political leaders around the world - that if only democracy can be brought to Muslim countries in the Middle East that that will not only prove to be bulwark against but a protection from terrorism. An interesting article and analysis of this proposition can be found in Foreign Affairs magazine. It would seem that the theory is fatally flawed!

Shock & Awe

Who can forget the tag ascribed to the invasion of Iraq - Shock & Awe! To add to the offensive, whilst the Americans kept a body-count of their casualties, deaths of and injuries to Iraqis were described as "collateral damage". Clearly no one thought, or cared, about the human beings "on the ground" involved in all of this. Robert Fisk [not only a veteran reporter - recognised as one of the last great reporters] having lived and travelled extensively in the Middle East for 29 years, has written a book [to be released shortly]. Fisks' newspaper, The Independant, is presently publishing extracts from the upcoming book. Read the relevant extract describing the night "the Coalition of the Willing" bombed Baghdad.

Delusional Bush, Blair & Howard

Whilst President Bush and PM's Blair and Howard continue to live in some sort of fantasyland, or perhaps even state of delusion, in relation to Iraq, an interesting column earlier this week in the Washington Post has a more accurate, and truthful, assessment of the current position and thinking of the military on the ground.

Security? - For Whom?

I have already posted an item on the new security laws to be introduced in Australia - Federally and in the States and Territories. Today's piece by Mike Carlton in the SMH is not only worth reading but worthy of serious reflection.

An appropriate postscript: Walter Wolfgang, the 82 year old ejected from the Labour Party Conference in England the other day for interjecting by calling Jack Straw a liar was briefly detained when attempting to re-enter the hall - by the police, relying anti-terrorism legislation! In fact The Independent yesterday had an interesting article by Walter Wolfgang and a bio of the man.

An "Intellectual's" Flawed Logic

This week's AJN carries an article, "The intellectual war against Israel" by one Dvir Abramovich. The article is a hard-hitting critique of Jacqueline Rose's recently published book The Question of Zion. A footnote to the piece notes that Abramovich is a lecturer at the University of Melbourne's Centre for Jewish History and Culture.

Leaving to one side whether the criticism of the book Abramaovich makes is valid [I happen to say not] one can only hope the writer brings more "intellectual" rigor and logic in his lectures than his article displays. At the end of the article Abramovich says it all when he writes:

"As Hillel Halkin wrote in an article entitled "The return of anti-semitism": "One cannot be against Israel or Zionism, as opposed to this or that Israeli policy or Zionist position, without being anti-semitic. Israel is the State of of the Jews. Zionism is the belief that Jews should have a state. To defame Israel is to defame …