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Showing posts from March, 2006

Accuser becomes the Accused

The US is forever asserting that this or that country is engaged in some sort of infringement of citizens's rights and liberties. But when it comes to claims that the USA is violating the rights of others America not only refutes the allegations but becomes quite defensive.

That said it isn't that easy to brush off a UN investigator, who for example is reported in seattlepi.com as saying

"The United Nations' special investigator on torture said Thursday he was certain that there are secret U.S. prisons in Europe and he wants access to them.

Manfred Nowak said he had proof that secret U.S. prisons continue to operate in Europe.

"I am 100 percent sure. I have evidence," Nowak said in an interview with The Associated Press."

Nowak has also severely criticised Guantanamo and the conditions there and in response to US assertions that Nowak hasn't been there, he says the conditions imposed on any visit were such that he would be unable to make an independe…

Iraq: Not a Country Anymore

"Think about contractors in Iraq, and what's the first thing that comes to mind? Halliburton, raking in billions and overcharging taxpayers by billing the government for stuff it never delivered, and then getting bonuses for almost all its questionable charges? The Lincoln Group, paying Iraqi journalists to plant "good news" stories in the press? The Pentagon's private army of outsourced "security specialists," like Blackwater and Custer Battles, the mercenaries whose greed and shameful tactics make the CIA look like choirboys?

You'd be right. And wrong.

Wrong because what you probably don't know is that these miscreants are not the only contractors there. There is also a not-nearly-large-enough cadre of contractors who don't make millions."

Most of them work for USAID - the much-maligned US Agency for International Development. They are both Americans and Iraqis - Shia, Sunni, Kurd. And they work side by side every day, in an environme…

Palestinians v The World Stalemating Them

As news just comes that Canada will boycott the new Palestinian Authority and not provide it with the aid it previously did [see the report here]- because the Government is Hamas-led - on it's first day in office the Authority is facing a crippling financial crisis reports Aljazeerahere.

The US is reviewing its position although its diplomats have already been instructed to have no contact with the Authority.

How this will all play out remains to be seen but a number of issues immediately come to mind. First, was the Authority not democratically elected? No one has suggested otherwise. Second, are there not double-standards at play here? Western Governments don't usually boycott Governments whose policies they don't like or they otherwise don't agree with. Thirdly, how on earth is any peace-process ever going to get underway with an Authority the principal players won't talk to? Fourthly, won't the Palestinians be driven into the arms of countri…

Israelis & Palestinians: Parellel Restraint an Objective?

"...... expectations need to be lowered: there will be no handshakes on the White House lawn, talks at Camp David or shuttle diplomacy. The peace process, for so long the subject of so much attention, is gone. The best we can hope for is that negotiations will be replaced not by unilateralism but by a form of parallelism. For while the Israelis are choosing to pull up stakes and establish new borders, Hamas may forsake terrorism for a while so that it can focus on improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians and show that it can run a functioning government with a minimum of corruption. It may put forward a reasonable face of moderation to the world, a face of restraint, at least temporarily."

So writes James Rubin, former Under Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration in an opinion piece in The Times.

Rubin says that the objective ought to be to bring about "parellel restraint". That said, he analyses what now confronts Israelis and the Palestinians and s…

Worthy of Promotion - Not!

"With me today is Joshua Bolten, who will be the new White House Chief of Staff. Josh is a man with broad experience, having worked on Capitol Hill and Wall Street and the White House staff, and for nearly three years as a Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Josh is a creative policy thinker. He's an expert on the budget and our economy. He's respected by members of Congress from both parties; he's a strong advocate for effective accountable management in the federal government".

That is what George Bush said when announcing the appointment of Bolten as his new White House Chief of Staff. See the White House announcement here.

Bush is evidently trying what Pres. Reagan did in the 80's in re-arranging the deck chairs to halt his faltering presidency. But Bolten as a suitable candidate and worthy of being promoted as he has been?

Objectively, one would have thought not. This is the man when appointed Director of Office Management and Bud…

Oz Federal Govt: Big Brother Reading & Listening!

"New laws giving law enforcement agencies the power to access phone calls, e-mails and text messages from innocent people were passed by the Senate today".

This new legislation, the subject of a Senate inquiry, has attracted little media coverage. No doubt the Commonwealth Games "news" and the on-going AWB enquiry was a convenient distraction.

Now, as the SMH has just reported the Bill has been passed - with the Government having the numbers.

1984 has truly arrived! This new legislation is an intrusion on civil liberties even if brought in under the guise of anti-terrorism laws.

With the general public being apathethic they have only themselves to blame if they see their privacy and liberties eroded one by one.

Israelis and Palestinians: More Conflict to Come?

Coincidentally, the Palestinians have just sworn in their new Government whilst the Israelis have just concluded their election. That said, the signs are not good for how things will play out in the future.

BBC News reports on the Palestinian swearing-in, and the consequences of that, and how it should be viewed, here.

Meanwhile the AFR this morning reports the following in relation to what was said at the swearing-in:

- Hamas law-maker Hamed Bitawi said: "The Koran is our constitution, jihad is our way, and death for the sake of God is our highest aspiration".

- Hamas Minister of Information Youssef Rizka said: "We cannot recognise Israel. The land of Palestine is ours and not for the Jews". Not words one would attribute to people attempting some sort of resolution with Israel.

On the other side, as far as the Israelis are concerned, if they do proceed with a unilateral determination of what is Israeli land and what is Palestinian [probably creating some…

Where Your Dollars are Going....

Crikey is required reading for detailing a variety of matters one simply reads no where else.

Today's Crikey reveals the following:

"By June, Australia's war in Iraq will have cost taxpayers $1.2 billion, according to defence think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute. That's enough to buy:

42 new high schools each catering for 720 year 7-10 students ... or

Two 740-bed hospitals ... or

116,346 fully subsidised new Long Day Care childcare places (for one year) ... or
25 kilometres of six-lane freeway (at $48 million per kilometre) ... or

480,000 new places in the New Apprenticeships access program that caters to occupations where there are skills shortages ... or

83 new technical colleges.

Depending on your point of view, it's the price we're paying for a) securing Iraqi freedom or b) our subscription fee to the Australia-US alliance. Either way, that's a lot of Australian schools and child care places."

Meanwhile, if you want to keep abreast of "thin…

Lord Downer of Baghdad, AWB and the Cole Inquiry

No more need be added to this Editorial [perhaps surprising coming from where it does] in The Australian this morning:

"DESPITE all the apparent evidence of commercial corruption and bureaucratic incompetence emerging at the Cole inquiry, two questions are unaddressed. Did Foreign Minister Alexander Downer believe anything he said when he explained the need for Australian troops to fight Saddam Hussein? And if he did, how could he ignore any allegation that AWB was paying off an enemy Australia went to war against twice in 12 years? The Foreign Minister still says he believed AWB's denials that it paid bribes to the Iraqi dictator. It is a curious defence that can easily create the impression that Mr Downer is either a dill or a cynic unwilling to explain what he really thought about the ethics involved if AWB was paying bribes in Iraq. With this week's revelation that as late as last September he was telling the UN's Volcker inquiry that bribery was just a routine par…

Chomsky on the Israel Lobby

An article in the London Review of Books recently on the so-called Israel Lobby has elicited an interesting response and dialogue by many on the web - and, no doubt, elsewhere.

Needless to say there have been some strident views put forward by both sides of the debate.

Now, Noam Chomsky has weighed in with his views on the so-called Israel Lobby. Read the Chomsky piece on ZNethere.

Election Outcome in Israel

At the time of writing, with 96% of the vote counted, Haaretz reports:

"Declaring an election victory, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appealed to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas early Wednesday to enter into negotiations over the permanent borders of Israel, but added that Israel would act alone if peace efforts remained stalled".

Read the full article here, especially how the respective parties fared - but the omens aren't positive. Israel going it alone in relation to its borders will surely spell trouble. And then there are the other political parties in Israel who may well influence what the country does both politically and economically.

On the other side of the fence, as it were, Hamas has gained parliamentary approval - as reported here by BBC News. Yet another dimension to this unfolding situation in the area.

A Voice for Arab-Israelis?

Arab-Israelis rarely figure in any discussions about Israel - although they represent some 20% of the population. Sadly, as a group they are, in practical terms, discriminated against.

Needless to say what Arab-Israelis see as important in the current elections cannot be ignored. Yet, they are a voice almost forgotten or at least overlooked.

"Abdel-Hakim Muffed, a spokesman for the Islamic Movement, one of the Arab parties contesting the elections, says: "It doesn't matter for us who wins the elections.

"The main problem is that Israel is classified as a Jewish state and that we are not even recognised as a minority with that state."

Israel often declares that it is an island of democracy in a region controlled by autocrats and kings."

Read this piece from Al Jareeza on how Arab-Israelis view the election. The article contains some surprises......including the thought by some that an Olmert election-victory could conceivably prove a positive for Palest…

Clash of Emotions, Not Civilisations

"In the Simon Jenkins column linked to yesterday, he said: "Blair is now trotting round the world and showing his fear of Bin Laden". Australian commentators though, are made of weaker stuff, and report Blair (round-up below) as if he were a visiting deity, come to show us the way, the truth and the light rather than a pollie selling soiled and increasingly unpopular wares. (For anyone inclined to wonder when this country might grow up, one short answer is "not so long as we have such a mediocre media".) So, let's take a tour and see what the grown ups are saying about Iraq and terrorism."

This interesting "take" on Blair's visit to Oz taken from The Daily Briefing goes on to analyse what people are saying around the world. Worth reading..... here.

The Other Side of Dubai

This staggering statistic comes from an article in The Independent:

"Fifty per cent of the world's supply of cranes are now at work in Dubai on projects worth $100bn - twice the World Bank's estimated cost of reconstructing Iraq and double the total foreign investment in China, the word's third-largest economy."

But for all the building activity in Dubai, there is another side to Dubai rarely seen by the "outside" world. Read the full article here.

Iraqi Blogger in Line for Literary Award

"An anonymous Iraqi woman was nominated today as a contender for a major literary award for her internet blog-based account of the Iraq war and its deadly impact on ordinary Iraqi people.

Baghdad Burning, by the university graduate, who uses the pen name Riverbend, is long-listed for the £30,000 ($A73,800) Samuel Johnson prize - the world's richest for a piece of non-fiction."

It demonstrates, yet again, how blogs and bloggers are entering the mainstream.

Read the full article from the The Agehere.

US Justice: Gives Press the Finger and....

"Emerging from mass in Boston on Sunday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia flipped a middle finger to the press."

So reports Editor and Publisherhere.

Great behaviour for a Justice of the highest court in the land. But wait! It gets worse. The gesture and a request not to print the photo of the finger gesture:

"....came on the same day that Newsweek reported on a tape recording of a March 8 lecture by Justice Scalia in which he ridiculed legal claims by detainees of Guantanamo Bay as "crazy." The Supreme Court is now hearing a challenge to the legality of special military tribunals for suspects held at the U.S. prison camp in Cuba.

"War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," Judge Scalia said, during the talk at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, according to Newsweek. "Foreigners, in foreign countries, have no rights under the Amer…

Iraq: "Utter Debacle" says Military Expert

Tony Blair is in Oz talking the talk! - freedom, joining the US and Australia fighting for democracy, taking on extremists, etc. etc. Needless to say PM Howard echos the same platitudes and script.

However, away from the world of fantasy in which Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsie, Condi and Howard reside this:

"Q: What's your assessment of the war in Iraq?

A: Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. (Army Gen.) Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and ... pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That's why he retired immediately afterward. His own staff could tell him what was going to happen afterward.

We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.&q…

Israel: Sensitive to No One and Losing Support

"There has, indeed, been a dramatic turn in opinion. It's very hard to recall the esteem and goodwill in which Israel once basked, not least on the broad liberal left, where there is now a received view that Israel has deserved this change in affections: that Israel and Zionism are vicious now, having been virtuous once. The view may be almost universal - but is it true?"

The question is a critical one - for certainly at one time Israel was seen through almost rose-tinted glasses. Now? Seemingly not if this article in The Guardian [of which the above is part] last Friday is correct. Read Geoffrey Wheatcroft's analysis here.

Downer on that AWB Flugge Fellow [back in 2003]

You will recall seeing those photos in newspapers and on TV recently of Trevor Flugge [the AWB fellow] in Iraq with pistol, etc. And he has given "evidence" [well, laughably so] at the Cole Inquiry into AWB.

This is what Flugge said recently:

"As a chairman, I was trotted out to open doors or to be a figurehead to take a political beating for the sake of doing business or to perform other ceremonial roles."

But, as Crikey points out so pointedly in today's mail-out, this is what our great Lord Downer of Baghdad [increasingly looking like someone caught with his fingers in the cookie-jar] said [as recorded on the DFAT web site] of Flugge at the time of his appointment back in April 2003:

"I want to announce today the appointment of Trevor Flugge , who is a very distinguished Western Australian farmer, as the Joint Senior Agricultural Adviser in Iraq. He'll be jointly holding the position of Senior Adviser with an American – somebody from the United …

Blair's New Spin on Iraqi War

"[It is also] a struggle about values and about modernity, whether to be at ease with it or enraged at it," said Mr Blair, the fifth world leader granted the honour of addressing federal parliament.

"And to win this struggle we have to win the battle of values as much as arms."

So PM Tony Blair is quoted in the SMH [read the full article here] as saying when speaking to the House of Reps. in Canberra this morning.

But what does it mean? Is this a new spin on the reason for going into Iraq? And whose "values" are we talking about here? Those of the Anglican Church or the US, the Brits and Oz? Then there is the "modernity" angle. According to whom and based on what? - assuming one can ascribe a meaning to what is being said anyway.

All rather curious! Perhaps having escaped his travails in the UK for the moment and suffering jet-lag, PM Blair just strung together a succession of [meaningless] words! It would certainly seem so.

IR Laws: Day#1 - and How It Will Work!

"Some of the first to feel the effects of the new workplace laws will be the staff of two Salvation Army aged-care homes in Canberra."

So writes Nick O'Malley in this morning's SMH.

Read the full article here, and see, first hand, how the new IR laws claimed by the Federal Government to benefit workers, will really work and what it means in practical terms. It does not make for happy reading....

More Federal Government Intrusion

"Doctors, lawyers, priests, clerics and journalists may have no right to keep conversations, emails and text messages with clients and parishioners confidential under proposed anti-terrorism laws giving police broader powers to intercept communications" reports this morning's Australian Financial Review.

There is probably no better body in Australia than the Law Council of Australia to comment on the proposed legislation.

Read the Council's Submission to a Senate Committee here. And, be alarmed what our Federal Government is yet again seeking to implement under the guise of anti-terrorism protection.

Coffee Anyone?

The facts speak for themselves as revealed in today's SMH:

CAFE SOCIETY

- More than 1 billion cups of coffee were served in Australia last year.

- The market for coffee has increased by 65 per cent in the past 10 years and is worth $840million.

- Finland has the highest consumption of coffee in the world at 11.2kilograms a head per annum; Australians consume 2.3kilograms a head per year.

- Cappuccino is the most popular coffee sold in Australian cafes, with 438 million cups sold last year.

- There are almost 25 per cent more coffee chains in 2006 compared with last year, and Gloria Jeans has proven the most popular.

Source: BIS Shrapnel Coffee in Australia survey

Wanna Be Happy?

"At Harvard University this semester, students are flocking to a new class that might give them some insight into the secret to happiness. Psychology 1504, or "Positive Psychology," has become the most popular course on campus.

Twice a week, some 900 students attend Tal Ben-Shahar's class on what he calls "how to get happy." He achieved personal happiness by taking himself off the tenure track -- because not having to publish makes him happy. His class offers research from the relatively new field of positive psychology, which focuses on what makes people happy, rather than just their pathologies".

As published on NPR [National Public Radio] these are the 6 Tips for Happiness.

Read, enjoy and learn some ways to make day-to-day just that bit better.....and happy!

This Will Win the Hearts and Minds of Iraqis?

Read this horrifying article from TimesonLine of how US troops are on the rampage in Iraq - and wonder whether this is supposed to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis, let alone demonstrate how good democracy is!

As the article points out:

"The Pentagon claims to have investigated at least 600 cases of alleged abuse by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to have disciplined or punished 230 soldiers for improper behaviour. But a study by three New York-based human rights groups, due to be published next month, will claim that most soldiers found guilty of abuse received only “administrative” discipline such as loss of rank or pay, confinement to base or periods of extra duty."

The Sales Pitch for War

"For me, one of the more odious characteristics of Blair, and Bush, and Clinton, and their eager or gulled journalistic court, is the enthusiasm of sedentary, effete men (and women) for bloodshed they never see, bits of body they never have to retch over, stacked morgues they will never have to visit, searching for a loved one. Their role is to enforce parallel worlds of unspoken truth and public lies. That Milosevic was a minnow compared with industrial-scale killers such as Bush and Blair belongs to the former."

So concludes John Pilger in a piece in newstatesman. It's a very valid point!

Read the entire article here on Pilger's "take" on those who advocate war and the rationale often expressed in support of it. Pilger calls these people the "war lovers".....

George Bush: Go Check Iraq Situation on the Internet

It's likely from previous comments made by George Bush that he is uncertain what this "internet" thing really is....

Be that as it may this past week George Bush told a questioner [an Army wife] to check out for herself on the internet what is happening in Iraq.

"I bet you guys didn't really listen to President Bush this week. Too bad, because for once he told the truth. I listened, heard the truth and checked it out. And, as he promised, it was a real eye-opener.

It happened at one of Bush's fake "town hall meetings" this week. An Army wife asked Bush why the mainstream media only focuses on "the bad news" from Iraq and never reports "the good news." Bush furrowed his brow and nodded in agreement. Earlier in the week the administration launched a Vietnam-era-style "blame the media" campaign to explain plummeting public support for both the war and Bush himself.

The woman's question offered Bush an opportunity for anot…

If This Isn't Apartheid....What is It?

".... new geographic, social and economic reality has emerged in the West Bank" writes Amira Hass in Haaretz. Further, Hass writes:

"The regime of restriction on movement imposed by Israel on the Palestinians has crumbled the West Bank into dozens of closed or partially closed enclaves isolated from each other despite their geographical proximity. Permanent and mobile checkpoints, along with physical barriers of various kinds, fenced-off main roads, limitations on Palestinian traffic on east-west and north-south arteries, have cut off direct transportational links between areas of the West Bank."

One can only ponder how Israel sees this whole situation play out. It can't last, Wall or not! The Palestinians won't tolerate it, many countries around the world won't allow it and Israelis will doubtlessly face more violence. There are no winners!

Read the full Haaretz piece here - on the eve of the Israeli elections.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

21 March last marked International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

All too sadly, racial discimination, in many guises, still exists around the world. There are many, many instances of plain bigotry and prejudice evident in various ways.

As far as I can see, the Day wasn't marked in Australia - probably "buried" by the Commonwealth Games - or even noted anywhere. So much for Australia's adherence to the tenets and principles of the UN.

Tolerance.org has published on its web site the message of Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, marking the Day. Read it here - and reflect on the racism you witness around you in Oz and overseas.

Whilst checking out the Tolerance web site to read the Annan Message take a few minutes to look at this other part of Tolerances' web site - Speak Up! - which can be viewed here.

Dire Warning of the Pollution Gap

PM Tony Blair arrives in Australia today. It is reported that will make some major speeches whilst here.

Meanwhile, back home, The Independent reports on what it describes as a "stark warning, contained in a private Government document commissioned by Gordon Brown"....

"Over 70 million Africans and an even greater number of farmers in the Indian sub-continent will suffer catastrophic floods, disease and famine if the rich countries of the world fail to change their habits and radically cut their carbon emissions.

The stark warning, contained in a private Government document commissioned by Gordon Brown, comes days ahead of an announcement that will show Tony Blair backing away from his promise to "lead internationally" on climate change. The Government has decided to delay setting targets for industry to cut carbon emissions until other EU governments set theirs. Previously, Mr Blair has made a virtue out of leading the way in Europe."

Even if the Report …

So, What's New About US TV News?

"Walter Cronkite has castigated producers of the network nightly newscasts for including stories about "your health and mine and your backyard and mine and all that kind of thing" at the expense of more substantive reports. "It doesn't belong in the evening news," Cronkite said during an interview on Texas Monthly Talks, which airs on Texas public broadcasting stations. "We're the most important nation in the world ... and there are these other very important stories in a very complicated world that we need to cover. We can't do that in 15 or 16 minutes." Apparently suggesting that the television networks ought to dispense with commercials during their nightly newscasts, Cronkite remarked, "The networks should be giving us the full half hour. ... It's ridiculous to have as little time as we have."

This from newsvine.com.

So, what's new? Anyone who has watched the so-called nightly "news" on US TV will resoundly…

Unfairly Beating Up On Bloggers

Nora Ephron, well-known author, has a blog on The Huffington Report.

In her weekly column this week Ephron, rightly, has a go at those who seem this past week to have targetted bloggers for criticism. The "criticism" has come from various quarters.

Ephron makes the valid point that bloggers do have something to say however "small" it might be - and if it weren't via a blog where else would it find its way to being published?

Read Ephron's interesting piece here.

Another Fishy Story?

"For at least 20 years doctors have been urging their patients to eat more oily fish to benefit the heart. Adding two servings a week of mackerel, salmon and similar fish to the family shopping list was believed to help fend off cardiovascular disease".

"Now a major new study suggests the advice was wrong" reports The Independent here.

"Scientists who reviewed no fewer than 89 studies of omega 3 fats, the key constituent of fish oils thought to protect against heart disease, found no clear evidence that they are of any use at all."

Confused and sceptical? It's no wonder given the way eating fish has been touted down the years. Check out the British Medical Journal on line for the report.

Rummie Spits the Dummy....

Rumsie has reacted to a column written by Maureen Dowd in the NY Times. He suggested that anyone who believed everything written by Dowd should get a life! In effect, Dowd accused Rumsie of being beyond it and that many in the Pentagon don't take him too seriously.

Read Dowd's column here [not available on line without a subscription to the NYT] -

"Three little words:

Still employed there.

Of all the through-the-looking-glass moments in the last few days, the strangest is this: The F.B.I officer who arrested and questioned Zacarias Moussaoui told a jury that he had alerted his superiors about 70 times that Mr. Moussaoui was a radical Islamic fundamentalist who hated America and might be plotting to hijack an airplane.

Seventy? That makes one time for every virgin waiting for Mr. Moussaoui in heaven. Judging by how disastrously the prosecution is doing, the virgins will have to wait.

We could have cracked the 9/11 plot if the F.B.I. wasn't run by dunces. Mr. Moussaoui…

Shame Helen Coonan, Shame....!

Communications Minister Helen Coonan today announced abolition of the staff-representative on the Board of the ABC.

It's a shameful and disgraceful decision from a Government hell-bent on curbing the ABC in every and which way.

Read a report of the decision, and the early response to it, in this article in The Agehere.

One can only hope that the Oz populace will object, loudly and clearly, that they will not countenance any attack on "their ABC".

A Glimmer of Understanding?

"Two well-known American professors have released an article that has aroused great interest in the American and Israeli diplomatic communities. In the article, called "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt write that the Israel lobby in Congress is causing a dangerous pro-Israel tilt in American policy and was a critical factor in the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq. The writers' conclusion is that America's negative image in the Middle East stems from its overly supportive attitude toward Israel.".

The article being written about is interesting in itself. What is more interesting, though, is that the editorial in Haaretz [the opening paragraph of which is above] suggests that Israel must start to recognise that it may not continue to enjoy the support it has if the issue of occupation of Palestinian lands is not resolved.

Read the complete editorial here.

George Bush: Still Doesn't Know Why US Went to War

"After yesterday's presidential news conference, I am beginning to wonder if George W. Bush knows why we went to war with Iraq. He should just come clean and admit that we went to war because Dick, Wolfie, and Rummy told him to.

Three years into the war and the President still can't answer the question of why we went to war in the first place. It is perfectly clear now why he can't meet with Cindy Sheehan. Imagine him saying to Cindy, "after September 11th, we realized killers could destroy innocent life." Hmmmm, we have a president who didn't know that prior to 9/11?"

So writes Scott Galindez, Managing Editor of truthout.org. when "reviewing", as it were, the White House Press Conference where Helen Thomas tackled the President on the reason [s] for going to War in Iraq.

Read the entire article here and view a video of the conference - and weep that this man, the so-called leader of the Free World, is let loose to do anything let alone r…

So Where Does the Buck Stop?

"Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, a former immigration minister, says he should not be held accountable for the illegal detention of a mentally ill man known as Mr T.

The commonwealth ombudsman's latest report deals with the case of a 45-year-old Mr T, who was held in Sydney's Villawood detention centre three times in four years between 1999 and 2003.

Two of the incidents happened during Mr Ruddock's term as immigration minister and the third detention happened just days after current minister Amanda Vanstone took over."

So reports the SMH. What the Commonwealth Ombudsman found is reported in this SMHpiece.

Tonight Amanda Vanstone apologised to the Oz citizen wrongly detained - 3 times! Wonderful!

Why, one must ask, should heads not roll? Bear in mind that the taxpayer will be footing the bill for the incompetents running DIMA.

And to cap it all off, the head of DIMA during all this time has been "elevated" to ambassasor to Indonesia.....

Media Fails Country's Citizens

I yesterday posted an item on 85 year-old veteran journalist Helen Thomas - a thorn in the side of no less than 9 US Presidents she has "covered".

So, it is interesting that today AlterNet has an article today - on the failing of the US media - which starts as follows:

"For more than three decades, the U.S. news media has been living off -- or living down, depending on your perspective -- its Watergate-era reputation of helping to unseat a power-abusing president and exposing a raft of other political scandals.

But the U.S. media's debacle over Iraq -- failing to seriously question George W. Bush's case for invasion and often acting as pro-war cheerleaders as the casualty lists lengthened -- has dealt a death blow to that 30-year-old mythology. The bloody spectacle of Iraq has become the Waterloo of Washington's "Watergate press corps," its crushing defeat.

Even the nation's preeminent news outlets, such as the New York Times and the Washington Pos…

Helen Thomas Shines at the White House

Helen Thomas is 85 years of age - and, as a journalist, has "covered" no less than 9 US residents.

Thomas sits in the front row at White House press conferences. George Bush has avoided giving her the call to ask a question. Until today!

"At that press conference Tuesday morning, the President did something he literally hadn't done in years. He called on Helen Thomas, the veteran of veteran White House correspondents. And then we found out why he'd waited so long".

So reports USA 9 Newshere. But wait! It gets better as Thomas effectively took on Bush - and he bristled.

Pity is that more journalists don't have the Thomas credo of challenging their quary. The final word goes to Thomas.....“I didn't take this job to be liked.”

That Israeli Wall...

"A UN report into the humanitarian impact of Israel's West Bank barrier says it has caused widespread losses to Palestinian farmers.

About 5,000 Palestinians currently live in the areas between the barrier and Israel's pre-1967 boundary and they need permits to get in and out."

The Wall built by the Israelis, to separate it from the Palestinians, which has been causing such controversy, is back in the news - as reported by BBC News here.

It is difficult to justify, let alone support as valid, this statement in the BBC News report, attributed to an Israel official:

"An Israeli spokesman said any problems the barrier might cause Palestinians were not comparable to the benefits it brought in terms of Israeli lives it is saving".

Meanwhile, read this report from the Washington Post on how the inability of farmers in Gaza to move their stock out of Gaza is hampering the economy - as are the other restrictions the Israelis have clamped on Gaza.

Lewis Lapham: Impeach Bush

Lewis Lapham is the editor of Harper's Magazine.

When he publishes a feature article calling for the impeachment of George Bush one cannot lightly dismiss his writings. In fact it is reported that the Harper's Magazine carrying the feature article [March, 2006] has been sold out at many newstands in the USA.

An extract of Lapham's piece can be read here. It looks like it would be worthwhile trying to lay one's hands on the the complete article.

Iraq: A Physician's Perspective

"The U.S. invasion has killed our people, destroyed our lives, ruined our health care system. I want the U.S. troops to get out of my country. I want them to go home now. I think that if the Americans leave, we Iraqis will have more of a chance to come together to heal our wounded nation."

So writes an Iraqi physician in an article on AlertNet. The physician is one of a group of Iraqi women presently visiting the US. Read the complete article here.

The physician's words truly highlight what a mess the invasion of Iraq has created - and why, as seen through the perspective of how the peoples of the Middle East view America, and its allies, the effect, and ripples, of the Iraq War will last for years to come. The physician's description of conditions for ordinary Iraqis is so relevant when considered alongside the nonsense politicians like Messrs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Howard are presently sprouting 3 years after the invasion.

Meanwhile, whilst George Bush…

Iraq? Who'se Right?

The ex-Pm of Iraq says Iraq has descended into civil war. George Bush - and what now must be regarded as his serial lying VP, Dick Cheney - say things are looking positive in the country after 3 years.

So, who is right? On NPR today the correspondent who has been in Iraq since before the invasion says that things are worse now than before. Even petrol, for a country sitting on oil, is a problem for local residents.

"Three years after the military invasion to oust Hussein, the country's landscape betrays its fault lines, like land heaved up by shifting tectonic plates"....

So report a number of reporters of the Los Angeles Times. Read the full article here - and decide who is right where things are at in Iraq.

Palestine: Ruin or New Direction?

With the Hamas PM-elect for Palestine having presented his Cabinet to the Palestinian President Abbas, it would appear that the new Government will be left stone broke. In fact the entire economy will be bankrupt if various reports in the media are correct.

Read The Independent's assessment of what confronts the new administration here.

The critical question which must arise is whether the despair which will doubtlessly sweep the Palestinians will erupt negatively toward Israel and her neighbours - or, perhaps, now being the governing authority, Hamas taking a more pragmatic line on Israel. Even some sort of truce, which sees money flowing to the Palestinians, must be a consideration for Hamas. Then again, the Palestinians may turn to a country like Iran looking for those much-needed funds.

For at least one view from the Israeli perspective of how a Hamas Government will pan out see this article from Haaretz.

IR Act & Regulations: A Disgrace

Forget about the substance and effect of the new Federal IR Laws for the moment, but reflect on this

- the Federal Government has been spruiking de-regulation rather than more regulation

- many Federal Ministers have spoken about cutting red-tape for business

- the new IR Act is 1,151 pages long

- the new Regulations, only issued late last Friday afternoon, are 414 pages long

- in the absence of a consolidated IR Act, it is not presently possible to "tie back" references to a section in the Act to the actual Act

- an Explanatory Statement runs to some 400 pages.

Bottom line, the whole "scheme" starts next Monday. Who is going to be able to understand it all let alone comply?

And then there are the draconian provisions of the Act and the Regulations. Watch out for what will be considerable angst and repercussions to this legislation.

Iraq: White House Delusion Continues

The former Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi says Iraq is in the grip of a civil war and if it isn't "God knows what civil war is".

On ABC AM's program this morning the reporter spoke of some 6o bodies being found each morning around Baghdad and being collected and taken to the morgue. Moreover, Shiites are moving out of Sunni neighbourhoods and vice versa.

BUT, the White House disputes that Iraq has descended into civil war. Read the NY Times article here reporting on good ol' Dick Cheney's upbeat rhetoric.

Only yesterday Rumsie was quoted as saying that leaving Iraq now would be like having left post-war Germany to the Nazis!!!!

Meanwhile the SMH reports this morning [here] that 65% of Australians want Oz troops out of Iraq either immediately or at the latest when they have finished providing security for the Japanese.

Yet Another Govt. Attack on the ABC

"In the huge shake-up of media policy that the Federal Government has launched, the battle over who should be chairman of the ABC might seem pretty small beer. That would be a misreading. For hardline Liberals obsessed with the organisation, it's akin to a holy war. For those committed to a real diversity of opinion, it has to be seen as one of the most important appointments that the Government will make this term.

His Liberal enemies and critics have launched an extraordinary battle against chairman Donald McDonald, occupant of the post for a decade, whose second term ends in July. McDonald isn't looking for a full five years again but a maximum of two years more. But his opponents are determined to blast him out mid year."

So writes Michelle Grattan today in The Age. Read the full article here.

It is deeply troubling that the Federal Government, allegedly driven by Peter Costello driven by his mate Kroger, are keen to clip the ABC's wings. So much for Cos…

Rachel Corrie - Continued....

The wider implications relating to the deferment - make that, in effect, a ban - of the Rachel Corrie play in New York the other day has wider implications and has raised a number of considerations, are reflected here in this piece from AlterNet.

What is troubling is that not only the play was taken off being performed but that the book, MyName is Rachel Corrie, which is the basis for the play, has been almost impossible to acquire in the US. Another form of censorship?

International Lawyers Query Oz Anti-Terror Laws

"International lawyers have raised serious concerns about Australia's new counter-terrorism laws, questioning whether the legislation breaches international law.

The Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Human Rights has delivered a preliminary report on its review of anti-terror laws passed by federal parliament in December.

They have raised particular concerns about the powers of intelligence agencies under the Australian laws and urged the government to consider whether the measures violated international treaties.

"We invite reflection on whether those counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices comply with international law," their report said. "We express serious concern with regard to the ASIO powers to detain non-suspects, to limit the right to legal representation and the possible negative impact on confidentiality of communications between lawyer and client.

"The obligation of the affected person to render information also has …

Big Macs "Save" National Public Radio

Anyone who has visited the US - or listens to ABC News Radio - will know National Public Radio [NPR] as the only beacon of "decent" radio in an otherwise landscape of dross.

NPR, an equivalent to the BBC and our ABC, has over the years taken a stand on issues and highlighted matters politicians would prefer it not to - and like the ABC in Australia attracted criticism from politicians and subsequent cuts in funding from the US Federal Government. The broadcaster has even got close to simply running out of money.

Now comes news that the widow of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, has in her will left the "tidy" sum of US$230 million to NPR. Read an articlefrom the New York Times on what this great bequest will mean to the broadcaster.

"Collateral Damage" in Israel!

"Part of it starts with us [Israelis]. "They had no business being there" is no excuse for what the Pentagon long ago christened collateral damage".

In an op-ed piece in Haaertz reflecting on the third anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie and the deaths of many "innocent" Palestinians, Haaretz concludes , as above, that Israel cannot simply ignore the deaths and casualties as a result of its actions.

What makes the piece interesting is that it comes a few days after the recent, in effect, censorship from performing a play about Rachel Corrie in New York and on the eve of the Israeli elections - when how Israel goes forward vis-a-vis Gaza, the West Bank, settlements and Hamas will all figure prominently.

Iraq: A Bleak Picture

As Tony Blair is reported in The Independent today as saying that faced with the same circumstances he would do it all again - that is, invadind Iraq - and US allegedly with Iraqi forces are pounding north of Baghdad [God only knows with what casualties and physical damage] this bleak assessment by Paul Reynolds, BBC World Correspondent, of what is Iraq today, 3 years after the invasion, makes for sobering and melancholy reading.

Ouch!

George Bush is slipping, badly, in the latest US opinion polls.

Wheras in February 2005 the majority of people polled spoke of Bush as being "honest" some 56% of those polled now said he was "out of touch" and no less importantly, the one word most used to describe Bush now was "incompetent" followed by "good" and then "idiot" and "liar".

Read the full article from Yahoo! News on Bushs' fall from grace here.

China: The Oz & US Perspective

Lord Downer of Baghdad might this morning [on ABC Radio] be spruiking about how he and US Secretary of State Condi Rice - presently visiting Oz - are essentially at one on the how Australia and the USA view China, but that is not the way the NY Times is reporting it.

Read the US perspective, certainly as seen by the NY Times, here.

Shameful Censorship

Prompted by those Danish cartoons, the last weeks have seen debate around the world about freedom of the press, censorship and how far religious tolerance can or should extend.

It is therefore most disturbing to read that Jewish groups in New York have pressured a theatre company in NY not to perform a play which deals with the controversial death of Rachel Corrie in Gaza in March 2003. The play was written by well known British actor Alan Rickman "using" the words of Corrie from her emails .

The play, when performed in London, won an audience award.

The DesMoinesRegister has an excellent op-ed piece on censorship - and rightly condemns the axing of the play being peformed in New York.

MI5, Camp Delta and British Betrayal

This piece in The Indepenent today details and reveals through source material, in graphic detail, how MI5 operates, the conditions at Camp Delta and how Britain has "behaved" in relation to 2 of its nationals.

It is a side of how that "other" world operates - and makes for sobering and rather frightening reading.

Sadly, as with so much nowadays, the politicians behind what is going on are almost free from questioning and real challenge. Some people tut-tut and then go about their business......

A Reporter's Perspective of "Covering" Iraq

Washington Post correspondent in Iraq, and ultimately Bureau Chief, has written a book "Tell Them IDidn't Cry" about her experiences [including a kidnap attempt] whilst reporting from that war-torn country.

Read an overall 'picture' of what led to her writing the book in the first place, and her feelings and experiences generally, in this article from Editor & Publisher.

Le Carre Joins Appeal For Kenyan Drought Victims

"John le Carré, whose book The Constant Gardener was made into a Hollywood blockbuster, has joined an appeal for funds to save millions of Kenyans from starvation in the area where the film was shot.

"In the worst drought of the decade, 3.5 million people in northern Kenya are in imminent danger of starving to death, dying of thirst, or being killed in fights for survival," he said. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if, this time round, we devoted as much money and energy to saving 3.5 million of our fellow citizens as we do to making war in other regions of the globe."

Yet again, another distaster confronts the people of an African nation. The figures of the people at risk are mind-bogling! And where is the rest of the world? - and those G8 leaders who spoke so piously at their Conference last year how Africa was in their focus for assistance?

Read the full article in The Independent on the looming crisis in Kenya.

You Fly There...Your Luggage Elswhere

We have all had that sinking feeling....waiting at the carousel to collect our luggage after a flight [seemingly always a long one] only to find it doesn't come.

So, where did the luggage go and what becomes of the baggage never recovered or claimed?

All you might have ever wanted to know is revealed in this article in the SMHhere.

The Challenge for Israel

With elections looming in Israel later this month, the direction the country takes over the next years will doubtlessly become critical. Needless to say how things play out in relation to the Palestinian-Israel question will be a critical issue for the country's economy and security.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz today publishes an op-ed piece, Olmert's Arrogance, dealing with Acting PM Olmert's position on withdrawal from the West Bank and the likely consequences.

"In September 2000, the Palestinians began a terror offensive against Israel. They did this because they refused to accept the Camp David proposal, which promised them the entire Gaza Strip and 91 percent of the West Bank in exchange for full recognition of Israel and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Ehud Olmert is elected prime minister and implements his convergence plan, then in September 2010 the Palestinians will have sovereignty over the entire Gaza Strip and some 91 percent of the W…

Bush Impeachment Talk Reaches the Mainstream

It might be said that only the so-called "alternative" media has been talking about impeaching George Bush, but now the mainstream press - the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post amongst them - have addressed the question as an issue.

Read this article on AlterNet to get a feel for how the issue is playing out in the US. Coincidentally yet another poll in the USA, out today, rates Bush poorly. See an article on the CNN / USA / Gallup Poll poll here. No wonder that the White House has Bush stumping around the country trying to beat-up the Iraq War. Looks like it might be a fond hope if the poll is even remotely accurate.

Sisters in Law: Justice for Women in Africa

A modest new documentary Sisters in Law from the West African nation of Cameroon has been getting rave reviews at some of the world's most prestigious film festivals. It's an unlikely story of how two women are taking on crimes against women, often fighting deeply entrenched attitudes and a male-dominated power structure to find justice.

Read this interesting article from NPR [and listen to the interview too] about a film which one would certainly hope will find its way to Australia. Meanwhile, the 2 women seem to be causing waves in Africa.

Iraq: A Permanent US Colony?

Dahr Jamail, writing in Perspective, and as republished on truthout.com, wonders why the Generals are saying one thing about Iraq when the facts tell the opposite, why Haliburton has made its biggest profit ever in its 86 year-old history and where the War is leading.

Jamail certainly puts the oft-repeated story about training Iraqi forces to take over from Coalition forces to the test - and sees its clear failings.

He concludes that there is another agenda afoot and ponders whether the long haul which the US is engaged in in Iraq means it will become a permanent US colony.

Read the article here.

Meanwhile, Sally Kalson, writing in the Post-Gazette [and as republished on truthout.comhere] , highlights the human tragedy which is Iraq and, rightly, says that no one can be ignorant about the huge human toll the War has exacted on Iraqis and Americans.

A Moderate Muslim Causes a Storm....

"Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims.

Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die.

In the interview, which has been viewed on the Internet more than a million times and has reached the e-mail of hundreds of thousands around the world, Dr. Sultan bitterly criticized the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries".

The New York Timesreports on this previosuly unknown woman and the storm she has unleashed - including threats to her. Perhaps she is only a single voice out there and Jewish communities have probably latched on to her too readily now that she has spok…

UN Human Rights Commission Off the Air!

Whatever criticism can be hurled at the UN - and there is much - the fact remains that is presently the only world body of any sort.

One of the UN's agencies is the Human Rights Commission - a human rights watchdog. Now comes news today that its operations will most likely be suspended because the USA, amongst others, object to plans to reform the Commission. Thus a deadlock for the future conduct of its operations arises.

Read this report from the BBC on where the world "sits" when it considers human rights. Just look around the globe and see how human rights figure so low on the radar screen of many countries. And then there is the paradox. The US criticises other ccountries for human rights abuses without acknowledging its own infractions. Other countries criticise the Americans.....etc. etc.

Robert Fisk Supports Oz Writer

This entry from the blog of Antony Loewenstein [antonyloewenstein.com/blog/] speaks more than eloquently for itself.....

"Robert Fisk’s latest column for the UK Independent, The Erosion of Free Speech, tackles the pressures on individuals and groups that campaign for a just resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict and dare challenge Zionist dogma. He generously supports my work and alerts the world to my forthcoming book and attempts by certain individuals to stifle freedom of speech:

So let’s confront this tomfoolery. Down in Australia, my old mate Antony Loewenstein, a journalist and academic*, is having an equally vile time. He has completed a critical book on the Israel/Palestine conflict for Melbourne University Publishing and Jewish communities in Australia are trying to have it censored out of existence before it appears in August. Last year, Federal Labour MP Michael Danby, who like Loewenstein is Jewish, wrote a letter to the Australian Jewish News demanding that Loewe…

3 Years Today - The Invasion of Iraq

"President George Bush is about to embark on one of the toughest campaigns of his second term. Tomorrow, with the third anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq looming, he will make the first of a series of speeches to convince the American public, a sceptical world - and perhaps even himself - that things are going the right way in Iraq.

Signalling the start of this public relations offensive, Mr Bush said on Friday that Iraq had stepped back from "the abyss" of civil war. That is debatable - in the eyes of many Iraqis, civil war has already begun - but it shows how far expectations have sunk since the invasion was launched with such swaggering confidence 36 months ago."

It is 3 years today that the Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq. Much has been written and said about the actual invasion and what has occurred since. It's fair to say that much of that has been hyperbole and downright lies. Just reading the news and viewing tv footage doesn't…

Lap Dogs of the Press

Helen Thomas is the doyen of the Washington Press Corp.

You will always see her, an older slightly bent woman, in the front row at White House Press conferences.

Her vast experience as a journalist is almost unmatched. So, when she accuses the press of being lap dogs one has to sit up and read or listen. Read her criticism of the way the press has been so undemanding and unquestioning of what the Pentagon or White House, or politicians generally, have "dished out" in this article in The Nation.

NYT Bureau Chief in Iraq: US Efforts Will LIkely Fail

"A day after returning to the U.S., after another long term as bureau chief in Baghdad, John F. Burns of The New York Times said on Bill Maher's live Friday night HBO program that he now feels, for the first time, that the American effort in Iraq will likely "fail."

It's a sobering assessment from someone who has been on the ground in Iraq since the attack on Iraq by Coalition Forces back in March 2003.

Read the full article here of Burns' view of how things are panning out in Iraq as reported in Editor & Publisher.

Deaths in US Custody

"Since August 2002, nearly 100 detainees have died while in the hands of U.S. officials in the global “war on terror.” According to the U.S. military’s own classifications, 34 of these cases are suspected or confirmed homicides; Human Rights First has identified another 11 in which the facts suggest death as a result of physical abuse or harsh conditions of detention. In close to half the deaths Human Rights First surveyed, the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced. Overall, eight people in U.S. custody were tortured to death".

So concludes human rights firstin its report on deaths in US custody. It does make for happy reading! Read the Executive Summary of the Report here and download a pdf file if you want to read the Report in its entirety.

Dan Rather to Journos - Get a Spine!

Dan Rather, one time CBS News anchorman, resigned under somewhat of a cloud a while back.

That notwithstanding, Rather could not, as a journalist, be accused of not "stepping up to the plate" if circumstances required him to. He asked the hard questions and probed. He is well-know for his clash with Prseident Nixon during a Press conference.

It is therefore refreshing to read:

"TV newsman Dan Rather, who stepped down as CBS anchorman in the wake of a discredited report, on Wednesday night said the press "ought to be doing a better job."

"American journalism is in need of a spine transplant," Rather told about 600 people at the Star Forum at Cherry Hill High School West.

The newsman proposed "Rather's rules," saying reporters should "ask more questions, especially the tough ones." He said the media should offer less sensationalism and "more real analysis." It should also pay more attention to international events, he sa…

Sandra Day O'Connor Speaks Out

Sandra Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee to the US Supreme Court, recently retired.

In what some might regard as a fairly bold speech at Georgetown University from a just-retired Justice - and not one really regard as or known to be a liberal - she slammed what she saw as the "beginnings of censorship".

Read the article here from The Huntington Report and then listen to the talk via Nina Totenberg on National Public Radio.

Israel's Settlements - And a Prophesy Come True!

Israel's settlements, either in Gaza or the West Bank, are in the news almost daily. The debate about their legitamacy continues to rage. Many warned at the time of the settlements being established that this would become an issue fraught with a myriad problems.

"As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: the warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. Leaders deceived not only the country's citizens, but themselves. So begin national tragedies."

In most instances the truth will eventually be out.....

On the eve of the Israeli elections and debate about Hamas, the settlements in the West Bank and where things are headed in the on-going Israel-Palestinian conflict, this timely op-ed piece in the New York Times reveals a prophesy which has, sadly, proven to be all to correct.

Israel: For and Against?

"Israeli human rights organizations that try to help Palestinians have never enjoyed widespread public support. Organizations such as Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Yesh Din, Ta'ayush, Hamoked - The Center for the Defense of the Individual, and B'Tselem are viewed by the general public as slanderers and traitors to Israel's interests, or as disrupters of the work of Israel Defense Forces soldiers who protect the state against terrorism. The understanding that these organizations save the state's honor, and that decrying them undermines and weakens Israeli democracy, has not penetrated the public. And above all, it seems, it has not penetrated the consciousness of the establishment."

Sadly, around the world Jewish pressure groups assert, mostly loudly and offensively, that anyone who critices Israel is either an anti-semite or a self-hating Jew etc. Certainly anything which encourages debate or discussion is jumped on. Witness here in Austra…

Rummy Flunks History

It won't come as surprise to anyone half-intelligent to learn that Donald Rumsfeld's history- lesson earlier this week about how wars are viewed by the populace was either mischief-making [aka lying or wilfully deceptive] or showed a man bog-ignorant of history and the facts.

Arianna Huffington in her latest blog-posting on The Huffington Report takes Rummy to task - and concludes that he flunks history. It's an interesting read. The concern is that this man wields so much power as part of the Bush Administration cabal.

Bush: Deaf Man Spouting!

"The Katrina videotape is defining for Bush's presidency. It exposes a deaf man spouting talking points. After the hurricane hit, he stayed on vacation, went to a birthday party, strummed a guitar with a country and western singer, and on September 1 said: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." On his flight back to Washington, four days after landfall, his aides gave him a DVD of television news reports of the hurricane's impact about which he had done nothing to learn on his own."

In an interesting article about George Bush by Sidney Blumenthal in The Guardian, he catalogues how and where Bush has become derailed - and how that fact is being played out in the US. Blumenthal certainly highlights a totally disfunctional President. Remember the scene in Mike Moore's doco Fahrenheit 9/11 showing George Bush sitting there for a full 7 minutes at a kindergarten, doing absolutely nothing, when told of the attacks on the Wor…

That Other War - in Afghanistan

Whilst George Bush and Co in their continuing delusional state pronounce success in the war in Afghanistan, yet again the reality is something quite different.

As Robert Fisk said just the other day, it is the "narcons" who are ruling the country - not the Government.

So, reading this report from "on the ground" in Afghanistan in The Nation only highlights that what the politicians assert is one thing, the facts totally the opposite.

It is to be borne in mind that Australia has committed troops to Afghanistan.....although why that is so - other than currying favour with Washington - is not entirely clear given that Afghanistan is hardly in the region of Australia.

How Americans View Islam - Negatively!

"As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence."

The Washington Postreports on the above poll.

It is unlikely that were a poll to be taken in Australia that the outcome would be much different. Any hope, however remote - for building bridges between communities or teaching tolerance appear to recede when one has regard to the ill-informed, misguided and ignorant - if not downright bigoted - comments such as those made by John Howard and Peter Costello, Bronwyn Bishop or Dana Vaile. Shades of the…

Neo-Cons: We Were Wrong on Iraq

"It has taken more than three years, tens of thousands of Iraqi and American lives, and $200bn (£115bn) of treasure - all to achieve a chaos verging on open civil war. But, finally, the neo-conservatives who sold the United States on this disastrous war are starting to utter three small words. We were wrong."

So reportsThe Independent today. It's a stark reversal of a position that many at the time of it being "pushed" to Bush knew was wrong and destined to lead to a myriad of problems. History has proven the alleged nay-sayers right!

The critical question now is whether Messrs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair and Howard will also utter those 3 critical words - "we were wrong". Don't hold your breath!

Olmert's Border Fallacy

"A RECENTLY broached plan to establish Israel's permanent borders through unilateral withdrawals from select West Bank settlements might make political sense for Kadima, the party of acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but it has very little chance of leading to the two-state peace accord Israelis and Palestinians need and want.

The aim of Olmert's plan is to ensure a Jewish majority within a defensible Israeli perimeter. The Kadima Party figure who described the plan, former Israeli security service director Avi Dichter, stressed that this will be a purely civilian, not a military, withdrawal. In the run-up to Israel's March 28 parliamentary election, Dichter's distinction looks like a way to fend off criticism from the right-wing Likud party, whose hawkish leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently said: ''The question today is who will cede territory and who will hold onto territory. I will hold onto territory."

Campaign politics is the wrong crucib…

People in Glass Houses...

The US State Department is mandated to issue an annual global rights review.

It has just issued its latest Report. It is critical of many countries - but, perhaps not surprisingly, makes no reference to the criticism, from many quarters, of the way in which America is treating those detained in Guantanamo Bay or the "renditioning" the US has engaged in.

Iraq is singled out for criticism as are the "usual suspects". On the whole the Report appears selective to say the least. For instance, no mention is made of Israel and the way it treats Palestinians, and indeed, in some instances, its own Arab citizens.

Read a NYT article on the Report here.

International Women's Day

"Voices from around the world: Ten women reveal the differing challenges they face in their daily lives".

The Independent has taken a novel approach to marking this International Women's Day.

It has published the "voices' of 10 women around the world expressing their aspirations. Read it with interest - and meanwhile salute women everywhere.

In conjunction with the above article The Independent has also published This is Your Life [If You are Woman]. Read that here.