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Showing posts from January, 2006

USA Needs to re-think Mid-East Policies

"The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections ought to lead to a fundamental rethinking of U.S. strategy in the Middle East, especially since it follows electoral successes for Islamist parties in Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The most important lesson of the elections is that the United States cannot afford to use the rhetoric of spreading democracy as an excuse for avoiding dealing with pressing national grievances and wishes. If the United States pursues or supports policies that are detested by a majority of ordinary people, then these people will react accordingly if they are given a chance to vote".

As debate continues about the win by Hamas [interestingly an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood - who did well recently in the Egyptian elections] in the Palestinian elections the other day, this morning comes news that Condi Rice says that she and her Department were taken by surprise by the result. That's quite an admission! - that the US is far from &…

Happy New Year - with an Avalanche of Text Messages

"A year ago, more than 10 billion text messages were sent during the weeklong Chinese holiday period, more than 1.4 billion per day. This is the rough equivalent of every teenager in the U.S. sending a text message every 10 minutes for a solid week" - reports CBS MarketWatch.

Believe it or not, it is anticipated that some 12 billion messages will be sent this year - and possibly, improbably, up to 18 billion messages.

Another Dimension to the Hamas Win

"Naila Ayesh, a secular married who frequently goes about Gaza in Western clothes, has already noticed a subtle change since Hamas's election victory last Wednesday.

"You will hear even kids saying to you, 'your head isn't covered now but it will be. You can drive now but you won't be able to later." She relates, too, how a woman friend described telling a neighbour that her child attended Gaza City's American school. "What, you send her to the crusader school?" the shocked neighbour replied. "Why don't you send her to the Sheikh Ahmed Yassin school [named after the late Hamas founder] where she can learn languages as well as the Koran?" Ms Ayesh added: "All this happened before but it's been happening more since the election."

If the above is correct then even after this short time following the Hamas election "victory" things are already changing - and not necessarily for the better!

Read the full articl…

How Israelis View Hamas Win

For some inexplicible reason the world still seems in some sort of shock about the victory of Hamas in the recent elections. Clearly, many will need to "adjust" their thinking to the new realities on the ground.

The NY Times today [Sunday edition] carries an interesting article on how some Israelis view the Hamas victory. It would appear, with reservations, with a degree of cautious optimism. It may well be misplaced, but both Hamas and the Israelis will, sooner or later, have to attempt some sort of rapproachment. How long that might take, and what the intervening period will bring with it, may be another matter altogether.

I suspect that it will, in the final analysis, be the Israelis who will have to yield by giving up parts of the West Bank and the occupation of Palestinian land. Interestingly, some commentators are already referring to a "truce" between Hamas and the Israelis......rather than Hamas recognising Israel as such. Hmmmm!!!!

Then aga…

Clive James Talks....

Clive James is well known, amongst other things, as a commentator, TV personality, writer and something of a very cynical gad-fly.

James now has his own blog or web-site CliveJames.com.

Read this interesting interview with James as he explains his blog [salon?] and how he sees things on that front.

Audit: US Squandered Aid for Iraq

A US Government audit of the aid-monies intended for Iraq has found that millions upon millions of dollars were squandered - and certainly didn't get to where it was intended. The Report even speaks of outright fraud being involved.

What will George Bush and Co have to say now? And do we see the ever-pervasive hand of Dick Cheney's old company Haliburton in there somewhere?

Read the article on the Report from Yahoo News here.

USA - Blissfully Ignorant!

With a population in the order of 300 million it is somewhat surprising that only a mere 10% of Americans have a passport.

Then again, it is not! The USA is singularly insular and Americans generally care little about what is happening outside the country's shores. Turn on the so-called nightly World News on any major TV network and at best there might be some 60 seconds of news "bytes" covering 2 or 3 "topics" overseas. Only a major event sees a slightly longer "report".

Ah, the NYT would be better you say! Sadly not! It's coverage of international events - save for something major - is very limited indeed. Perhaps a few short paragraphs at best. The Business Section of the NYT doesn't even list what foreign stock exchanges have been doing.

It all boils down to not really caring what is "out there". All is reasonably well at home, the US is the best country in the world, what could be happening in the world which co…

OK, Who is this Hamas?

The Palestinian elections have been held, Hamas has won a decisive victory over Fatah and no one is suggesting that the vote was conducted in other than an orderly fashion. The issue is that the US, the Israelis and many others do not like the outcome of the election - Hamas, rightly, being described as a terrorist group or organisation which has engaged in suicide bombings and called for the overthrow of Israel.

Where the win of Hamas in the election will all lead to in the scheme of things with respect to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a moot point. Uncertainty will doubtlessly rein!

But, who is Hamas? This article in the Guardian Unlimited details the background to the organisation.

Meanwhile, this latest article from Haaretz makes for interesting reading from an Israeli perspective and the issues thrown up by the Hamas victory.

Remembering....

Today marks Holocaust Rememberance Day.....

Little more need be said but to reflect on what the Holocaust unleashed and its devastating consequences. Mans inhumanity to man was shown at its worst. Sadly genocide still continues to this day in many parts of the world.

Read this article from Deutsche Welle on what the Day means.

Happy Birthday

Today marks the day, 250 years ago, when Mozart was born.

Who hasn't come to appreciate Mozart? - even if the music has been no more than that used in a film or on tv.

Mozart was clearly a genius. To think he died so young, and a pauper to boot, is tragic. Interestingly, Mozart's wife survived him for some 50 years [a long time some 200 years ago] and was largely responsible for ensuring Mozart's music was duly recognised and accepted.

Want to know and read more about Mozart? Just type in "Mozart" on Google or Yahoo and be overwhelmed.....

Hamas: Who are the People Behind It?

"Though the leaders of the military wing of Hamas, responsible for suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis, stay underground and out of sight, the group's local political figures will be prominent in the new Palestinian Parliament, while its overall leadership is in Syria".

So begins an article in the IHT. Read the complete article here - detailing who the people actually "behind" Hamas actually are.

Whilst the world is surprised about the outcome of the Palestinian election - had people not read and followed what Hamas was doing and saying in Gaza and the West Bank let alone appreciated the corruption of the Fatah Movement? - it comes as no surprise to me that Hamas did as well as it did. What was in it for Palestinians to vote for Fatah?

How things now play out in the Middle East will be interesting to follow. The dymanics have certainly changed. Whether for the better or the worse remains to be seen!

Mideast Democracy Boosts Islamists

"Islamic fundamentalists who oppose U.S. interests in the Middle East have benefited from the U.S. policy of promoting democracy, making significant gains in recent elections".

So begins a rather fascinating article [here] reporting on the non-partisan Congressional Research Services'assessment on what so-called democracy in the Middle East has wrought. It's an outcome far from what George Bush and Co. [and US allies] would have expected, let alone wanted. Life isn't that straight-forward as Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld obviously still do not understand. Platitudes are one thing - reality quite another!

At Last! - Detection of Spyware

"A free website (StopBadware.org) launching Wednesday [in the USA] plans to provide a list of programs that contain spyware and other malicious software. It will also identify companies that develop the programs and distribute them on the Internet'.

This could well be the website which many have been waiting for. Read the whole article [from USA Today] on what will be available here.

So Much for the Success in Iraq George Bush Speaks Of...

Only today George Bush was waxing lyrical about the successes in Iraq. Another spin or delusion on his and Cheney's part. Or perhaps an inability to read the reports available to the Administration? Whatever.....

"The first official history of the $25 billion American reconstruction effort in Iraq depicts a program hobbled from the outset by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting, secrecy and constantly increasing security costs, according to a preliminary draft".

Read an article on the full report published in the IHT here - and shake your head!

More Musing on Travel

Following on from my recent posting about travelling in Europe, those shores are now behind me and I am in warm Hawaii. Despite the cold in Europe it is so wonderful to be part of, see and experience all that the various Continental countries have to offer.

I recently commented on Australia's poor record in educating its children to speak a second language - more than haltingly, if at all! So, I am not laughing at my experiences of "manglish" in Europe. But on menus some funny and puzzling things do appear. "Chrimp" - shrimp. And a starter of "ewes old cheese" doesn't sound too enticing. But what to make of an offer on the menu of "embezzled eggs?". Looks like one could be caught up in some sort of crime whilst innocently munching one's muesli and eggs......

USA v Google

The USA is in dispute with Google as it seeks from records from the widely-used web search engine - and Google resists.

It all has sinister overtones consistent with the eavesdropping the Bush Administration has been enagaged in - and which has been in the news lately.

Read this analysis of the issues in play in this article from the IHT. It is all rather worrisome and potentially could affect how we all use the internet be it for emails or whatever.

Mike Carlton on Howard and those WMDs

Mike Carlton is back is the SMH with his first column for 2006.

Unless people outside Sydney access his column on line it is "lost" to those who don't read the SMH.

I regard Carlton as almost compulsory reading not only because of his sarcasm and acerbic wit but also because his pointed barbs and comments are almost always on the mark!

This week is no exception. Read his column here....and reflect on John Howard and those WMDs etc.

Iraq: Vets on the Ground

The Sundance Film Festival is underway once again.

One of the documentaries being shown this year is "The Ground Truth" - dealing with the thoughts and responses of a number of Iraq Vets to why they enlisted in the US Army, their experiences on the ground in Iraq, etc. etc.

Read an interview with the Vets in this AlterNet article. It's an interesting insight - and makes one wonder how many others in the US Army share the same view.

Almost Certainly bin Laden: Robert Fisk

Well known journalist and Middle East expert Robert Fisk is one of the few people to have actually met Osama bin Laden - on more than on occassion. More importantly still is the fact that Fisk has lived in Beirut for many years and knows the Middle East like no other journalist. No "reporting" from a hotel room for Fisk. He is always in the thick of things on the ground.

With a new audio tape said to be from bin Laden questions have been raised whether it is a genuine recording. Fisk is almost certain that is and provides his views in this analysis in this article in The Independent.

AWB, Truthfulness and the Howard Government

As the Cole Inquiry into the AWB unfolds things aren't looking too good for the directors of the company nor, quite likely, Lord Downer, his Department and perhaps even John Howard.

To have the MD of a public company respond as he has at the AWB Inquiry is a disgrace. Then again, Lachlan Murdoch didn't demonstrate any genius either whilst being cross-examined at the One.Tel Court Case in Sydney. Not that James Packer [suffering from amnesia at his age?] showed himself up as a competent director when he was in the witness box in the same litigation.

Crikey in its "editorial comment" yesterday, tied it all together rather neatly this way:

"There's nowhere to hide. That's the point about what goes on in courts, Royal Commissions and other legal or parliamentary formal inquiries – as Lachlan Murdoch discovered to his extreme embarrassment in the One.Tel court hearings last year, and as Australian Wheat Board managing director Andrew Lindberg is finding …

Children's TV - Hamas Style!

The West doesn't often get an insight to what is actually happening "on the ground" as it were, in Gaza or the West Bank.

This article from the NY Times [also published in the International Herald Tribune] details how Hamas is operating children's TV in Gaza on Gaza's newest TV station.

Many will feel discomforted by what they read - but ignorance of what is actually happening in this volatile region isn't helpful to anyone, especially those purporting to pursue and support peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

How Bush and the Republicans Play Dirty

No one could accuse either George Bush or Dick Cheney - especially Cheney - as having any scruples. That has been demonstrated over and over again in the way the Bush Administration and its Republican supporters have lied and smeared their way through many things over the last years. Remember the disgraceful campaign to discredit Vietnam war veteran John Kerry?

In this hard-hitting, no holds barred article in AlterNet, Stephen Pizzo details how what he describes as Bushs' Brown Shirts are at it again, this time targetting John Murtha [again a war veteran] who has garnered much support in his call for US forces to be withdrawn from Iraq. What makes for distressing reading is the track-record of the so-called Brown Shirts.....and the media's apparent reluctance to take them on.

Torture in Iraq: Human Rights Watch Accuses USA

On the very same day that President Bush had some Iraqis at the White House said to have been subjected to torture and imprisonment by Saddam Hussein - and piously proclaimed what an evil man Saddam had been and how things were now much improved with Saddam out of the way! - Human Rights Watch released its 532-page 2006 World Report. It does not make for happy reading, especially in relation to the actions of the Americans in Iraq. See a synopsis here.

"The evidence showed that abusive interrogation [in Iraq] cannot be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior U.S. government officials. The policy has hampered Washington’s ability to cajole or pressure other states into respecting international law".

So, how will Australia and the others countries who formed the Coalition of the Willing respond to the Report? Probably dismissively - unless the media steps up to the plate and starts asking critical questions.

Oprah Winfrey to Visit Auschwitz

The NYT has just reported that Oprah Winfrey, accompanied by Elie Wiesel, is to visit Auschwitz - and also make the author's book "Night" [newly edited by his wife Marion] her next book-of-the-month selection.

Of itself her going to Auschwitz and recommending the book is not of great moment - save that because of Winfrey's enormous following those many ignorant about Auschwitz and the Holocaust will probably be "introduced" to it for the first time. If the book-of the-month recommendation means that people read "Night" then Winfrey has done many a service in learning something not only about history a mere 60-65 years ago but the evils of prejudice, intolerance and man's inhumanity to man simply because of their religion or ethnic background.

Giving Palestinians a Chance Post Sharon

Whilst the world watches what is happening with the health [?] of Ariel Sharon, the pr machine, around the world, is painting him as the "warrior" turned peace-maker. The facts, however, do not in any way support Sharon as having done anything to either secure peace for Israel let alone achieve any accommodation with the Palestinians.

It is therefore refreshing to read a reasoned assessment by the President of the Arab American Institute [Dr. James Zogby] on the web-site truthout on how things are playing out now post Sharon [and how Sharon's policies have stood in the way of resolving the ongoing conflict in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank] and what must be done if some sort of peace is to be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians.

38% Oz Families Pay No Tax - And Yet Are Unhappy!

"IMAGINE that you were able to (legally) pay no income tax. You'd feel pretty happy, right? Apparently not. This year an astonishing 38 per cent of Australian families will pay nothing to the Government in net terms, and there's plenty of evidence to suggest they're anything but happy".

So starts an incisive article by Peter Martin [former economics commentator on the ABC and now with SBS] in the SMH. Martin highlights, not for the first time, the absurd tax system which Messrs Howard and Costello have allowed to continue, and proliferate, now over 10 years. Read the entire article here.

To suggest that Costello has been a great Treasurer must surely be a joke!

To read that 38% of Australian families pay no tax - yet have cause for complaint with the Government - should be yet another wake-up call that something, drastic, needs to be done to get the tax system to work properly and equitably. Costello's recent boast that he had "reformed" the sys…

Legal Challenge to Eavesdropping in the USA

Pres. Bush has arrogantly asserted that he has the right, and legal basis, for eavesdropping on Americans. There are many informed people in the US, including Congressmen and Senators, who would challenge the unfettered right Bush has assumed to himself.

Now comes news, as reported here in the NY Times, that 2 law suits are in the pipeline to be issued about the whole eavesdropping "thing". The proposed plaintiffs are a diverse collection of people - including Christopher Hitchens, a supporter of the Iraq War.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out - especially with calls for the impeachment of Bush.

Meanwhile, read this most interesting opinion piece and analysis [The Imperial Presidency] on the issue from the IHT.

Afghanistan? - Forgotten!

"A suicide bomber yesterday rode into town, killing at least 20 in the deadliest insurgent attack since the US invasion. More than 1,600 were killed in 2005, and the murder rate is rising. The rule of law has collapsed. The government is trapped in its own fortified compound in the capital. Soon, Britain will commit another 3,500 troops to a dangerous mission with no clear goals or exit strategy..."

The world seems to have moved on to the next "conflict" [Iraq - and perhaps now Iran too!] on the erroneous basis - no doubt fostered by the pr statements emanating from politicians in the West - that Afghanistan is well on the road to recovery from all its many travails.

Nothing could be further from the truth! - as the start of an article in The Independent [above] makes perfectly clear. Read the entire article here.

20 January update: Read this sobering assessment of how things are faring in Afganistan - whilst the Bush Administration continues to perpetrate the bi…

Beyond MLK Jr's "I Have a Dream"....

Today is a public holiday in the USA commemorating the late Martin Luther King Jr.

We have all seen the footage of King's well-known speech [in Washington] "I Have a Dream". What is perhaps less known is that King's actions and legacy go way beyond his action in seeking equality for Afro-Americans. Read this interesting article from AlterNet detailing and analysing the "impact" of MLK Jr., not only in America, but abroad as well.

Veteran Correspondent Speaks - Quit Iraq!

"Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he'd say the same thing today about Iraq.

It's my belief that we should get out now"

Yes, Cronkite may have only been an anchorman for the nightly CBS News but he was said to be the most trusted man on TV and it is generally acknowledged that he did have a considerable influence on American opinion.

Although now 89, it will be interesting to see how Cronkite's comments - as reported here - will play out with the American electorate, especially in a mid-term election year.

Oops.....Another US Bungle!

The US still does not seem to understand that utilising its undoubted military power does not translate to winning the hearts and minds of people around the world.

The latest debacle in wrongly bombing a mountain village in Pakistan, killing 18 innocent civilians, is suggestive of not only faulty intelligence - not for the first time as countless bombings and killing of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown - but a blatant disregard for the people of the nation where the raid has taken place. Might it be consistent with a view that should innocent civilians be killed - inevitably poor peasants and their children - that they are expendable and so-be-it if the greater good is served in possibly killing or tracking down a wanted terrorist? Bear in mind that the US still maintains that it keeps no body count of Iraqis killed or injured during the Iraq War? One needs to ask - why not?

Read this report in The Guardian on the latest US attack in Pakistan and the Americans'…

US Abandons its "Marshall Plan" for Iraq

The US has committed some US $18.6 billion toward the reconstruction of Iraq. Further funding is to now cease. The US expects the Iraqis to look after re-construction themselves and private investment to assist too.

It's seems like a find hope and has all the hallmarks of "cutting and running" - something Bush, Blair and Howard have vowed they would not do. So, the poor Iraqis are to be left to 4 hours electricity per day and in stifling conditions a severe lack of air-conditioning. Roads are in urgent need of repair. And that's only the beginning of it.

The whole sorry mess - described as a "shambles" - is detailed in this article in the LA Times.

Quote of the Week

Maureen Dowd writes a weekly column in the New York Times. It is usually most acerbic and highly critical of George Bush and the men around him.

This quotable quote [I think] from her latest column says it all...

"What's truly bad for our morale is when the president suggests it's dishonest to have an honest debate about the Bush cabal's dishonesty".

A Critical British View of the US Army in Iraq

Somewhat surprisingly, the US Army has published what can only be described as a scathing critic, by a senior British military officer, of the US army in Iraq.

The Washington Post starts its article, reporting on the critique, thus:

"A senior British officer has written a scathing critique of the U.S. Army and its performance in Iraq, accusing it of cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement and unwarranted optimism there."

Read the entire WP article here - and again ponder what this all means in the context of, inter alia, winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Impeaching George Bush - continued

"Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush - not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so.

I can still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach during those proceedings, when it became clear that the President had so systematically abused the powers of the presidency and so threatened the rule of law that he had to be removed from office. As a Democrat who opposed many of President Nixon's policies, I still found voting for his impeachment to be one of the most sobering and unpleasant tasks I ever had to undertake. None of the members of the committee took pleasure in voting for impeachment; after all, Democrat or Republican, Nixon was still our President".

So begins an in…

Are Newspapers Doomed?

A lot has been written lately about the decline in newspaper-readership and newspapers around the world cutting back on reporters and staff generally.

It would appear that many people now prefer to get their news via the net [hence the huge rise in the number of blogs] or tv. The latter, as we all know, is a wasteland - and anyone, for instance, relying on Fox News in the USA would barely get any news at all, and then what was provided would be slanted to fit the views of the Sun King Rupert Murdoch.

In an interesting article by Joseph Epstein in Commentary on his assessment of newspapers, he details his views on why, for example, the New York Times isn't such a great newspaper. Just about all of what he writes can be said about most other newspapers around the world. Life-style issues seem to be the go. Hard news is being relegated to a small proportion of the newspaper, if at all, as newspapers increasingly do away with their own reporters scattered across the globe. And …

Musings on Travelling in Europe....

I am presently in Europe - or Marbella [Spain] to be precise. Other places visited to date have been Paris, Bruges and Antwerp. Each has been delightful even if freezing cold.

There are a number of interesting things to observe for an Aussie. First, whilst Australians might be health conscience [well to a degree!] forget about low-fat or skinny milk with that coffee, margarine instead of butter at breakfast or low-fat anything. As for smoking, the laws prohibit it in restaurants - but in the main it is simply ignored. Oh yes, do not be surprised if you share your dinner with the diners alongside you having brought along the family pet-dog! Surprisingly, the dogs all seem well-behaved! And we won't even go into driving habits..... Each person for himself, be they car-drivers, motor cyclists, moped-riders or pedestrians!

What never ceases to amaze is the ability of the "locals" to speak English so well. It is an indictment of our education system tha…

Bruce Shapiro on the Alito Hearing

Bruce Shapiro will be known to those who listen to Phillip Adams' Late Night Live on ABC Radio National. Shapiro is a weekly commentator on the happenings in the USA, especially Washington.

It is therefore interesting toread- he is a contributor to magazine The Nation - Shapiro's up to the minute "take"on the Senate inquiry relating to Samuel Alito, Bushs' nominee to the Supreme Court.

It would not be in the interests of Australia to follow the US model of inquiries into judicial appointments [or nominees to Cabinet] but more transparency into the whole process is certainly called for - and well overdue.

Bush and Saddam - Birds of a Feather!

"The way George Bush sees the proper functioning of the US justice system bears a striking similarity to the way the Iraqi justice system functioned under Saddam Hussein. In other words, whatever the President declares to be law, is the law. In that sense the US and the former regime in Iraq enjoyed an unexpected synchronicity".

I have made no secret of the fact that I am an admirer of Richard Ackland and his writings.

The above quote is from Ackland's first opinion piece in the SMH for 2006. It is a sobering read for it details how George Bush is trampling or ignoring important legislation in the US with ramifications including those effecting David Hicks. Read the entire article here.

Needless to say the Australian Government will continue to treat Hicks as already guilty - and certainly do nothing to ensure that he gets a fair trial. 5 years imprisonment without a trial even underway? When will A-G Ruddock assume the mantle of first law-officer in the land? …

Nominee Judge Alito - The Bigot!

"People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic.

The physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports. And homosexuals are demanding the Government vouchsafe them the right to bear children."

So said Samuel Alito......in an article in a Princeton University alumni magazine [Concerned Alumni of Princeton].

Need anything more be said about the suitability of Samuel Alito? - George Bushs' nominee for appointment to the US Supreme Court. Condemned out of his own mouth - as being a bigot......!

Nominee Alito - and Australia?

The US Senate is presently "examing" the nomination by George Bush of Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court.

If reports out of the US are correct there are many in favour of his appointment [he is very, very conservative to say the least - if not right-wing] if for no other reason that he is pro-life and all that entails. Supporters see the possibility of Roe v Wade being overturned.

On the other hand, detractors of Alito make out a compelling case for his nomination to be defeated. Read this article from AlterNet by Martha Burk [of Ms Magazine] on how Alito's appointment to the Supreme Court would most likely set back the interests of women.

We should not think that what happens in the US will not have some sort of ripple-effect in Australia. Australian courts do not follow US courts as a rule but it is the conservative nature of the Bench in Australia, and all that flows from that, which cannot be ignored. We are already seeing religious groups and vocal mi…

Whither Now in Iraq?

The news today reports that Kim Beazley has called for the withdrawal of US and other forces from Iraq.

It will be interesting to see how this call plays out in Australia - for the subject of Iraq has not attracted nearly enough discussion, if any, in those quarters where it matters. For instance, the press has almost completely ignored challenging John Howard and his key Ministers about the ever-increasing mess unfolding in Iraq.

With the US reported to have determined not to provide any more funds for re-construction in Iraq and day-to-day conditions in Iraq deteriorating and oil productions / supplies reducing, one can only wonder how Iraq will not slip into being a total basket-case. A commentator on CNN yesterday suggested that the US may take the position that elections have been held and so what happens hereafter is for the Government and people of Iraq to decide for themselves. In other words, the allied forces can "walk" on the basis that the Iraqis w…

More on American Wiretapping....

This excellent opinion-piece by Frank Rich in the NYT puts into context the way the US Administration has used wire-taps, illegally, it's over the top condemnation of the NYT for revealing the illegal eavesdropping a few weeks ago and Dick Cheney's quite extraordinary claim, last week, that had the Administration been able to use wire-taps more extensively, 9/11 could have been prevented. Oh yeah? What Cheney asserts is false - given Congressional-committee findings in relation to 9/11 and other revelations about the CIA and FBI post 9/11.

What is so very troubling about the actions of Bush and Co. is that there seems little recognition - let alone understanding, certainly not publicly - that their actions were no better than those of tricky Dicky Nixon back in the early 70's, or that a President is not above the law. But then again, the cabal around Bush appear to have no sense of legal or moral responsibility in relation to either their words or actions. Just r…

Magna Carta Lost in America?

As debate swirls around in the USA about George Bushs' authorised illegal use of eavesdropping, it reflects but one action of the President, as also others in common law countries, winding back the Magna Carta - and all it does, and has represented, since 1215.

In this article from Mother Jones Nick Turse asks whether the US is back to 1214. With Gonzales as George Bushs' Attorney General and Dick Cheney doubtlessly goading on the President one could not be confident that the rule of law, and all that entails, will prevail in America.

Living [or Flying?] Solo

"FEW expect it or would ever have chosen it. Sometimes it comes as a nasty shock. But a growing number of Australians are finding themselves living alone - and they are surprised by how much they like it.

When relationships break down, partners die, or Mr or Ms Right fails to turn up on time, many people have no option but to go solo, says the social research company Ipsos Mackay".

So starts an interesting and revealing article by Jordan Baker in the SMH about life, as lived, in Australia in early 2006. 9% of the population, and growing, living alone? What does that say for relationships down the track and the ramifications for housing, work, retirement, etc? And what will the impact be on 30 and 40 year-olds socially? Bottom line, it may come down to a preference - fly solo, with all that entails [good and bad] or just accept the facts of life!

The Common Law in 2005

I have previously noted that I consider Richard Ackland - who writes, amongst other things, a regular column for the SMH - one of Australia's most acute and critical observers of the "legal scene" in Australia.

Ackland's column of 30 December last [read it here] is, as always, well worth reading as he reflects on the common law in 2005. It doesn't make for happy reading....

Then and Now...

I have been, and continue, to travel in Europe as I write this. Cold, cold weather.....

Be that as it may, the world goes on - even if this blogger has been tardy since just before Xmas. Amongst other things, Ariel Sharon lies ill in critical condition [whilst the media and politicians refer to a "warrior" turned "peace-maker" - eh?] and the war in Iraq seems to get worse.

I wrote recently about the use of the "i" word [ie impeachment] of George Bush being canvassed, by some, in Washington. Read this interesting article on comparing how the press reacted at the time to Bill Clinton and the infamous Lewinsky affair [a president with a 60% approval rating] and what they are saying about Bush [who, at best, has about a 40% approval rating] who misled [some would say lied!] the country into a war - at great personal and financial cost to the USA.

Reflections on 2005....

Another year has passed......

Sad to say the last 12 months have seen natural disasters in monumental proportions, the continuation of wars, conflicts and skirmishes around the globe, famine and disease rage on and politicians engaged in lots of talk [and little action] and seemingly more spin [lies and deception] than ever.

The media has been slow if not absent in challenging the powers that be. Thankfully blogs have stepped in and thrown down the gauntlet in many respects.

2006? A better year. Probably not. But let's err on the side of optimism and hope so.

Happy New Year from Paris. Thanks to those who have come aboard this blog. I look forward to our "association" over the next year. Be well and take care......and have a great 2006.