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Showing posts from November, 2006

Tim Dunlop on blogs and bloggers

Well-known blogger, Tim Dunlop - formerly of The Road to Surfdom and now blogging at News.com.au - writing on blogs and blogging. He decries any suggestion that blogging is exiting right in Australia:

"The other day Guy Rundle, writing at Crikey, suggested that the launch of this blog, Blogocracy, heralded the end of the independent blogosphere in Australia. It was actually a pretty petty article, accusing me of selling out, and suggesting the new writers at The Road to Surfdom were second rate. On the first accusation, all I can say is that it is typical of some on the left to accuse anyone who might make a quid out of something of having sold out, and it helps explain why their positions are often marginalised."

Read the full piece here. Rest assured, blogging is alive and well.....

Seeking a moral reckoning

As reported on JTA:

"When Peace Now released a report last week charging that 40 percent of Jewish settlement territory in the West Bank is built on privately owned Palestinian land, the report’s co-author said she hoped it would serve as a wake-up call to principled Israelis.

Hagit Ofran, the granddaughter of famed Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz and the product of a religiously observant family, said she wanted the findings — aimed as much at the settlers themselves as at the outside world — to present an acute moral dilemma to the decent people who live on what she argues is essentially stolen property."

Iraq: The critical question

In an a piece on Counterpoint, entitled "Does anyone in Washington or Downing Street Really Know What's Happening in Iraq" well-known writer Patrick Cockburn writes:

"Iraq is rending itself apart. The signs of collapse are everywhere. In Baghdad the police often pick up over 100 tortured and mutilated bodies in a single day. Government ministries make war on each other. A new and ominous stage in the disintegration of the Iraqi state came earlier this month when police commandos from the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry kidnapped 150 people from the Sunni-run Higher Education Ministry in the heart of Baghdad.

Iraq may be getting close to what Americans call 'the Saigon moment', the time when it becomes evident to all that the government is expiring. "They say that the killings and kidnappings are being carried our by men in police uniforms and with police vehicles," said the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari with a despairing laugh to me earlier…

See David Hicks' "window" to the world!

The SMH has published an article with a photograph of the cell to which David Hicks is confined 23 hours a day. The ever-disgraceful Federal A-G Ruddock maintains that it isn't solitiary confinement. You be the judge! Also look at the photo of the so-called library. It's a laugh and outrage.

Meanwhile, the article accompanying the photos says this:

'This is the cell where David Hicks lives - where the lights are never off and the window, a slit of frosted glass, never opens.

The other photo shows the barren, bookless room at Guantanamo Bay that the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, calls a library.

The previously unpublished photos were sent yesterday by the states' attorneys-general to Mr Ruddock to dispute his claims about Mr Hicks's treatment at Guantanamo Bay. Mr Hicks's lawyer, Major Michael Mori, says the Australian is confined to his cell 23 hours a day, although Mr Ruddock denies he is in solitary confinement.

A letter by the attorneys-general id…

What's happened to the First Amendment?

We all know America is the land of the brave and free - and that the Courts have, sometimes in bizarre situations, upheld the freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Wait! Don't be so fast! It seems like it depends on the extent of that freedom. If you want a T-shirt with the words "Bush Lied" emblazoned on it, that T has been banned in 2 States of the US already and is headed toward the same fate in other States. Check it out here.

You gotta be kidding!

PM Howard excelled even himself yesterday when lauding the findings and outcome of the Cole Inquiry by commended his Government for what emerged from the Inquiry - which would not otherwise have happened had Saddam not been toppled. So, Australia went to war, with all that entails, to find out what was going on at AWB!

Meanwhile, those with credibility and depth of intellect have a different take on things....

Patrick Weller, author of Don't Tell the Prime Minister (Scribe), holds the premier's chair in governance and public management at Griffith University in Brisbane, and in an op-ed piece in The Australian, writes this:

"So the Cole inquiry has found that no individual minister or public servant can be held responsible for the failure of anyone to notice that AWB was paying bribes to Saddam Hussein and his cronies. AWB officials were clearly at fault, the UN should have done better, and behind the scenes lurks a shadowy, pipe-playing Scottish villain. For the Govern…

Ignoring a shocking blight

The US is spending literally billions of dollars on the Iraq War. Australia and the UK are also committed to a huge cost because of their involvement in a War which is, daily, being shown to have been folly at its worst.

It therefore disheartening and shocking to read this in the LA Times - knowing that money wisely "spent" might have been able to avert, or at least minimise, such a crisis:

"In 1990, nine years after the AIDS virus was identified, the map showing the worldwide spread of the disease displayed most of Africa in the palest pink. The infection rate among adults was less than 1%. Since then, the colors have deepened faster here than anywhere else on Earth. Southern Africa now is colored a bloody crimson. The infection rate is more than 15%.

The statistics have been repeated so often they cease to shock, even as they soar: 25 million people have died worldwide. Forty million are living with HIV, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and a…

The secret strategy for exiting Iraq?

Tom Haydon, writing on The Huffington Post, has a rather explosive story on how the US proposes to exit Iraq. For instance:

"According to credible Iraqi sources in London and Amman, a secret story of America's diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq is rapidly unfolding. The key events include:

First, James Baker told one of Saddam Hussein's lawyers that Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister, would be released from detention by the end of this year, in hope that he will negotiate with the US on behalf of the Baath Party leadership."

And there is more......here

Cole Inquiry: Watch the spin and lies

David Marr is one of Australia's finest journalists and writers. Lawyer by training his sharp eye and background has served him well in his writing on a host of subjects. In today's SMH he deals with the Report of the Cole Inquiry into AWB and the UN's program of Food for Oil - to be released in Federal Parliament later today. As Marr says, watch out for the spin and lies. But then again, as Margo Kingston so convincingly showed in her best-selling book, "Not Happy John", a couple of years ago, PM Howard is a serial liar.

As Marr writes:

"The finest spin doctors in the land have assembled. The Prime Minister is heading for the trenches to defend his ministers even against allegations of negligence. Already Canberra has been spreading the word that the Government is "off the hook" because Commissioner Terence Cole, QC, reckons it never knew about AWB's sanctions-busting kickbacks.

But the evidence cannot be spun away.

So many people knew about …

Israel's sowing of land mines exposed

Whilst there is news overnight that some sort of truce has been declared between Israel and the Palestinians, this latest news, as reported in The Daily Star newspaper [in Lebanon] isn't going to help things in the on-going issues in the Middle East:

"The UN agency in charge of de-mining operations in South Lebanon has released the first evidence that the Israeli military planted a new crop of land mines during the July-August war, in addition to approximately 4 million cluster bombs spread by the Israeli military during the fighting.

The discovery came after a land-mine explosion Friday wounded two European de-mining experts and a Lebanese medic in the Southern village of Deir Mimas, 3 kilometers from the Lebanese-Israeli border. A fourth de-miner was wounded in a second mine explosion at Deir Mimas the following day.

"This is the first evidence we have that the Israeli forces laid new mines in South Lebanon in 2006" declared the statement issued by the United Nations…

Calling a spade a shovel?

FT.comreports:

"Strains in relations between Britain and Russia were laid bare on Sunday when a cabinet minister accused President Vladimir Putin of “huge attacks” against democracy and individual liberty.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary and candidate to become Labour’s deputy leader, said relations between the two countries were at a “very, very tricky stage”.

His comments come after the death in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy and exiled critic of the Kremlin, who was poisoned with the radioactive substance, polonium 210".

Understanding the Israeli psyche on Iran

Scott Ritter will be remembered as the UN weapons-inspector who over the years has challenged the actions of the US in relation to Iran's alleged WMDs and the thrust of the Iraq War.

Ritter has a new book out. AlterNet has published has an extract of the new book with respect to trying to understand the Israeli psyche in relation to the perceived threat of Iran acquiring a nuclear capacity:

"To understand Israel's present stance on Iran, perhaps the best place to begin is at Yad Vashem, Israel's main Holocaust museum and memorial. It is at Yad Vashem that Israelis reflect on the very reason there is a modern Israeli state, namely because of the genocidal forces that brought so much suffering upon the Jewish people in the past century. Modern Israelis are also reminded here of the political forces that continue to seek the elimination of not only the Jews, but also Israel itself.

Recognizing the powerful influence that the Holocaust plays on the psyche of Israel is not …

Australia ranks at #10

Terry Lane writing in The Sunday Age:

"The latest Anholt Nations Brand Index was published last week.

Researcher Simon Anholt polls 25,903 individuals around the world to see how they regard a group of nations. Australia comes in at number 10 on the overall rankings and is seen as a beaut place to visit, with friendly natives, but not too good at sport.

What? Billions spent on pampering children at the various sports institutes around the country and the world reckons the Poms do better than us on the field? (Britain is ranked sixth for sporting prowess.)

We rank near the bottom of the pile for cultural richness, along with New Zealand, Singapore and the US. And here lies the paradox in assessing national brand power. How can the US, the richest English language culture in the world, rank at the bottom?"

Read, here, the analysis of the rankings and how Israel also comes out very badly in the poll.

Iraq War a moral blunder

In a week which saw PM Howard stick to the line that there wasn't anything to apologise for about the Vietnam War - just imagine the outcry had a German politician sought to say something similar about the duly-elected "reign of the Nazis - and things in Iraq spiralling totally out of control, surprisingly The Australian [remember, Ruper Murdoch was a great supporter of the Iraq War] has this as its lead item today:

"The former SAS officer who devised and executed the Iraq war plan for Australia's special forces says that the nation's involvement has been a strategic and moral blunder.

Peter Tinley, who was decorated for his military service in Afghanistan and Iraq, has broken ranks to condemn the Howard Government over its handling of the war and has called for an immediate withdrawal of Australian troops.

"It was a cynical use of the Australian Defence Force by the Government," the ex-SAS operations officer told The Weekend Australian yesterday.

"Th…

Forgotten! The tragedy that is Zimbabwe

Three to five million people have poured over 'Africa's Rio Grande', fleeing meltdown in Zimbabwe for the promised land. But the flood of humanity is bringing crisis to South Africa.

The Independentreports on the continuing unfolding tragedy in Zimbabwe. And what is the world doing? Nothing! Perhaps it all has to do with oil. What incentive is there to get "involved" in Zimbabwe? Apart from the WMDs - which didn't exist - just think of the reasons the West went into Iraq.......the oppressive regime, toppling Saddam, etc. Anything different in Zimbabwe?

Happy Birthday Biro

"Fifty-seven Bic Biros are sold every second (and then "borrowed" by passing colleagues) - not bad for a 60-year-old product. But did the pens really make that much of a difference?

It was a familiar frustration that led to the invention of the modern ball-point pen - leaky ink.

In 1938, Hungarian newspaper journalist Laszlo Biro noticed the ink used on the printing presses dried quickly and so tried using it in a fountain pen to avoid the problem of leaks, blots and smudges.

But the ink was too thick to flow into the nib. So Biro, with the help of his brother, a chemist, devised a pen tipped with a metal ball bearing that used capillary action to draw ink through the rotating ball."

Read this interesting piece, on BBC News, here.

Shapelle Corby revisited

Richard Ackland, lawyer, writer, publisher of The Justinian and a weekly op-ed writer for the SMH, this week raises some prickly questions about the whole Shapelle Corby case.

"..... there are "disturbing" elements of her case that it is proper we question, even at the risk of being immature, counterproductive or lacking the famous Howardesque circumspection.

A smattering of the evidentiary holes makes me "feel for the girl", too. There was no evidence as to the weight of her luggage before leaving Brisbane airport and after arrival at Denpasar. There was no attempt to fingerprint the bag and the package containing the marijuana. There was also a refusal by the Indonesian police to allow the Australian Federal Police to test the drugs to determine their origin. A case conducted in our system with such shortcomings would be a weak prosecution indeed, leading to an acquittal.

On top of that, the trial was conducted in shambolic conditions. The chief judge, Linton …

Howard's shameful position on the Vietnam War

Matt Price, writing in The Australian on John Howard's position on the Vietnam War articulated whilst he was in Vietnam the other day :

"While the teeth-curling Karl Rove moment earned Kim Beazley much opprobrium and ridicule, John Howard's Ho Chi Minh City hokum - just as silly and a lot more dangerous - threatens to escape under the radar.

Asked, not unreasonably, to reflect on the Vietnam War during his visit to the country, the Prime Minister displayed the sort of knee-jerk defensiveness not often seen since Geoffrey Boycott's retirement from international cricket.

"I supported our involvement at the time and I don't intend to recant," was how the PM opened. "In public life you are accountable for the decisions that you take."

Had Howard stopped there he might have sounded half sensible - declaring his stance and resisting the temptation to rewrite history.

But the PM rattled on: "I mean, I didn't hold any position of authority then but…

FOI? Your tax dollars being wasted

If this isn't the madness of the Federal Government on show [or trial?] it is hard to think of something better. To consider that this deals with FOI - remember, Freedom of Information! - is inane. As Mathew Moore, Fairfax FOI Editor writes in the SMH:

"More than a year after we asked for the documents that reveal the full impact of the Welfare to Work revolution, the Government has revealed a new explanation of why you can't see what's in them.

It's because some of the documents, now 18 months old, contain information "relating to government expectations of the future economy". That's right, old economic forecasts.

If such information was released it "could cause people and/or organisations to distort their behaviour with potentially adverse impacts on personal, company or broader economic performance". See, they are keeping them quiet for your own good.

We saw how determined the Government is over this matter in a three-day hearing in th…

Australia's compassion going west?

Peter Craven, writing in The Age yesterday:

"For the past two years Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has been attempting to deport to Sweden a man who has spent all but the first 27 days of his life in this country. As a consequence of a recent decision by the High Court, she will be able to do so.

The case is complex and exhibits plenty of alarming and pitiable features. The man in question, Stefan Nystrom, who first fell foul of the law at the age of 10, now faces further charges (including assault with a knife and wrongful imprisonment) and says he wants to be deported to Sweden even though he cannot speak the language and does not know his relatives there."

And:

"One does not have to be a bleeding heart to find the Howard Government's attitude in deporting offenders both sickening and inhumane.

We may be inured to the detention camps and the incarceration of David Hicks, and we may even accept these things as more or less bipartisan responses to a complex situati…

Iraq: And this isn't a "disaster?"

Tony Blair called the Iraq War a "disaster". John Howard doesn't agree. So, what would Howard make of this NY Timesreport today?:

"More Iraqi civilians were killed in October than in any month since the American invasion in 2003, a report released by the United Nations today said, a rise that underscored the growing cost of Iraq’s deepening civil war.

According to the report, 3,709 Iraqis were killed in October, up slightly from the previous all-time high in July, and an increase of about 11 percent from the number in September.

The figures, which include totals from the Baghdad morgue as well as hospitals and morgues across the country, have become a central barometer of the war here and a gauge of the progress of the American military as it tries to bring stability to this exhausted country."

Palestinians v Israel: Some Facts

Sonja Karkar of Women for Palestine spoke on Community radio station 3CR yesterday:

“Operation Autumn Clouds”, the Israeli army called it. How much more
hypocritical can we become when we watch Israeli soldiers cherry pick 1500
unarmed women with sniper guns for trying to protect their fathers,
husbands, sons and brothers besieged in the city’s mosque and see them fall
to the ground - and we do nothing? When we learn of 18 women and children
killed while sleeping in their beds after Israeli tanks repeatedly fired 11
artillery shells into a residential neighbourhood - and we do nothing? No
world leaders are demanding an end to these killing sprees and telling
Israel to get out of Gaza. The silence is bad enough, but when we have our
Prime Minister staunchly supporting Israel’s right to defend itself no
matter how grossly disproportionate or illegal its wholesale bombardment of
a civilian population is to the homemade rockets landing in Israel, we are
parties to the slaughter of Pal…

Fisk on the latest assassination in Beirut

"An anti-Syrian politician in Lebanon has been assassinated overnight. Pierre Gemayel was shot dead near Beirut.

In the fractured politics of Lebanon, his murder has created yet more emotional turmoil in Beirut. The assassination has sparked condemnation from the international community.

Suspicion has immediately focused on Syria, which is also accused of being behind the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last year.

But Syria rejects the blame. It has condemned the assassination as a 'crime aimed at destabilising' its neighbour.

This latest assassination, the fifth in the last 20 months, has intensified an already volatile situation and is pushing the country's government a step closer to collapse."

Robert Fisk is a Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper and he joins ABC Radio National's Breakfast from Beirut............Listen to this up to date assessment of the situation from an expert.

Surprise! Israel has misappropriated Palestinian land

This, as reported in the NY Times, will not really come as a surprise to anyone:

"An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.

About 86 percent of Maale Adumim, an Israeli settlement, sits on privately held Palestinian property, according to government data.

Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily.

If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private."

Only the usual, predictable and loud die-hard suspects will seek to defen…

HRW: Saddam trial tainted

"Human Rights Watch said yesterday that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was not given a fair trial, claiming in a report that attorneys and judges undermined the legitimacy of the process by staging repeated walkouts and failing to uphold standards of international law."

So reports The Independent. The article, here, goes on to say:

"The New York-based rights group said it found "serious procedural flaws," citing shortcomings in the timely disclosure of incriminating evidence. It also said that the defendants were not allowed to properly confront witnesses, and that the judges at times did not maintain an impartial demeanor.

"The court's conduct, as documented in this report, reflects a basic lack of understanding of fundamental fair trial principles, and how to uphold them in the conduct of a relatively complex trial," the report said. "The result is a trial that did not meet key fair trial standards. Under such circumstances, the soundn…

Howard out of step - again!

The Financial Times has reported, as have others:

"Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state who has advised the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, on Sunday said he no longer believed a military victory was possible in the conflict."

Meanwhile, George Bush has conceded that things will need to be re-evaluated in relation to the USA's role in Iraq and Tony Blair has labelled the Iraq War a "disaster".

John Howard? He has has sought to persuade the US to "stay the course" - a term no one is using anymore - and says the Iraq War wasn't a "disaster". Yet again Howard shows he inhabits a different planet to everyone else.

If there was ever a damning analysis of the whole fiasco which has become known as the Iraq War, it comes from Major-General Alan Stretton, who was the Australian Army chief of staff during the Vietnam War and was later placed in charge of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy. He spoke out strongly out against involvem…

Strange way of meeting and greeting

"President Bush likes speed golf and speed tourism — this is the man who did the treasures of Red Square in less than 20 minutes — but here in the lake-studded capital of a nation desperately eager to connect with America, he set a record."

So reports the NY Times in relation to George Bushs' recent visit to Hanoi. The NY Times correspondent contrasts Bushs' visit to that of then Pres. Bill Clinton exactly 6 years earlier. Clinton was truly out and about meeting people and seeing things for himself on the ground.

But this reported comment by a Bush official about how the President "met" the locals is rather startling:

"On Saturday, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, conceded that the president had not come into direct contact with ordinary Vietnamese, but said that they connected anyway.

“If you’d been part of the president’s motorcade as we’ve shuttled back and forth,” he said, reporters would have seen that “the president has …

Oh dear George....

He's at it again! Another one of those moronic statements by George Bush - one of those intellectual pygmies who somehow made it to US President:

"We'll succeed unless we quit."

So reports Newsweek - President George W. Bush, when asked during his visit to Vietnam which lessons from the Vietnam War could be applied to the war in Iraq.

A lifetime noose around the neck

AlterNetreports:

"Financial insecurity is one of the staples of American life, and fuel for our nation's politics as well as cable TV shows. Once the elderly worried endlessly about money matters, athough now people over 65 count as the wealthiest group of Americans. Rather, today the biggest worriers about what's euphemistically called our "financial future" are the young, and especially people under 25 years old.

For new college graduates and people out of school for only a few years, financial worries are enormous. Home prices, even if they are starting to fall, remain very high relative to ordinary incomes, and higher mortgage rates are no balm to money worries either. All Americans carry more debt on average than in the past but the increase for young people is most striking since young workers generally earn the least. Between college loans and car loans, people in their 20s are amazingly burdened financially compared to earlier generations, especially compa…

Australia: Keeping poor company

Few would disagree that the shelling recently by Israelis of a house in Beit Hanoun, killing 19 people, 6 of whom were children, was a tragedy. Israel has even apologised citing a technical fault for the shelling.

It ill behoves Australia, then, to be voting with the US and a couple of minor world-players like Micronesia, to vote against a UN resolution condemning Israel for the Beit Hanoun attack. As reported Dawn the Internet:

"The UN General Assembly on Friday voted overwhelmingly to condemn Israel for "indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force" in its military offensive in Gaza which, according to the Palestinian ambassador, threatens to "destroy the entire people."

The resolution was passed by a vote of 156 to 7, with six abstentions. The US, Israel and Australia voted against the document while all the European Union members supported it.

The resolution "deeply deplores" the Israeli offensive, launched after the June capture of an Israel s…

Is using the "a" word a nono?

"President Jimmy Carter's latest book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (Simon and Schuster 2006), released yesterday, has been primed for controversy. Weeks before it hit the bookshelves, election-hungry Democrats were disavowing it because it used the word "apartheid" to describe the discrimination against Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. House Representative and soon-to-be Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote: "It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously." But does the President's book really warrant the swift condemnation leveled against it by his own party?"

Read this interesting piece on Counterpunch analysing whether Israel is, in fact, engaged in apartheid not unlike that once practiced in South Africa.

Where is the Justice?

As John Pilger writes on ZNet:

"In a show trial whose theatrical climax was clearly timed to promote George W Bush in the American midterm elections, Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to hang. Drivel about "end of an era" and "a new start for Iraq" was promoted by the usual false moral accountants, who uttered not a word about bringing the tyrant's accomplices to justice. Why are these accomplices not being charged with aiding and abetting crimes against humanity? Why isn't George Bush Snr being charged?

In 1992, a congressional inquiry found that Bush as president had ordered a cover-up to conceal his secret support for Saddam and the illegal arms shipments being sent to Iraq via third countries. Missile technology was shipped to South Africa and Chile, then "on sold" to Iraq, while US Commerce Department records were falsified."

To Bush Snr. Pilger adds a list of many others who ought to face justice for their lies, breaches of t…

A Big Mac can do something positive

A Big Mac is associated with McDonalds, fatty unhealthy food and the increase of obesity in people, especially children.

However, there is at least one positive that McDonalds is involved in.....

"When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness the number one thing we think about is a cure.

But we often forget:
Where will the family stay while their child receives life saving treatment?
How will the family afford the never-ending cycle of medical bills?
How will the child catch up on missed education?

We forget that life for this family will never be the same again."

So spoke the CEO, Malcolm Coutts, of Ronald McDonald House Charities on ABC Radio NationalsPerspective program. Either read the transcript or listen to the 5 minute talk here.

FOI: What price the Public Interest

This piece in the SMH, by the Herald's FOI editor, calls for no commentary. Sadly, it speaks all too loudly and clearly for itself :

"If you like blood sport, then come on down to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on Monday.

On show will be another of your Commonwealth Government's muscled-up legal teams proving, once again, that when it comes to winning at the Freedom of Information game, money is no object.

In Monday's case it looks like the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations is spending as much as $200,000 just to avoid giving the applicant a 50 per cent discount on a $13,055 bill.

That's right, the department responsible for the policy now forcing thousands of people off welfare benefits to save taxpayers' money is shovelling cash at the lawyers just to save $6,500. Precisely how much they are spending we won't know until a separate FoI application request on the legal fees is dealt with (unless of course they fight that one too)."

Predators of press freedom

Reporters Without Borders has a list, with photographs, of Predators of Press Freedom here. It's more like a Rogues Gallery.

As Reporters Without Borders says:

"There are instigators and powerful people behind press freedom violations whose responsibility is not always apparent. Whether presidents, ministers, chiefs of staff, religious leaders or the heads of armed groups, these predators of press freedom have the power to censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and, in the worst cases, murder journalists. To better expose them, Reporters Without Borders has produced these portraits".

We can't safeguard enough the ever-smaller freedoms of the media we have in Australia. With sedition laws in place - thanks to Australia's shameful Federal A-G Ruddock - there is a sense of underlying intimidation of those in the arts. The new media laws will doubtlessly see 2 families, Murdoch and Packer - both with few, if any, redeeming features to their names - take even further…

Death of innocent women and children at Checkpoints

Palestinian women pay a health toll at checkpoints writes Brenda Gazzar of Women's eNews, on AlterNet.

Strict security measures at Israeli checkpoints have claimed the lives of at least four pregnant women and 34 newborns.

Read, here, this travesty of humanity and straight-out murder of innocent women. Averting eyes from this continued "attack" on Palestinians is suerly going to come home to roost - sooner rather than later. The possible consequences - think Iran unleashing a nuclear device! - are too horrible to contemplate.

A pen-portrait of a whistleblower

Information Clearing House - ever a source of news and op-ed piece not otherwise generally covered elsewhere, has this interesting piece on whistleblowers:

"Most people wonder how anyone can become a whistleblower—ever. After all, most stories of whistleblowers don’t end well. And that’s the reason most people keep quiet.

It’s called self preservation.

So who are these people who go against the crowd?

In my book “The Whistleblower” I start out with the following description:

A study of 233 whistleblowers by Donald Soeken, St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, DC found that the average whistleblower was a family man in his forties with a strong conscience and high moral values. After blowing the whistle on fraud, 90 percent of the whistleblowers were fired or demoted, 27 percent faced lawsuits, 26 percent had to seek psychiatric or physical care, 25 percent suffered alcohol abuse, 17 percent lost their homes, 15 percent got divorced, 10 percent attempted suicide, and 8 percen…

How Iran might help out the US

As the US castes around to see how it can extricate itself from Iraq, Iran looms large as one country which might materially assist to that end.

Newsweek columnist, Howard Fineman, has an interesting take on how Iran will become "involved" - and its terms for doing so:

"Scholars say the first modern chess set appeared in Persia—a.k.a. Iran. That would be appropriate, since the mullahs have placed us in check, if not checkmate.

The worlds of diplomacy and war are looking in one direction: toward Tehran, where the Shia theocracy (and their man-of-the-streets front man, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) are waiting to greet a planet desperate for peace—and a deal in Iraq."

ipod flying high

The Apple product, ipod, is seemingly everywhere in one form or another and being used by ever growing numbers.

Now, this announcement reveals yet another dimension to the use of the ipod:

Apple® today announced it is teaming up with Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United to deliver the first seamless integration between iPod® and in-flight entertainment systems. These six airlines will begin offering their passengers iPod seat connections which power and charge their iPods during flight and allow the video content on their iPods to be viewed on the their seat back displays.

“There is no better traveling companion than an iPod, and now travelers can power their iPods during flight and even watch their iPod movies and TV shows on their seat back displays,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod Product Marketing. “We’re excited to work with Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United to offer iPod users an even better in-flight experienc…

Fisk: Whither Iraq?

On ABC Radio National's Breakfast program this morning the US ambassador told interviewer Fran Kelly and the listening audience that Iraq was a "fledgling democracy". Evidently the ambassador hasn't kept abreast of all the dire and diabolical news out of Iraq - the latest, just overnight, of some 150 people having been kidnapped.

Veteran journalist and author Robert Fisk [see Common Dreams here] has a different take on things in Iraq:

"Great news from America!" the cashier at my local Beirut bookshop shouted at me the other morning, raising her thumbs in the air. "Things will be better after these elections?" Alas, I said. Alas, no. Things are going to get worse in the Middle East even if, in two years' time, the U.S. is blessed with a Democrat (and democratic) president.

For the disastrous philosophers behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands of the whole mess and crying "Not Us!" with the same enthusiasm as th…

Move over CCN, BBC and Fox?

"After months of false starts, fine-tuning and a protracted in-house battle for the very soul of the channel, Al Jazeera unveils itself in English tomorrow for all the world to see.

All the world, that is, except North America, where only those with high-speed Internet access can log on to a live video stream of what the often controversial Arabic news empire has put together in its quest to take a global run at the likes of CNN, Fox and the BBC."

So reports Toronto Starhere. It would appear that the fledging channel, certainly in the West, will be challenged to get air-play. However, Al Jazeera should not be underestinated as its "owners" have deep pockets and will almost certainly gain traction in time. One thing is for sure! Al Jazeera has in many material respects changed the face of access to the media in the Middle East and formulating the views of its peoples. Interestingly, none other than veteran journalist and media-type, Sir David Frost, is t…

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Urgency required!

We've all read and heard the usual rhetoric. The Israelis have no partner with whom to engage in a peace-dialogue. Or, the present terrorist acts and anger of Muslims around the world is unrelated to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. And there are many more of like nature.

Well, this report, as detailed in BusinessDay, should put all the shiboleths and "fictions" to rest:

"Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is key to improving relations between Islam and the West, a multinational group of scholars, politicians and religious leaders said in a report presented in Istanbul today to UN chief Kofi Annan.

“The Israeli-Palestinian issue has become a key symbol of the rift between Western and Muslim societies and remains one of the gravest threats to international stability,” said the report, excerpts of which were obtained by AFP.

“The international community should seek a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a renewed sense of urgency,” sai…

David Hicks: Tally of those in favor of justice and those not

Crikey [this piece only on subscription] carries this critically interesting "scorecard" on those who support bringing David Hicks home and those not:

"For the first time since his son David Hicks was first imprisoned, Terry Hicks is set to meet Attorney-General Philip Ruddock face to face this week. After almost five years, David Hicks remains imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay despite the fact that he is yet to go to trial.

Charges against Hicks of attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy were struck out in June when the US Supreme Court ruled the commission unlawful. Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has said that it’s a critical time for the Howard Government to act. "Charges have not yet been laid under the new military commission process and the US has made clear they would like to return as many people as they can to other countries."

A growing number of federal parliamentarians are concerned about the delays in the Hicks case and the government is …

Rumsfeld rife to stand trial?

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.

Writing in AlterNet she details what she sees as Donald Rumsfeld's war crimes:

"Rumsfeld's sin was not in failing to develop a winning strategy for Iraq. There is no winning in Iraq, because we never belonged there in the first place. The war in Iraq is a war of aggression. It violates the United Nations Charter which only permits one country to invade another in self-defense or with the blessing of the Security Council.

Prosecuting a war of aggression isn't Rumsfeld's only crime. He also participated in the highest levels of decision-making that allowed the extrajudicial execution of several people. Willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, which constitutes a war crime. In his book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, Seymour Hers…

Times are a-changing

The US mid-term Congressional election is not even a week past and all of sudden things are changing.

Remember those "Axis of Evil" countries, including Iran, George Bush spoke about a few years back? Remember Condi wouldn't meet with anyone from Syria? Well, it looks like reality has caught up with some of the political leaders in Washington and London.

The Guardianreports today:

"Tony Blair will tonight set out the terms for a "new partnership" with Iran and Syria as part of a new approach to resolving the crisis in Iraq.

The prime minister will accuse Tehran of backing terrorism in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine to thwart international efforts to block Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But, in his annual speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet in the City of London, Mr Blair will claim that if it stops such support and abides by international obligations on nuclear non-proliferation, the west could work with Iran to secure peace in the Middle East.

"In tha…

The not so Lucky Country - Part II

Apropos the Lucky Country [see an earlier posting] ABC Radio National's The World Today had this startling and most troubling report:

ELEANOR HALL: A further interest rate rise would certainly hit some very hard. A financial snapshot of families in Sydney's west has found that one in every seven households there is on the edge of insolvency.

Fifteen per cent of the 400 families surveyed reported that they couldn't cope with an extra payment of $40 a month, and this research was conducted before last week's interest rate rise.

The Wesley Mission commissioned the study, and it says it regards the results as reflective of families across the nation".

Read a transcript of the ABC report here.

Robert Gates: Any better than Rumsie?

Mother Jones profiles the newly put forward US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates:

"While Donald Rumsfeld was Ronald Reagan’s errand boy to Saddam Hussein in the mid-1980s, Robert Gates, the man named yesterday to succeed him as Secretary of Defense, was at the very heart of the American intelligence apparatus, actively planning and carrying out covert operations in Central America and the Middle East.

Gates, a 26-year CIA veteran and the agency’s director between 1991 and 1993, has long been accused of undermining competent, unbiased intelligence analysis at the agency during his tenure, opening the way for its role in partisan politics, a reality brought to the fore again as the Bush administration made its flawed and phony case for war with Iraq. Gates was a high official at the CIA at a time when the U.S. intelligence community experienced one of its most humiliating debacles: the failure to predict the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Instead, under CIA director William Cas…

Massacre!

This piece by Uri Avnery on Information Clearing House says it all - why Israel with seeming immunity and impunity carries on its deadly actions with the general populace either ignorant or simply not wanting to know.

"Thank God for the American elections," our ministers and generals sighed with relief.

They were not rejoicing at the kick that the American people delivered to George W. Bush's ass this week. They love Bush, after all.

But more important than the humbling of Bush is the fact that the news from America pushed aside the terrible reports from Beit Hanoun. Instead of making the headlines, they were relegated to the bottom of the page.

The first revolutionary act is to call things by their true names, Rosa Luxemburg said. So how to call what happened in Beit Hanoun?

"Accident" said a pretty anchorwoman on one of the TV news programs. "Tragedy", said her lovely colleague on another channel. A third one, no less attractive, wavered between &quo…

Weaving a new web

Who can really "live" without the world wide web? The info which is so readily accessible, email, Googling and simply surfing, etc. etc. But we might be looking at a new dimension to the www as this NY Timesarticle reports:

"From the billions of documents that form the World Wide Web and the links that weave them together, computer scientists and a growing collection of start-up companies are finding new ways to mine human intelligence.

Their goal is to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide — and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion. That level of artificial intelligence, with machines doing the thinking instead of simply following commands, has eluded researchers for more than half a century.

Referred to as Web 3.0, the effort is in its infancy, and the very idea has given rise to skeptics who have called it an unobtainable vision. But the underlying technol…

So much for the Lucky Country

If this article in The Sunday Age is even half-right, things are going terribly awry out there in the mortgage-belt. This situation may well be the "bbq stopper" - but not positively for the Government - John Howard & Co.keep on babbling on about:

"Victorians are taking out as many as 12 credit cards at a time and using all of them at once, as their personal debts spiral out of control.

Waiting lists for free community financial counselling have blown out to as long as three months, with middle-income earners seeking help from services traditionally used by low-income workers.

Ian Mackintosh, executive director of the Financial and Consumer Rights Council, the main body for Victoria's 130 financial counsellors, said that significant personal debt problems were no longer the province of the "working poor".

"You are seeing people in what we might call 'the middle class' who are being afflicted by the same problems," he said. "I thin…

Liars, hypocrites and crybabies.....

"David Runciman teaches at Cambridge University and is a specialist on hypocrisy in political thought. He is writing a book on the subject and he takes a trial run in the current issue of the London Review of Books.

In his article "Liars, hypocrites and crybabies", guess who he uses as exemplars of political hypocrisy and mendacity? Our own beloved Man of Steel and his loyal deputy Mr Costello!

The point of the essay is to compare Blair, Howard and Clinton — three of the great political dissemblers and prevaricators of our time — and to ask why they are so much more popular with the electorate than Gordon Brown, Peter Costello or Al Gore, all of whom have tried harder to stick with the truth."

An interesting reflection and article on the Oz PM in an op-ed piece by Terry Lane in The Sunday Age.

They just don't get it - Again!

BBC Radio reported last night that whilst Gaza has seen significant violence and devastation over time the incident this past week of Israeli tank-shells hitting a house killing 19 innocent people was particularly shocking.

Remember that Israel has said "sorry" - how many "sorries do you get? - and attributed the shelling to a "technical error".

So, one would have thought that the UN Security Council would carry a motion condemning Israel latest carnage. Nope! The US veteod it - as detailed in this piece from the LA Times.

"The United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft resolution today that sought to condemn an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip and demand Israeli troops pull out the territory".

"It was the second U.S. veto this year of a Security Council draft resolution concerning Israeli military operations in Gaza. The U.S. blocked action on a document this summer after Israel launched its offensive in response to …

US elections: Meanwhile in downtown Baghdad

Newsweek reports on the response in Baghdad to the recent US mid-term elections and Rumsfeld's departure:

"For Iraqis, there was a lot to digest. More than most observers of this week’s U.S. elections, they have a personal stake in its outcome. But as the news about the Democratic takeover of the House and the departure of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld trickled in, their reactions were far from unanimous. Some were pleased; some were afraid and some were just plain cynical. "What difference does it make to people like me?" asked Ahmed Ibrahim, a 38-year-old shop owner in Baghdad. "To us our daily hope and mission is to dodge assassins and bombs and all types of death."

Sydney - according to the NY Times

"A boarding pass to Sydney should come with a warning label: Beware, this city will have you questioning the quality of life in your hometown. Sydney has managed to skim the best parts of other cities and swirl them into a perfect blend of urban bliss. At any given time, visitors can enjoy the sun-soaked laid-back vibe of Los Angeles, the cleanliness and efficiency of Geneva, the energizing hustle and bustle of New York City and the Old World charms of London. Pair all of that with a unique brand of casual Aussie warmth and you’ve got more than enough to justify the otherwise prohibitively long flight to get there."

So begins an article in the NY Times "36 Hours in Sydney". Read the full piece here.

It gets worse for Blair & Co.

In a week which has seen George Bushs' wings clipped, happily the "loss" of Rumsie as US Secretary of Defence and the news this morning that John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN will most likely not have his term renewed - he was appointed in questionable circumstances in the first place - The New Statesmanreveals this:

"The government is withholding a secret draft of the Iraq WMD dossier that was never disclosed to the Hutton inquiry, the New Statesman can reveal. In a development that will stoke demands for a full parliamentary inquiry into the events that led up to the war, we can confirm that the draft was written not by the intelligence services, which had responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained in the dossier, but by a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office press officer, whose name has previously featured only on the fringes of the controversy over Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. It raises the possibility that the dossier origina…

The nightmare which is Beit Hanoun

Jennifer Loewenstein is a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford University's Refugee Studies Centre. She has lived and worked in Gaza City, Beirut and Jerusalem and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, where she has worked as a free-lance journalist and a human rights activist.

Loewenstein, writing inCounterpoint, deals with Gaza, the horrific conditions there and the latest outrage in Beit Hanoun with the Israeli tank-shellings resulting in the death of 19 people, many of them children:

"Do you believe this was an accident? that an international investigation will ever take place? Like after Jenin? Like after Dan Halutz and his 2000 pound bomb which was dropped on an apartment building in Gaza City killing 15 people, 9 of them women and children? Like after the siege of Jabalya in the fall of 2004? Like after Operation Rainbow in Rafah? Like after Huda Ghalia's family was blasted into nothingness during an outing on a Gaza beach? Will US eyes, glued to their g…

A country lost in its own region

Israel's PM is reported this morning as saying that the tank-shelling in Gaza which killed 19 people [many children] was a "technical error" and he apologised for it. Some consolation for the families of the dead!

The Age this morning carries a sober and moderate op-ed piece by Antony Loewenstein on the issues confronting Israel including what sort of country it is, what it stands for and how it must address its position in the region:

"On October 30, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset's Security and Foreign Affairs Committee that the Israeli military had killed 300 "terrorists" in the Gaza Strip in the past three months.

According to the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, the Israel Defence Force has killed 294 Palestinians in Gaza since the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 27, but more than half of those killed - 155 people, including 61 children - had no involvement in hostilities. The group sent a letter to O…

Is the Ugly American dead?

As news comes through this morning that the Democrats in the US have now carried both the Congress and Senate, this is an interesting reflection on AlterNet on the electoral outcome and the consequences:

"The ugly American mark two is dead. Overnight six years of glib European identification of "American" with right-wing fundamentalism is over. The gun-toting, pre-Darwinian Bushite, the Tomahawk-wielding, Halliburton-loving, Beltway neo-con, damning abortion as murder and torturing Islamo-fascists has been lain to rest, and by a decision of the American people. Americans should be proud and the world should take note."

A night forgotten?

Last night was the 68th anniversary of Krystallnacht in Germany - the night when Germans rampaged around the country burning and looting synagogues. Hence the appellation of breaking crystal!

It was the typical actions of scapegoating, blind prejudice and bigotry. Has anything changed? Not exactly. Whilst we aren't going around systematically attacking mosques, in Australia there is a decided movement to vilify and challenge Muslims and their traditions in a variety of ways.

Be warned......It's a slippery slope to things getting out of hand.

Be scared!

A new type of McCarthyism is alive and well in the US - and creeping into Australia too.

The SBS Dateline program last night tackled the topic:

"With the history wars, the culture wars and the Australian values furore, allegations of bias have been flying thick and fast in this country. We in the media have sort of grown used to it over the years. But in the US right now, those same sort of allegations, at least where academics are concerned, are not to be sniffed at. A lobby group calling itself Campus Watch has American professors of Middle East Studies in the crosshairs."

Read the transcript here - or else view the program on line too.

Michael Danby, one-eyed pro-Zionist Federal Labour MP - he, who famously sought to stop publication by MUP of a book 1 year before its publication and then slammed the author of the book saying he, Danby, would not read it - is shown up for where he is coming from in a discussion with Professor Andrew Vincent [also on Dateline last night]:

"…