Monday, June 30, 2003

Tariq Ali on Imperialism
"Why is Tony Blair such an enthusiastic partner of George Bush in his war on terrorism?

"In terms of foreign policy, I think Blair decided very early on after he came to office that he was going to continue the deals Thatcher had done with Reagan. What these deals have done, basically, is they have locked the British Ministry of Defense into the Pentagon. It’s to the point now that when the Pentagon upgrades, the British Ministry of Defense, which doesn’t need to do it, has to do it because it’s part of the same system.

"Now the British are totally committed to this alliance. It reminds you of what Charles DeGaulle used to say when he kept on vetoing British entry into the Common Market. He used to say that Britain will always be an American Trojan horse in the European Union. How right he was. Blair likes to go and tell the Europeans, I’m close to Bush. I can influence him. He tells Bush, It’s important I’m in the European Union, because I can make sure that your views there are properly defended."

Sunday, June 29, 2003

US shooting in the dark in Afghanistan: "Despite the best efforts of its military and intelligence apparatus and political manipulation in Pakistan, in the year and a half since the demise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the United States and its allies have failed to break the Taliban and al-Qaeda in that country. Indeed, the resistance movement in Afghanistan has fully re-organized itself, even setting up offices"

"In an audio tape sent to the Pakistan daily The News, which is accepted as authentic, the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, urges Muslims to step up their jihad against the US and other coalition occupation forces in Afghanistan. Omar issued the tape from his hiding place in Afghanistan, the daily reported, quoting Taliban spokesman Mohammad Mukhtar Mujahid. Omar has named a 10-member leadership council to organize the resistance against the US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan."

Israel: one more step into open Apartheid: "A law forbidding Israeli citizenship for Palestinians from the Occupied Territories who marry Israelis passed its first reading in the Knesset on June 18. This is another milestone on Israel's road to open, institutionalized apartheid.... Jewish-Israeli Knesset member Zehava Gal-On called the bill "racist and discriminatory." Palestinian-Israeli Knesset member Wasil Taha compared it to Germany's 1930s Nuremberg laws which targeted Jews and limited their civil rights, including the right to marriage. The Israeli bill is also reminiscent of apartheid-era South African laws which banned interracial marriages. And, until the Supreme Court overturned them, the United States had a long tradition of laws, specifically restricting Africans, Chinese and Japanese from obtaining citizenship, owning land or marrying whites."

Taliban appoint new commanders to fight US troops: "In a recent meeting held in Afghanistan, Taliban elders appointed ten leaders, including military commanders, to lead the new 'Jihad' drive against U.S. troops in Afghani provinces and districts... Mullah Beradar is Taliban second-in-command after Mullah Omar. All other Taliban commanders take instructions from him and he is the only person though to be communicating regularly with Mullah Omar via personal messengers."

Breakdown of intefadeh death toll: "In 33 months of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 2,414 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 806 on the Israeli side. The Palestinian figure includes at least 99 suicide bombers, about 60 suspected informers for Israel killed by Palestinian militants, 13 Israeli Arabs killed in pro-Palestinian riots, a British U.N. staffer, an American peace activist, one Italian and one British journalist, and a German resident of the West Bank. The Israeli figure includes four non-Jews killed in Israeli army uniform, at least 14 foreign workers, two international observers -- Swiss and Turkish -- and a Greek monk killed in a roadside shooting"

Human Rights Watch: Military Commissions should not be used: "'The commissions are a discredit to American traditions of justice,' said Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program. 'The Department of Defense should go back to the drawing board.'"

Green Party Calls On Bush Administration To Stop Second-Guessing Thousands Of Climatologists: "Bush Administration Edits EPA Report, Denies Scientific Consensus on Climate Change... This administration is so bold and so wrong; a true opposition party is needed to raise the U.S. public's awareness about Bush's behind-the-scenes work... Over 1,500 scientists representing many countries have been working, using consensus, for nearly two decades on the realities of climate change. Using many different sources of data including ice core samples, the Keeling Curve, and the changing patterns of El Nino and La Nina, scientists have been able to confirm the rapid rise in the global temperature over the past 150 years. The industrial revolution has created a variance in the global temperature beyond any naturally occurring climate changes, including recurring ice ages.

"It is outrageous that since we are either at war or threatening most of the oil-producing countries, the Bush Administration is running away in a polluted sea of denial from the need to diminish our heavy dependence on oil," said Mark Dunlea, Chair, Green Party of New York State."

This corrupt Bush administration surely cannot last.

Hamas, Jihad Trash Bush’s Double Standards: "The smaller resistance group, Islamic Jihad, called Bush’s statement “provocative” and aimed at giving Israel a free hand on the ground. “This is a provocative declaration and a green light (to Israel) to continue its assassinations, airstrikes, raids and crimes,” Islamic Jihad official Mohammad Al-Hindi said. Al-Hindi said: “Bush doesn’t see (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon’s crimes, he doesn’t acknowledge that assassinations are terrorism but he thinks that resisting the occupation is terrorism.”"

Saving Corporations from Themselves? Interesting issues raised in the Nike "right to lie" case. This article makes the point the bill of rights protects human beings, not corporations.

Cheney And The CIA: Not Business As Usual: "Not much heed was paid to the fact that Hussein's son-in-law, who supervised Iraq's nuclear program before he defected in 1995, had told interrogators that Iraq's nuclear capability - save the blueprints - had been destroyed in 1991 at his order. (Documents given to the United States this week confirm that. The Iraqi scientists who provided them added that, even though the blueprints would have given Iraq a head start, no order was given to restart the program; and even had such an order been given, Iraq would still have been years away from producing a nuclear weapon.)"

"The White House calculated - correctly - that before anyone would make an issue of the fact that this key piece of "intelligence" was based on a forgery, Congress would vote yes. The war could then be waged and won. In recent weeks, administration officials have begun spreading the word that Cheney was never told the Iraq-Niger story was based on a forgery. I asked a senior official who recently served at the National Security Council if he thought that was possible. He pointed out that rigorous NSC procedures call for a very specific response to all vice presidential questions and added that "the fact that Cheney's office had originally asked that the Iraq-Niger report be checked out makes it inconceivable that his office would not have been informed of the results."

"Did the president himself know that the information used to secure congressional approval for war was based on a forgery? We don't know. But which would be worse - that he knew or that he didn't?"

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Brazil: The Government and the Landowners: Discusses land reform including the implications of patented seeds. Unfortunately still no appreciation of the relevance of the LVT strategy.

Coup D' Etat In Washington: Andre Gunder Frank summarizes the effective coup by which Bush and the neoconservatives have come to power. The crucial question for the future is whether the neocons would be willing to accept being removed from power; or, how far they are prepared to go (in addition to the 'legitimate' political tactics of scaremongering, warmongering, militarism and patriotism) whether by vote rigging, fraud and/or actual repression to ensure they retain the grip on power. American democracy is perilously placed and there must be a real risk, perhaps a minor one, of it being formally or effectively abolished in favour of a virtual fascism. The key weakness of the neocon ideology is they do not appear to have a plan to guarantee their grip on power when opposition to them throughout society reaches a critical point. An opportunity to remove and discredit them exists but if it is not taken then a slow slide into actual fascism might be predicted.

New secret police powers in Australia: "The new bill applies to everyone, man and woman, citizen and non-citizen, from the age of 16. Nobody is immune from arrest, at any time, anywhere, by special warrant issued by a judge, to be 'detained' for a maximum of seven days and 'interrogated' for a maximum of 24 hours (made up of three blocks of eight hours). And if ASIO can produce new, agreed information on which to request a new warrant, the same person, once he or she has been released, can be detained a second time, again for a maximum seven days, still without charge, and subject to a further maximum 24 hours of supervised interrogation... you have no right to silence. You must answer ASIO's questions. If you don't know the answers you must prove you don't know ("a defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to [these] matters")...

"If you're picked up on one of these special ASIO warrants and refuse to appear before a supervising judge for questioning by ASIO, you can be jailed for five years. No ifs, buts, maybes. No lesser penalty, either. Refuse to answer questions and you face the same penalty: five years' jail. If you knowingly give a "false or misleading" answer, again five years' jail. If you fail to produce "any record or thing" you're asked to produce, five years' jail. The penalty is the same all round: five years in the slammer."

The Howard government through participation in the illegal war against Iraq has deliberately increased the risk of terrorist retaliation to Australia and Australians; and at the same time materially and dramatically weakened our civil liberties. Part of a political strategy that being 'tough on terrorism' will get them re-elected.

Articles of Impeachment for George Bush: "this document is a work in progress because the Bush presidency is a crime in progress."

Uncle Chutzpah, On A Rampage: "People on the left should confront this outrageous and immoral 'reality' [UKUSA occupation of Iraq] and refuse to accept a murderous aggressor's right to attack and then to plunder the victim of his aggression and to threaten others. Uncle and his poodle should be ousted and forced to pay reparations to the victims, just as he required Iraq to do for its depredations in Kuwait. This double standard is Kafkaesqe and we should hammer home its grotesqueness and the underlying immorality, and resist it or face the threat of more of the same to come."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone attacks President Bush: "The mayor said: 'I think George Bush is the most corrupt American president since Harding in the Twenties. 'He is not the legitimate president.' He later added: 'This really is a completely unsupportable government and I look forward to it being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown.'"

Pinter blasts 'Nazi America' and 'deluded idiot' Blair
"The playwright Harold Pinter last night likened George W Bush's administration to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, saying the US was charging towards world domination while the American public and Britain's 'mass-murdering' prime minister sat back and watched."

Friday, June 27, 2003

Linux world domination 2005 on track
"HP also offers Linux in India, as does a major Korean manufacturer, LG Electronics. It looks as though HP, IBM and Acer are using India (and Thailand) as test markets, and if it works, then other markets will follow... Interest in Linux is also exploding elsewhere in the third world from Brazil to the Philippines, so the possibility arises that the Linux desktop will proliferate from the ground up, storming the North American and European markets after establishing economies of scale in the third world... It is beginning to look unstoppable. "

Where is Raed ?
Raed continues to provide fascinating insights into daily life in Baghdad as the situation steadily deteriorates.

German soldiers: Afghanistan mission a failure
'Germany's main servicemen's group declared the western peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan a failure this week and called for Germany to either win the force more robust powers or pull out all 2,300 personnel.'

Enormous human cost of 'war on terror'
'The human cost of the 21st century's first war is already enormous. In addition to those who have died, staggering numbers have been detained around the world in violation of their human rights and international law. Paul Vallely investigates their fate, and asks whether this suspension of due process in the name of defending democracy can ever be justified.'

The US Government Case for War in Iraq Based on Forgery and Lies
Clearly argued article reviews the case of the forged Niger uranium documents and the implications of government openly lying to people about the reasons for war.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Wind Power Set to Become World's Leading Energy Source
'The European Wind Energy Association and Greenpeace concluded that the world's wind-generating potential -- assuming that only 10 percent of the earth's land area would be available for development -- is double the projected world electricity demand in 2020.'

'The cost of wind-generated electricity has dropped from 38¢ a kilowatt-hour in the early 1980s to roughly 4¢ a kilowatt-hour today on prime wind sites.'

A geonomist (and also a land speculator) jumps at this last statement. Either charge site rent to the annual market value of the prime sites or else have the site rent capitalised into land price plus a speculative component which creates instant dispossession and inequality and could damage the industry before it even gets off the ground. We've already seen land, water, broadcast spectrum, air, and the environment itself effectively 'privatized' under this rent-seeking enclosure and rent-retaining system: wind will soon be next.

A striking feature of modern Germany is the prevalance of wind turbines throughout the countryside. It is all to the good, but they are unsightly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Australian troops show signs of uranium sickness
'Dr Douglas Rokke is a former US Army nuclear health physicist and was formerly the Pentagon's expert on the health effects of depleted uranium ammunition... "Although myself and my team members wore respiratory and skin protection, that protection we know today does not provide any adequate protection against the inhalation, the ingestion, the absorption of uranium compounds." He said he now suffered rashes, respiratory problems, kidney problems and cataracts related to his exposure to uranium. Dr Rokke is in Australia to speak against the use of depleted uranium weapons, which he describes as a crime against humanity, creating a toxicological nightmare.'

'"We'd like our government as a bare minimum to put Australian service veterans from the first and second Gulf wars, as well as Afghanistan, through rigorous testing to get a baseline study of exactly what the health effects are of depleted uranium and other chemical toxins ... and treat them," Mr Grech said. "So far our government has been furphying, it's been releasing reports which parrot the Pentagon line six to 12 months later, it's been in a state of denial."'

An Iraqi 'quackmire' in the making
Jim Lobe summarises the financial and military failure of the neocons in Iraq and at home.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Road map apartheid - binational state now only solution
Meron Benvenisti makes the statement that the settlement process in Palestine has been carried to such an extent that the 'two-state' solution is no longer viable. A multicultural bi-national state is the only long term solution. However, he does not provide much argument for this, although it is true that the further the settlement process continues the more difficult is the originally conceived two-state solution.

Monday, June 23, 2003

John Dower: Is Japan a model for current US occupation?
'As we enter a dramatically altered world, both internationally and domestically, it is only natural that we look to history for bearings, points of comparison, glimmerings of the familiar. In these predictable uses of the past, "Japan" has emerged as a small trope for both horror and hope. Thus, September 11 became our generation's Pearl Harbor (headline writers across America turned, almost instinctively, to "Day of Infamy!"). Our new global enemies have been declared an "axis of evil" (with North Korea presumably replacing the Japan of the 1930s). And now we have the sanguine scenario of the democratization of "occupied Japan" after World War II as a model for post-hostilities Iraq.

'None of these analogies withstand serious scrutiny, and looking back at occupied Japan should really remind us both how fundamentally different Iraq is from the Japan of 1945 and also how far the United States itself has departed from the ideals of a half-century ago. Liberalism, internationalism, serious commitment to human rights, a vision of economic democratization in which the state is assigned an important role -- these were watchwords of the Americans who formulated initial policy for occupied Japan. In the Bush administration, they are objects of derision.'

Media concentration advances in Australia
Margot Kingston dissects the latest bill (expected to pass) which will further enhance concentration of the media in Australia. She places particular emphasis upon the failure of understanding among the independent Senators. Its been 15 years since Manufacturing Consent was first published, and yet the process of media globalisation, corporatisation and concentration and still not reached its high tide.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Gutman plan: Eight Steps To Free Media
'The FCC acted despite holding only one public hearing, although the chairman and staff did have 71 private meetings with communications industry officials. Three quarters of a million private citizens deluged the FCC with letters and e-mail, demanding that the public interest be served. Many were especially outraged by the revelation that FCC officials had taken 2,500 trips sponsored by the broadcast industry, a $2.7 million purchase of favor and influence.'

The War, Brought To You By The White House
'To See What Media Consolidation Will Do To British Television, Look No Further Than The US... The lesson from America is that, if news and public affairs are left purely to the market, it will most likely give the government what it wants... Media consolidation is a careless risk that should never have been contemplated'

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Galloway papers deemed forgeries
'On April 25, 2003, this newspaper ran a story about documents obtained in Iraq that alleged Saddam Hussein's regime had paid a British member of Parliament, George Galloway, $10 million over 11 years to promote its interests in the West. An extensive Monitor investigation has subsequently determined that the six papers detailed in the April 25 piece are, in fact, almost certainly forgeries.'

The question of who forged, planted and 'discovered' these documents is almost as interesting and important as in the case of the forged Nigerian uranium documents. The issue will be how far to the top of the UKUSA apparatus the forgery can be traced; and to what lengths these people are prepared to go to to falsify pretexts for war and to discredit their opponents.

More Missing Intelligence - Robert Dreyfuss
'The catastrophic result of the belief that it would be easy to pacify postwar Iraq and to create a quisling government in Baghdad, a view that was codified as dogma by the White House, is unfolding daily in Iraq... Does the United States have the political staying power to continue to sustain one or two casualties a day in October 2004? That's a question that ought to disturb Karl Rove's sleep. And it might be a question that Democratic would-be opponents of the President ought to ponder... It's a true crisis, and one that could determine the fate of Bush's presidency... Let me suggest a question for Bush, the know-nothing GOP standard-bearer in 2004: "What didn't the President know, and when didn't he know it?"'

What Do Australians Think About Government Control of the Senate?
Shaun Wilson argues that the public distrusts government as influenced by big interests and therefore supports the Senate as a review of the executive power.

Global warming massive crisis - US in denial
Alarming reports continue to arrive about the real seriousness of the global warming crisis: 'Global warming over the next century could trigger a catastrophe to rival the worst mass extinction in the history of the planet, scientists have warned. Researchers at Bristol University have discovered that a mere 6 degrees of global warming was enough to wipe out up to 95 per cent of the species which were alive on earth at the end of the Permian period, 250 million years ago. United Nations scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict up to 6 degrees of warming for the next 100 years if nothing is done about emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, the chief cause of global warming... Global warming author Mark Lynas, who recently travelled around the world witnessing the impact of climate change, said the findings must be a wake up call for politicians and citizens alike. He said: "This is a global emergency. We are heading for disaster and yet the world is on fossil fuel autopilot. There needs to be an immediate phase-out of coal, oil and gas and a phase in of clean energy sources. People can no longer ignore this looming catastrophe."'

Meantime, 'Democrat senators have accused the White House of "doctoring" [an EPA] report so that it does not challenge President George W Bush's view that global warming is of minor environmental importance... The draft of the EPA report was submitted to the White House earlier this year. But the amendments demanded by the president's staff were so extensive that the climate section "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change", according to an internal EPA memo quoted by the Associated Press news agency.'

Thursday, June 19, 2003

India divided on whether to send troops to Iraq at US request
'Washington's request to Delhi to send troops to serve as part of a "stabilization force" in Iraq has generated a heated debate in India. With the issue dividing the political establishment, bureaucracy and political parties right down the middle, the Indian government is in a huge dilemma over whether or not to comply with the US request.'

Russia looks east for Moscow-Delhi-Beijing axis to oppose US hegemony
'[Russian Foreign Minister] Ivanov, who met senior Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Monday, is seeking economic and security relations across a vast region extending from the oil-rich Central Asian republics to Southeast Asia in a move reminiscent of the Cold War era. Russia remains a close Indian ally and its principal weapon supplier. It is reportedly attempting to revive the five-year old proposal for a Moscow-Delhi-Beijing axis against US ascendancy to ensure a multi-polar world. Ivanov's Delhi visit came a week before Vajpayee leaves for China, the first Indian prime minister to travel to Beijing in a decade to forge closer political and diplomatic links between the world's two most populous countries.'

Corporate donations to major parties a serious problem in NSW
'The property sector has long been a major source of donations for the major parties... the NSW Greens, who have been campaigning for donation reform, said the public will be appalled at the major parties' dependence on certain sectors. "The Greens are very concerned about the influence wielded behind closed doors by corporations dealing in armaments, gambling, alcohol, tobacco, finance and the media," said the MP Lee Rhiannon.'

Judah Zollandz - essays on Palestine: 'Rejectionism'
This essay (and the previous one) seems to be mainly inspired by Chomsky as has been mentioned but that is all to the good in my opinion. I am only guessing but it seems that the majority of the Australian Jewish community are in the grip of the "propaganda" view of the conflict and accordingly "back Israel no matter what, never criticise Israel even when they know it is wrong". Another remark, I would hardly call the SMH an "impartial liberal" paper. It seems more like a key cog in the corporate media, although it does offer a certain amount of dissent from the dominant view. Nothing as excellent and necessary as the current essay has ever been sighted by me in the SMH.

The dullest blog in the world
'Leaning against a wall June 14
I was standing next to a wall and began to feel a little tired. I leaned to the side against the wall and continued to adopt this slightly more comfortable posture for several moments.'

This idiotically inane entry attracted no less than 193 comments, probably all duller than the original post (if that's possible), except of course I couldn't really tell because my eyes glazed over after only the first one or two. In addition to this, according to the New York Times, this blog generates no less than 85,000 per month. Meantime my counter (which I'm now convinced must be broken) shows nobody reading my blog except me and the search engines. I need to give it away and get another pastime or else start posting about 'turning my head to the right to look out the window' and 'the clicking noises my keyboard makes when I type.'

sydney indymedia - Palestine update
A selection of several informative articles, including another excellent Avnery piece, which provide insight and perspective on the 'Road map' and the botched Rantisi assasination. The Israeli government is a junta (according to Avnery) which is deliberately sabotaging the peace process against the wishes of the Israeli people themselves. On the other hand, Sharon and the generals cannot eliminate Hamas, nor has the US and Israel any leverage on Hamas. It is beginning to look as though the Intifada has singlehandedly fought the best efforts of Israel & the US to a standstill. - The Sydney Morning Herald
'[PM Howard] defended Australian intelligence about Iraq's weapons program, and said the government had never tried to tamper with evidence to push the case for war... "I believe that people should be more patient about the discovery of further evidence." Mr Howard said the intelligence assessments were honest and were not exaggerated to suit the government's case against Iraq.'

With statements like these, Howard is just out there hanging on this issue. The opposition could go for the jugular if they had a man who knew how to win. Whitlam or Keating could have done it. But it takes both the thought and the courage to properly redefine Australia's national security interests and its foreign policy, and it seems both thought and courage are quite lacking.

Inadequate Australian inquiry into Intelligence failure over Iraq's alleged WMDS
'Asked how much ability the committee had to look into intelligence on Iraq, Mr Jull replied "very little", adding that "anything ASIO knew [about Iraq] would be ancillary". Despite calls for a Senate inquiry into the issue, which can call on all the intelligence agencies and public witnesses such as the former ONA analyst Andrew Wilkie, Labor opted for an alternative despite disquiet among some party members. The Greens and Democrats wanted to set up two inquiries, including a Senate one, but were stymied by Government and Labor opposition. The United States and Britain have set up inquiries into alleged intelligence failures on Iraq.'

Why is Labor reluctant to move on the issue of an inquiry? The Howard government is vulnerable on this isues, just as Blair and Bush are. The Australian public are also vulnerable if the government's policy is based on lies and increases not decreases the risk of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - an argument for which a good case could be mounted. Any opposition worthy of the name... My guess is Labor lacks the guts to articulate and defend a national security policy different to Howard - real weakness combined with the fact they are simply spooked by him. Congratulations to the Greens and the Democrats for standing up for Australia's genuine security interests and for fighting for the credibility of government and its intelligence agencies.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Randolph Bourne - "War is the Health of the State"
This World War 1 essay by Bourne is the origin of the striking phrase "War is the health of the state."

Geraldine Bedell on the West Bank Wall
Israelis dont want to call it a wall, presumably because that has Berlin connotations, so they call it a 'separation fence'. That doesnt seem such a good idea either, as Apartheid meant separation in South Africa. The Palestinains, of course, are not very helpful as they call some villages enclosed by the wall 'concentration camps'.

Angry, damaging splits among conservatives over Israel
'“The sense of being gagged and intimidated is growing—and with it, a resentment,” [Hoffman] writes, and then goes on to tell us—and this is most important—“The underground dissenters (to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians) aren’t afraid of the government; they fear informal social and economic punishment. They don’t fear being thrown in jail, but out on the street. Life-and-death issues of American foreign policy aren’t being debated and haven’t been debated, because the would-be debaters on one side fear that the personal cost of carrying on the argument would be too high.” ... “The Moran case is a cautionary tale reinforcing the spreading conviction that a person risks job, career and status if he or she disagrees with the party line on American foreign policy in the Middle East.”'

'What in heaven’s name is going on here? Who do these people think they are? It’s an easy question to answer: they are haters who are determined to destroy anyone who disagrees with the idea of Greater Israel, a Sharon dream since day one... Are Israelis who abhor Sharon’s government policy of allowing extremists to make any future Palestinian state unworkable by expanding the network of colonies anti-Semitic? Are those outraged at the harsh treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli army the world over anti-Semitic? I’ll answer the question with a question. You, sirs, ready to accuse anyone who disagrees with you as anti-Semitic, have you no decency?'

Villagers enraged and baffled by American show of force
'US troops accused of indiscriminate use of firepower in countering guerrilla attacks... The official American reports of the search operation chillingly resemble those issued at the height of the Vietnam war, with all the dead described as enemy combatants. No American soldiers were killed or wounded.'

What's It All About? by Justin Raimondo
'The idea that we cannot be a republic and an empire is finally beginning to dawn on the advocates of limited government -–as they see the national security state swallowing up the last of our freedoms. Big Brother reads our email and tracks our every move, while Big Government just keeps on getting bigger.'

Raimondo discusses the battle between "neoconservatives" (the US war & empire party) and "paleoconservatives" (the isolationist antiwar & anti-empire party), a battle which the "paleos" seem to be winning, much to the consternation of the "neocons". Its a pity of course that there isnt a better appreciation of the "left", as represented by people like Chomsky, Pilger, Vidal etc. Its not such a far step to gain a real synthetic understanding.

"The Orica report" - Lead Contamination in Homebush Bay. by Bernard Rooney
"The Orica Report", suppressed for over a year, has finally been released due to an FOI application from the Greens, and pressure from the EPA. The report reveals a problem of lead pollution in Homebush bay, and a reluctance on the part of the developer to admit the fact and responsibility for a cleanup.

Ex-intel officer Andrew Wilkie: WMD deception big problem for govt
'Sooner or later the cock and bull surrounding Iraq and WMD is going to catch up with the Australian Government. The deception and its consequences are just too great to be ignored... A big problem for the Government now is the fact that the Office of National Assessments made very clear before the war that the US was intent on invading Iraq for many strategic and domestic reasons, not just because of WMDs and terrorism.'

'Australian intelligence agencies aren't leaking like their US and British counterparts. But the Government hasn't yet tried to explain unfairly its policy failure as an intelligence failure. When it does at least some spooks will be tempted to lash out. Already the head of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Frank Lewincamp, has sought during a Senate hearing to highlight his agency's measured assessments on Iraq.'

Swinging voters need to be convinced that Labor will be steadfast on terrorism
Opposition to the Howard government should go on the front foot on the basis that Howard has increased, not lessened, the security and terrorism threat to Australia and Australians. His unquestioning support for American policy has increased the risk and that fact needs to be squarely faced. Australia's genuine national security interest requires a dramatic change in policy: end the unquestioning subservience to the USA; repudiate the reckless declaration by Howard of a right to a "preemptive strike" against our neighbours; re-commit to International Law and the Charter of the United Nations; restore relations with our neighbours and with Muslims, particularly in our region; focus our resources on the security of our own country and our own region, in cooperation with our neighbours under law; terminate the politicisation of the army, the navy, the SAS and the Intelligence Services that we have suffered under the Howard government. For example, trained SAS troops should not be used on stunts such as the Tampa which could have been handled by a bureaucrat with a clipboard; and the nominal C-in-C the Governor-General should perform the duties of farewelling and welcoming home troops instead of turning every such occasion into a political photo opportunity. A long term committment should be made to understand and respect the sentiments of Muslim people; gratuitous insults and discriminatory action such as the refugee policy work against the genuine national security interests of Australia. A thoroughgoing inquiry into the failure of intelligence over the Iraq WMD issue is necessary, and those figures (either intelligence or government) who contributed to misleading the people have to go. There can hardly be a more serious issue for the country than the question of war and peace, terrorism, national and individual security; and there could hardly be a more wretched politicisation and betrayal on these issues than that practiced by the Howard Government.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Sharon assasination strategy backfiring?
'Haaretz, the most dovish of Israeli newspapers, editorialized yesterday against what it called "a poor decision" by Sharon. "The timing and method of the operation reinvigorated doubts regarding Sharon's sincerity and commitment to Bush's vision for the Middle East and its implementation," Haaretz said. What is surprising, however, is that as many as half of Israelis themselves believe Sharon's motivation for the attack was to sabotage the peace plan, according to a poll yesterday in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The survey showed Israelis evenly divided, with 43 per cent of respondents accepting at face value the Sharon government's explanation that Rantisi was a "ticking time bomb" of terror.

'Yet 40 per cent of Israelis say they believe the attack came for the sole purpose of sabotaging the road map. A further 3 per cent say both reasons were behind the strike. "The number of citizens who reject the government's explanations and attribute malicious intentions to it is very high," wrote Yedioth analyst Sever Plotzker. "When the percentage of Israel's citizens that depend on the army's professional ethics is identical to the percentage who view the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) as a political tool, it is not only the state leaders who have a problem of justification. The IDF also has a credibility problem that it has not suffered from so far during the intifada." The Yedioth survey, which sampled opinion from 501 people, giving it an error margin of 4.5 per cent, also found six out of 10 Israelis favour an immediate halt to further assassinations. "This sweeping critique of the assassinations is a new and unprecedented phenomenon," Plotzker wrote. "The public is gradually overcoming its addiction to assassinations, especially of Palestinians from the political echelon, since it already knows what follows them."'

'A clear majority of Israelis have consistently favoured withdrawal from most or all of the West Bank and Gaza, including the dismantling of most settlements. Yesterday's survey numbers indicated that as of this week, 67 per cent of Israelis agree with Sharon's controversial assertion that the military "occupation" of Palestinian territory must end. But the ideological resolve of Israel's estimated 200,000 Jewish settlers and their international supporters backers remains breathtaking... Emboldened by the disintegration of peace prospects with each passing day, the Yesha Council of West Bank rabbis went on the offensive, restating its biblical claim to the whole of the territory and urging neighbouring Arab countries to absorb all Palestinian refugees. After "a serious look at the Arab problem," the rabbis concluded the only solution is "at the roots." "According to the Torah, there is no place for Arabs in the Land of Israel," the rabbis' statement said.' - this is religious fundamentalism officially sanctioning the crime of ethnic cleansing and systematic absuse of human rights. It passes without comment in Israel and the West.

Tanya Reinhart on Aqaba
'The right wing is furious and the peace camp celebrates, yet both sides agree on the substance of what they perceive has occurred: Sharon’s Israel has already taken the fatal historical step, and gave up on the occupation. - “In Akaba, the State of Palestine was founded”! - declared the headline of Yediot Aharonot on June 5. This is because, following in the tradition of Oslo, the mere declaration of a willingness to give away something at some future time, is by itself the most painful and crucial of concessions.'

Saudi Wahhabis enter Iraq to fight US
'The arrival of the Wahhabis, members of a fundamentalist Islamic sect, represents an ominous new element in Iraq because they are highly organised, highly motivated and well funded. It is no coincidence that the number of bloody incidents involving US troops has escalated dramatically in recent days.'

Avnery: To Aqaba and Back
'Sharon's final objective has not changed, and in Aqaba he has said nothing to contradict it. If the Arabs cannot be removed from the country, they must be confined to isolated enclaves, which will be connected artificially by strips of land to create "contiguity". He is ready to call this a "Palestinian state". It will consist of 42% of the occupied territories, which themselves constitute 22% of Palestine before 1948. The main settlement blocs will remain as they are and eventually be annexed to Israel. No mention of Jerusalem or the refugees. As we have said many times: don't listen to what Sharon says, look at what he is doing with his hands.'

'A huge achievement. If the armed intifada ends, who can be said to have gained from the 32 months of bloody struggle? The objective answer: it is a draw... The draw has created a mood of hopelessness on both sides. Both have come to the conclusion that there is no military solution. But when there is a draw between two sides, one of which is a thousand times stronger than the other, it is a fantastic achievement for the weaker... The Oslo agreement was disabled at birth because it did not spell out the final destination: the State of Palestine side-by-side with the State of Israel. The Road Map clearly defines this aim, confirmed by the whole world and with the agreement of the most rightist government Israel ever had. This is a big step forward, a point of no return.'

Chomsky interview: What's Happening? (v.good)
'The reason is that they [Bush administration] are carrying out policies which are quite harmful to the general population and favorable to an extremely narrow sector of corporate power and the corrupt sectors as well, and they can't face the electorate on that. As he [Karl Rove] pointed out, if we can make the primary issue national security then we will be able win because people will -you know- flock to power if they feel frightened... They are seeking a "fiscal train wreck" that will make it impossible to fund the programs... In effect, if you look at the press today they describe soldiers as saying: "we are here for revenge - you know - because they blew up the World Trade Center, they will attack us", or something. Well, these beliefs are completely unique to the United States. I mean: no one in the World believes anything like this... That [National Security Strategy] caused shudders around the world, including the foreign policy elite at home which was appalled by this. I mean it is not that things like that haven't been heard in the past. Of course they had, but it had never been formulated as an official national policy. I suspect you will have to go back to Hitler to find an analogy to that... This [Islamic governments] is the last thing the US wants, so chances of any kind of democratic opening very likely will be immediately opposed.. The voices of secular democracy will also be opposed... The differences with [Kennedy administration and] September 2002 is that instead of being operative policy now it became official policy. That is the difference... They [Bush administration] want a very powerful state, a huge state in fact, a violent state and one that enforces obedience on the population. There is a kind of quasi-fascist spirit there, in the background, and they have been attempting to undermine civil rights in many ways... These plans [Patriot 2] would permit the Attorney General to remove citizenship from any individual whom the attorney general believes is acting in a way harmful to the US interests. I mean, this is going beyond anything contemplated in any democratic society. One law professor at New York University has written that this administration evidently will attempt to take away any civil rights that it can from citizens and I think it´s basically correct.'

US propaganda system continues to function
'A third of the American public believes U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a recent poll, and 22 percent said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons. But no such weapons have been found, nor is there evidence they were used recently in Iraq. Before the war, half of those polled in a survey said Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001. But most of them were from Saudi Arabia. None were Iraqis.'

Turning The Tanks On The Reporters
'Iraq will go down as the war when journalists seemed to become a target... The figures in Iraq tell a terrible story. Fifteen media people dead, with two missing, presumed dead. If you consider how short the campaign was, Iraq will be notorious as the most dangerous war for journalists ever. This is bad enough. But - and here we tread on delicate ground - it is a fact that the largest single group of them appear to have been killed by the US military... I believe that the traditional relationship between the military and the media - one of restrained hostility - has broken down, and the US administration has decided its attitude to war correspondents is the same as that set out by President Bush when declaring war on terrorists: 'You're either with us or against us.' ... I am convinced that in the light of all the evidence the Pentagon is determined there will be no more reporting from the enemy side, and a few deaths among the correspondents who do will deter others. And the Pentagon's policy will work.'

Pew poll reveals public relations disaster for USA
'A primary focus of press reports was the surge of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. In traditionally pro-American Jordan, 97 per cent of those polled opposed America's "war on terror", while, in NATO- member Turkey, 83 per cent expressed an unfavourable opinion of the United States. The selection of Osama Bin Laden by the publics of five of the eight Muslim countries surveyed (Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Palestine) as one of the three political leaders they would most trust to "do the right thing" in world affairs did not go unnoticed.'

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Sharon offers Hamas ceasefire deal: Palestinian source
'Under the terms of the ceasefire, initially to last three days, Israel would stop all attempts to assassinate Palestinian militants in exchange for an agreement by the radical Hamas group to halt all attacks on Israel, including the firing of Qassam rockets, the source said. Following the three-day period, the truce would be renewed on a daily basis while the two sides discuss plans for a comprehensive ceasefire, he said.'

Iraqi shepherd sues US for $200m
Abud Sarhan claims "excessive force" was used by the US which dropped a missile on his tent on April 4, killing 200 sheep and 17 members of his family. "It was horrible", said his half-brother Hamad Sarhan, 25, who was wounded in the attack. "We could not make out whose limbs were scattered on the ground." Missile debris, children's clothes and sheep carcasses were still littering the ground two months later, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported. The shepherd could not be interrogated as he had taken his 300 cows to graze up north, in the lush fields of Makhmur.

US, facing defeat in Afghanistan, starts negotiating with Taliban
'Four conditions were put to the Taliban before any form of reconciliation can take place that could potentially lead to them having a role in the Kabul government, whose present authority is in essence limited to the capital:

* Mullah Omar must be removed as supreme leader of the Taliban.
* All Pakistani, Arab and other foreign fighters currently engaged in operations against international troops in Afghanistan must be thrown out of the country.
* Any US or allied soldiers held captive must be released.
* Afghans currently living abroad, notably in the United States and England, must be given a part in the government - through being allowed to contest elections - even though many do not even speak their mother tongue, such as Dari or Pashtu.

'Apparently, the Taliban refused the first condition point blank, but showed some flexibility on the other terms... The backdrop to the first meeting is an ever-increasing escalation in the guerrilla war being waged against foreign troops in Afghanistan. Small hit-and-run attacks are a daily feature in most parts of the country, while face-to-face skirmishes are common in the former Taliban stronghold around Kandahar in the south. According to people familiar with Afghan resistance movements, the one that has emerged over the past year and a half since the fall of the Taliban is about four times as strong as the movement that opposed Soviet invaders for nearly a decade starting in 1979. The key reason for this is that the previous Taliban government - which is dispersed almost intact in the country after capitulating to advancing Northern Alliance forces without a fight - is backed by the most powerful force in Afghanistan: clerics and religious students.'

Hamas spiritual leader defies Israeli assasination strategy: "Let them give it to me. I'm not afraid of it"
'Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is not a difficult man to find. Almost anyone in Gaza City can direct you to a dusty side street in the dilapidated Sabra neighbourhood and the modest concrete home where Hamas's spiritual leader openly offers moral and religious justification of the suicide bombers. His name is spray-painted in large multicoloured letters across the front of his building. Yet for all Israel's belligerent assertions that there can be "no compromise with terror", it has shied away from sending in the tanks or the helicopter gunships against the elderly leader of Hamas. Even as Israel's hawkish Defence Minister, General Shaul Mofaz, ordered his forces to destroy the organisation on Thursday, Sheikh Yassin remained at home untouched.'

'A commander of Hamas's military wing, Abu Sabbah, said the Islamic resistance movement was ready for dialogue, but not as hostages to Israeli demands. "If they want a just peace, a peace that can last, Hamas is not inflexible," he said. "End the occupation [of land taken in 1967] and the struggle will become a political one." Hamas leaders say they will halt suicide bombings if Israeli forces pull out of Palestinian cities and end attacks from helicopter gunships.'

A deadly detour - Aqaba Road map covered in blood
'In the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, the journalist Eli Bernstein noted that there have been a number of remarkably similar suspiciously timed air strikes since Sharon came to power: "January 14, 2002: After the first month of quiet since the violence broke out, and after Arafat ordered a ceasefire, Raed Karmi, the Tanzim commander in Tulkarm was assassinated. The reaction was not long in coming: a wave of horrific terror washed over the country ...

'"July 23, 2002: In the course of feverish efforts to bring about a signed agreement between the Palestinian Authority and [Hamas], Salah Shehada, commander of the Hamas military wing, was assassinated. This assassination led to a wave of terror attacks ...

'"March 8, 2003: Two hours only before the PLO convention met, which was meant to discuss the appointment of a new prime minister, Ibrahim Makadme, a senior Hamas leader, was assassinated. Two days afterwards a soldier was killed in a shooting attack ... and four were injured. At the end of the same month, a suicide bomber exploded in a Netanya cafe."'

Sharon's tactics are remarkably blunt, almost arrogant, amounting to a slap in the face for Bush. But he calculates apparently correctly that Bush and the US will fall into line:

'Mr Powell and other Bush Administration officials made it clear the US would temper any further criticism of Mr Sharon since Wednesday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem and would instead concentrate on eliminating the threat from Hamas... US officials also refrained from repeating Mr Bush's earlier criticism of the Israeli Government over its retaliatory attacks on Hamas, which killed civilians as well as Hamas figures. Mr Bush, having announced the policy to isolate Hamas, on Thursday avoided any discussion of the Middle East crisis... The escalating violence in the Middle East has sharply swung the US Congress away from support of the road map and behind Mr Sharon's tough line.'

Friday, June 13, 2003

Fisk interview: Anti-US Opposition In Iraq And The So Called Roadmap
'I don't think I've ever seen a clearer example of an army that thought it was an army of liberation and has become an army of occupation.'

Priceless treasures saved from looters of Baghdad museum
'Only a few dozen significant pieces, not thousands as originally reported, were stolen... The world-famous treasure of Nimrud, an extraordinary series of priceless 4,500-year-old gold artefacts, has been found in a flooded vault under the Iraqi National Bank. Other key parts of the museum's collection, including tens of thousands of Greek and Roman gold and silver coins, have been found in strongrooms in the Baghdad museum itself. Staff there now say that only 33 major items and around 2,000 minor works have gone.'

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Monbiot: Monsanto and GM crops
'The principal issue, perpetually and deliberately ignored by government, many scientists, most of the media and, needless to say, the questionnaire being used to test public opinion, is the corporate takeover of the foodchain. By patenting transferred genes and the technology associated with them, then buying up the competing seed merchants and seed breeding centres, the biotech companies can exert control over the crops at every stage of production and sale.'

Monbiot argues threats to the environment and to human health are secondary issues. I believe he is correct. But there is a further aspect to the debate that Monbiot does not touch on: 'GM' crops and the patenting of lifeforms is a form of corporate 'enclosure' and 'rentseeking'. This is the driving economic force behind it. The response to this therefore (assuming GM crops pass adequate health and environment tests) should be either special taxation on these 'rents' or an 'open source' model of the technology; or a combination of the two.

Arab world debate: "liberate" or "build"?
'"The basic question," says Lebanese columnist Abdul Karim Aboul-Nasr, "is whether Iraq should give priority to liberation or to building Iraq on all levels." The "democrats" favour the second course. For them, it was the lack of democracy which brought the Arabs to their present abysmal condition; and for that they blame the nationalists, holders of power since independence, as much as the Americans. "'National liberation' regimes," says Reda Helal, deputy editor of Cairo's al-Ahram, "have trampled the freedoms of their peoples for so long under the pretext of ending colonialism that they ultimately helped colonialism return under the pretext of liberating their peoples."'

Howard says he would consider US military base in Australia
'The Federal Government would consider an approach from the United States about basing US military forces in Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said today.'

Of course Australia should 'consider' an approach from the US but it should also state at the outset of this process the important principle that Australia will accept responsibility for the defence and security of its own territory, and an appropriate share of responsibility for the the peace and security of our region. In general terms, acceptance of responsibility means the basing of foreign troops on Australian territory (like conscription to the armed forces), should not be countenanced except in the case of a serious national emergency such as the Japanese offensive of World War 11.

Israel's assassination move exposes Bush impotence
'But beyond exhorting both sides, the Bush Administration has limited options, unless it takes a radical step such as deploying Americans to keep the peace, said Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel. "Being upset with the Israelis will not do the work," said Indyk, now director of the Brookings Institution's Saban Centre. "They have to have an alternative to Israel taking action, and it doesn't exist. What do we do in the meantime?"'

This aspect of the Los Angeles Times report is ludicrous. What about the arms shipments (eg, the US helicopter gunships and missiles which are used in the targeted assasination program) and up to $5b in US aid to Israel annually? Israel is dependent on this. If ever the US administration is serious about Israel, all they need to do is get on the phone and state that arms and aid will be suspended. Obviously Bush has no intention of doing this, but it still might have offended even him that Sharon should have blasted to pieces the 'Road Map' only days after it was triumphantly announced and before the US co-ordinator John Wolf has even arrived in the region to begin implementing it. Of course one has to suspect that the failed assasination attempt was a calculated blow to the peace process, an arrogant and contemptous gesture. This incident (the failed Israeli assasination attempt and the Hamas suicide bomb retaliation) helps reveal the real nature of the US/Israel relationship, the phoniness of the 'peace process', and the way in which the issue is handled by the corporate media.

Security expert warns of chaos in Afghanistan
'Albert Stahel, who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Kabul, is calling on the UN to hand over control to the Afghan people. Stahel told swissinfo that war was still raging in the country almost two years after United States-led forces overthrew the Taliban regime... “The Afghans are becoming increasingly angry with the foreigners because the Americans are still fighting a war,” warned Stahel, who is a political scientist and military strategist at the University of Zurich. “If Washington’s policy does not change, the country will sink deeper step by step. It is impossible for us to solve the situation.”'

Censorship in Iraq - Independent 11 June
'Censorship of the press: a familiar story for Iraqis. Two months after 'liberating' Iraq, the Anglo-US authorities have decided to control the new, free press - By Robert Fisk'

'On the subject of Baghdad airport, it's important to note that American forces at the facility are now coming under attack every night - I repeat, every night - from small arms fire. So are American military planes flying into the airbase. Some US aircrews have now adopted the old Vietnam tactic of corkscrewing tightly down on to the runways instead of risking sniper fire during a conventional final approach.'

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

US force in Iraq under constant attack
'Almost every day, well-organised groups of assailants armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars are ambushing United States Army convoys, patrols, checkpoints, garrisons and public offices. The US forces respond with house-to-house searches, arms seizures and force, sometimes killing bystanders.'

'Since Baghdad fell on April 9, 39 US soldiers have been killed by enemies and 41 in accidents, bringing total US deaths in the Iraq campaign to 182.'

Why America is Waking Up to the Truth About WMD
'There is growing unease on Capitol Hill, as even Republican lawmakers feel the issue is a symptom of the massive increase in power Rumsfeld has awarded himself at the expense of the CIA and the Department of State. 'The basic problem here is that the office of the secretary of Defense has become too powerful, 'Patrick Lang, a former senior official in the DIA told the Senate.'

Establishment unease is undoubtedly what is giving the issue legs, otherwise it could disappear into the Memory Hole like so many other inconvenient facts.

Howard: sickening humbug of a Prime Minister. Labor: incredibly weak
'Four months ago, on February 4, John Howard made a ministerial statement to Parliament lasting an hour. He began: "My purpose today is to explain why Iraq's defiance of the UN and its possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of a nuclear capability poses a real threat to the stability and security of our world ..." On March 12, Howard announced, in a national television address: "The Government has decided to commit forces to action to disarm Iraq. We are determined to join other countries to deprive Iraq of its chemical and biological weapons capable of causing death and destruction on a mammoth scale ..." On March 20, the day of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Howard told Parliament: "We have made a very strong commitment to disarming Iraq. We have done [so] because we believe it is in Australia's long-term national interest. We do worry about the ultimate and fateful coming together of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism."

'On April 10, the day Baghdad fell, Howard told reporters: "I've said all along we wouldn't expect to get hard evidence of chemical and biological weapons until well after hostilities ceased. They've been obviously passed around and hidden." ... Labor dropped the issue. There has been no debate and only the occasional question... [Howard] referred to it only as "the war to liberate the people of Iraq, now in the minds of many rather a distant memory". And he added, almost as an afterthought: "Can I say I remain of the view there will be evidence, ultimately emerging, of the WMDs we referred to before the war started."'

Blair, Bush and Powell could only dream of a 'Memory Hole' working in their interests as efficiently as this. Labor, however, seems not to be aware that the neocon doctrine is alarming even conservatives and the establishment and so therefore there might be an opportunity to attack the government over this monumental lie?

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Conservative Howard's plans to gut Senate power
'Howard's idea also shows that he believes the neo-liberal, read corporatist model is now so entrenched that there is no need for a Senate to keep Labor on a leash. It's the ultimate sign that he thinks he's won, for once and for all, the battle of ideas and ideals raging in Australia since 1983, when Hawke and Keating began privatising, outsourcing, corporatising and deregulating. In other words, he believes his vision for Australia has nothing of substance to fear from Labor any more.'

This development also exposes once again the fatal flaw in traditional socialist ideology: that socialists should aim to 'win power' and then reform will follow. But the pursuit of power corrupts the ideology. Anarcho-syndicalism, a minority branch of socialism, has always had the superior perspective that power itself is the problem and that the highest priority is checks and balances on power along with devolution and decentralisation combined with grass roots mobilisation. Only in this way can real reform be achieved. For Labor to now fall victim to this latest neo-liberal manoevre will be just another in a long line of defeats and betrayals: a deliberate humiliation of defeated socialism.

However, there remains a possibility that this maneovre of Howard's is a bluff designed to get his agenda through the existing Senate, and the possibility that this proposal even if put to the people in a referendum wouldnt get up, given the historic difficulty of passing referenda. It would also provide a great opportunity for the Greens to step forward as the real opposition, lifting their profile in a vigorous campaign. Of course, one of the implications of Howard's proposal is that it would remove the posssibility of double dissolutions, which would prevent for minor parties and independents the easier path to the senate of a lower quota.

Margot Kingston on the Labor leadership
Margot and her webdiarists have the merit of discussing issues and the failings of Beazley and Labor. Tony Kevin makes a strong argument that Beazley 'still does not get it' and can 'always be beaten by Howard' because he lacks the courage and understanding to confront Howard's primary tactics. Interestingly, the SIEV-X affair is compared to the Petrov affair of the 50s - another comparison of anti-communism and 'war on terror' as the Conservatives' fundamental political tool of scaremongering. Beazley has got plenty of gut but no guts, Crean at least has an agenda but an extremely poor rhetorical style. Labor needs Beazley's face on Crean's agenda.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Reserve Bank chief's loans warning on property boom
'Mr Macfarlane outlined his best and worst case scenarios for Australia in his strongest warning yet about the property market. In a worst-case scenario, Australians would ignore his advice and continue borrowing for the investment property market while the world economy deteriorated and Australian jobs 'disappeared.'

"When people lose their jobs and can't pay their mortgages, that kills a housing boom stone dead," he said. "If over the next 18 months the world economy doesn't recover and just sinks down further and . . . households also keep borrowing over that 18-month period, then that would result in a very nasty explosion and a huge amount of financial distress. That would be disastrous." People paying a quarter or more of their income in mortgage repayments were the most vulnerable, he said. The best case scenario was if the world economy improved and Australians kicked their addiction to borrowing money.'

Pentagon's intelligence service reported no reliable evidence of Iraqi weapons last September
'The Pentagon's intelligence service reported last September that it had no reliable evidence that Iraq had chemical agents in weaponized form, officials said Friday. The time frame is notable because it coincided with Bush administration efforts to mount a public case for the urgency of disarming Iraq, by force if necessary.'

The Memory Hole > Associated Press Puts Violent Words in Iraqi Protesters' Mouths
'Funny thing is, this article misreported the banner pictured above. As you can see, AP's own photograph shows the sentence: "Sooner or later US killers we'll kick you out." But this is how AP reported it: "Sooner or later US killers we'll kill you," read an angry banner in English unfurled in the faces of GIs on guard in the central city.'

'This article ran, most often without the photo, in dozens of news Websites around the US and the rest of the world, including USA Today,, CBS News, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ha'aretz (Israel), Guardian (London), Globe and Mail (Toronto), and dozens of local newspapers. There's no telling how many printed papers ran it.'

Friday, June 06, 2003

Media propaganda in the Iraq war, by Edward S. Herman
'It is fascinating to see how effectively the U.S. propaganda system has normalized and even put a very good face on its government’s straightforward aggression against—and conquest and colonial occupation of—a small, distant country. It is especially remarkable that this has happened across the board, through all major media venues, despite the fact that the media are not directly owned and controlled by the government. All of them, however, are part of a national establishment that shares an ideology and worldview, and their integration into that establishment has been increased by the steady centralization and intensified commercialization of the media, their control by a narrowing elite, and their heavy reliance on the government as a news source. The media have also been kept in line by the increasingly powerful right-wing contingent of media owners, editors, and pundits. This right-wing echo chamber pushes for imperial violence, especially when organized by a right-wing executive, and assails media deviants for lack of patriotic ardor... the media pushed this theme [WMDs] by providing saturation coverage of government charges on these matters.. Despite thousands of lines on the Iraq controversy, the New York Times never provided a single article analyzing the shifting Bush claims and enumerating the serial lies, whose exposure was a commonplace in the foreign media and Internet sources... whereas 3 percent believed that Saddam Hussein had had something to do with 9/11 immediately after the event, 45 percent believed this by the time of the invasion. This was the disinforming result of the coordinated efforts of the war-makers and media... All intelligent and honest observers understood that the inspections were a charade as far as the Bush administration was concerned, and that “disarmament” was a cover... The media collaborated fully in these various charades.'

Many people cannot understand or comprehend the proposition that the US corporate media is a propaganda system. With the Iraq example vividly in everyone's mind, Herman's article discusses how it is so and the remarkable extent of conformity achieved in this system.

Robert Fisk on Aqaba and the 'Road Map'
'So an American president surrounded by right-wing neo-conservatives thinks he can create peace between an Israeli prime minister who supports illegal settlements and a Palestinian Prime Minister who can't stop the intifada.' - what a joke, but taken ever so seriously by the whole media system. I wonder whether a lot of media people will one day have a kind of awakening and realise what a lot of nonsense they have regurgitated down the years.

Ex-spy Andrew Wilkie exposes Aust. Government lies over WMDs
'There needs to be an inquiry held in Australia as a matter of some urgency. Not least because the governments in the US, the UK and Australia sold us this war on the basis of Iraq's massive weapons of mass destruction program, a program that hasn't been found as yet and no matter what's found now, it's not likely to be 'massive' as described by our own PM... The Office of National Assessments has made it clear to the Government for years that some of the material coming out of the US needed to be regarded with great scepticism... More recently, there was obvious political interference in the intelligence process in the US... there was no doubt in our Government's mind - and this is something that was communicated to the Government clearly - there was no doubt in our Government's mind that the US's main interest in 'doing' Iraq was a vast range of US strategic and US domestic interests and had very little to do with WMD. They were using WMD shamelessly to mask their real reasons for the war and my concern is that in Australia, our government was using the weapons of mass destruction story to mask its real reasons for going to war, which was a preparedness to support the US at any cost.'

Putin blamed over Chechen terror
'Nobody doubts by now those [Moscow bombings] were special operations of the Russian secret service aimed at launching the second military campaign and bringing to power a completely unknown FSB colonel Vladimir Putin. That was the purpose of these operations... The main issue that stops Putin ending this [Chechen] war is his fear he'll be blamed for the crimes of the last three years. A huge number of people were kidnapped and killed... They [the Moscow theater terrorists] were shot. Why? Somebody found their evidence uncomfortable. They'd have said who supplied them, where they stayed, who got them to the Nord Ost, who armed them, how they met in Moscow, and the FSB involvement would have emerged. That's why they were killed. Because they weren't killed as terrorists, the FSB killed them as witnesses.'

As a rule one must shy away from conspiracy theories because of the essential lack of evidence and the fact that there is no real need of conspiracy for the worst crimes to be normal part of life - but in Russia perhaps such things are possible. This affair is reminiscent of the Stolypin assasination or the Kirov murder.

The soaring growth in prices is now starting to level off
'Prices across Australia's eight capital cities were up 3.4per cent in the quarter, the 10th quarterly jump but the slowest pace for two years. The national annual growth rate eased to 18per cent, from 18.4 per cent in the December quarter.'

The acceleration in the speed of growth is slowing, but the growth is still dramatic.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

ei: The Road Map: Where next after Aqaba summit?
Ali Abunimah discusses the prospects for the 'Road Map.' 'The Gaza Strip and West Bank (which includes Jerusalem) represent just 22% of the historic Palestinian homeland. Every day, Israel works to consolidate its hold on Palestinian land through defacto annexation by the Apartheid wall, the razing of homes and agricultural land, and new Israeli settlements. This process of colonisation is the source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any "solution" that does not address and reverse this process is doomed.'

Its too much to expect that Bush, the US and Sharon would be serious about dismantling settlements and withdrawing from the Occupied Territories. Thus the current 'peace process' is a charade, just as all the rest have been. Be sure to let us know when something serious happens.

'War vaccines poisoned us'
'Four British soldiers who received jabs for the Iraq conflict are to sue the Ministry of Defence claiming they are suffering from a new form of Gulf War Syndrome... Tony Flint of the National Gulf Veterans and Families' Association, confirmed he now anticipates a fresh wave of health cases. "We are expecting at least 6,000 new cases as a result of the Iraq conflict - about 30 per cent of the 22,000 troops who had the anthrax vaccination." ... Concern about the long-term side-effects led to almost half the 45,000 British servicemen and women in the recent conf lict refusing vaccinations against anthrax, fearing that they might be afflicted by the syndrome.'

'Royal Engineers reservist Stephen Cartwright was taken to hospital with a fever and blistered skin after being given a number of jabs, including the controversial anthrax vaccine. The 24-yearold spent four days in hospital and was so ill he did not make it to the Gulf. The second reservist, Tony Barker, 45, was given five vaccinations - hepatitis, typhoid, polio, diphtheria and yellow fever on 17 February, days after he was called up. The father-of-one received an anthrax jab less than a week later. The Royal Logistics Corps driver fell ill in Kuwait after being given nerve agent pre-treatment and anti-malarial pills. He also had a second anthrax jab on 13 March.'

Another aspect of the Bush/Blair/Howard warcrimes is that they knew Saddam didn't have any effective WMDs but they poisoned their own troops anyway with a cocktail of dangerous vaccines because they had to keep up the pretence.

War Crimes, US Planners And Iraq's Water Vulnerability - Thomas Nagy
Covers the ruin of Iraq's clean water supplies from 1991 and the certain deaths that would result from that. Includes references to government and other documents that support the argument.

U.S. Attack on Iran Would Be Suicide, Khamenei Says
"The American threats are not new. They have threatened us since the beginning of the Islamic revolution," ... "They know that militarily attacking Iran and the Iranian nation would mean suicide for the aggressor," ... "In their global propaganda they're attacking Iran and saying Iran is supporting terrorists. This is a shameless lie,"

'Khamenei said U.S. calls for greater democracy in Iran was "one of the world's biggest jokes." Unlike many other countries in the Islamic world, Iranian public officials are either directly or indirectly elected, he said. "(The Americans) deal with apostate dictatorships and governments who came to power through coups because they obey them but they criticize the Islamic Republic because it does not want to accept their dominance," he said.'

John Pilger savages Tony Blair for his lies and his 'ultimate obscenity' - the Iraq babykiller groping children and grinning idiotically for a 'photo opportunity' in Basra. Pilger points out that, ironically, the unravelling of Blair is coming due to leaks and intelligence exposures of his ally, the US. This poor fellow Blair has been caught out in a big way.

87 WMD SITES ARE CLEARED - nothing found
'TROOPS hunting for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction have searched 87 "prime" sites in Iraq - and have found nothing. Nineteen were "highest-priority" zones identified by US Central Command, military sources revealed yesterday.'

Before the war former weapons inspector Scott Ritter claimed Iraq was 90-95% disarmed by 1998; the inspectors this year found nothing but could not account for some materials; however critics pointed out that chemical and biological WMDs have a shelf life of a few years and beyond that they are useless sludge. It is beginning to look like Iraq had no effective WMDs whatsoever and the claim otherwise is one of the most spectacular lies in recent history.

The Agonist: Wolfowitz oil quote
Agonist points to contradictions in Wolfowitz's recent official statements: "May 31: Look, the primarily difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil... June 3: The notion that the war was ever about oil is a complete piece of nonsense...."

Wolfy needs to go back to Strauss school and re-learn the difference between 'esoteric' (secret, real reasons) and 'exoteric' (public deceptions) doctrine. Or he could just take a tip from Tony Blair and lie and lie and lie about WMDs until either kingdom come or everyone forgets about it.

update: The Guardian has posted a clarification explaining that Wolfowitz did not state or imply that oil was the reason for the attack on Iraq. Well, they say that he is the smartest of the neocon bunch but its still not enough to fool people.

Amnesty International - Library - Israel/Occupied Territories: Human rights should not be bargained away in roadmap negotiations
'Amnesty International calls on the participants in the "roadmap" peace plan summit in Jordan to recognize that respect for human rights and international law is a fundamental obligation - not a bargaining chip to be used in negotiations, or a concession... The failure of past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians has demonstrated that while a human rights agenda alone may not be the answer, it must be a central part of any solution. Only a just settlement, which respects the human rights of all parties, will endure.'

'In the past two and half years the Israeli army has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and Palestinian armed groups have killed more than 700 Israelis. Most of those killed were civilians and included some 350 Palestinian children and more than 90 Israeli children... The Israeli army has also destroyed more than 3,000 Palestinian homes, vast areas of cultivated land, and hundreds of commercial and public properties. Prolonged and disproportionate closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli army throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip have impeded or prevented Palestinians' access to medical care, education and work. Poverty, unemployment and health problems, including malnutrition, have spiralled as a result.'

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Pew Poll Shows U.S. Isolation: In War's Wake, Hostility and Mistrust
'The poll forcefully supported the finding of an earlier survey that a U.S. war with Iraq would fuel anti-American sentiment. As could be expected, this feeling is strongest in the Muslim world, where negative attitudes toward the United States have soared since the war on Iraq began March 20 with a wave of American air attacks over Baghdad... Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, said he had been surprised by the extent to which "the bottom has fallen out" in the Muslim world... "The figures confirm that the Iraq crisis has precipitated a profound crisis in trans-Atlantic relations, which I think had been building for some time," ... One casualty of the increased strains between America and Europe is NATO.'

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Chomsky Interview: Does The Usa Intend To Dominate The Whole World By Force?
Among other important points, Chomsky again emphasises the distinction between pre-emptive war and preventive war. He also again raises the point that it was revealed only last October "to the shock and horror of those who paid attention" that the world was only one word away from nuclear war in 1962.

Hugo Young withering article: WMD or not, Blair had already made up his mind
'I don't doubt Blair's sincerity in wanting to persuade himself and the voters, as well as the soldiers he sent to war, that the threat posed by Saddam's WMD was the total reason for the conflict. He does sincerity very well... He does it well because he cannot believe otherwise.'

In other words, Blair is a compulsive liar, the kind who convinces himself of his own lies. But the WMD hoax and the insane neocon Bush doctrine will impose its cost. Blair cant pretend he has that many friends in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, even in Britain or the the US itself over this absurd and criminal policy.

'This looks like a cynical hoax'
"The evidence suggests that the prime minister misled the House of Commons in making the case for war. In some ways, Tony Blair reminds me of the late Robert Maxwell, the tycoon publisher. I knew Mr Maxwell for many years before I realised that he had a quite different attitude to truth and falsehood than the rest of us. What he told you was precisely what suited his self-interest at the time, no more and no less. Whether his statements were right or wrong was purely fortuitous. And he had no shame about it. What Mr Blair says, I have come to believe, accords with what he thinks should be true on moral grounds - Saddam Hussein is a bad man, he must therefore have possessed weapons of mass destruction. But I am not sure Mr Blair has any greater attachment to the literal truth than Mr Maxwell." Weapons of Mass Disappearance
Time article discusses the issue of the failure of the discovery of WMDs in Iraq. Blair and also Wolfowitz have expressed irritation and embarrassment over the insistent re-appearance of this issue. Everyone knew before the war that the issue of WMDs was merely a pretext for war, and normally after the war the WMDs and the lack of them would conveniently go into Orwell's Memory Hole. Therefore the prominence of its coverage in the corporate media at this stage implies for me that the establishment has had enough of the Bush Doctrine and the neo-conservatives and has decided to rein them in. Incidentally this also provides a prime opportunity for the ALP to relentlessly attack the Howard government over its uncritical support of UKUSA and the neocon Bush doctrine.

Most Britons say regime change was war's aim
Discussion of recent poll figures in the UK which illustrate the success of the propaganda campaign prior to the Iraq war but the collapse in confidence in the Government following the war and the signal failure to discover the alleged 'weapons of mass destruction.'

Angry mother threatens war crimes trial against Blair
'The mother of a North soldier who died in the Gulf has said that Tony Blair should be prosecuted as a war criminal if no weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq... Ann said: "If this turns out to be a lie then Tony Blair should resign. He should also be prosecuted under international law as a war criminal. If they don't find any weapons of mass destruction then this war has been based on a pack of lies and they have put all of our sons and daughters lives on the line for a lie."'

Media Concentration Bench Remarks - dissenting commissioner Copps
'This morning we are at a crossroads - for television, radio and newspapers and for the American people. The decision we five make today will recast our entire media landscape for years to come. At issue is whether a few corporations will be ceded enhanced gatekeeper control over the civil dialogue of our country; more content control over our music, entertainment and information; and veto power over the majority of what our families watch, hear and read.'

Dissenting FCC commissioner Adelstein on new US media rules
'This is a sad day for me, and I think for the country. I'm afraid a dark storm cloud is now looming over the future of the American media. This is the most sweeping and destructive rollback of consumer protection rules in the history of American broadcasting... They chose to pursue gratuitous deregulation. This is by far the most dramatic weakening of our media ownership rules this country has ever seen... Judging from our record, public opposition is nearly unanimous, from ultra-conservatives to ultra-liberals, and virtually everyone in between. We have received about three-quarters of a million comments from the public in opposition to relaxing our ownership rules, a new record, and only a handful in support. Of the hundreds of citizens I heard from directly at field hearings across the country, not one stood up to call for relaxing the rules. Of the thousands of e-mails I personally received, I saw only one didn't oppose allowing further media concentration. The American people appear united in believing that media concentration has gone too far already and should go no further.'

A PNAC Primer, by Bernard Weiner
'The talk-show host seemed to gulp, and then replied: "If you really can demonstrate all that, you probably can deny George Bush a second term in 2004."

'Two things became apparent in that exchange: 1) Even a well-educated, intelligent radio commentator was unaware of some of this information; and, 2) Once presented with it, this conservative icon understood immediately the implications of what would happen if the American voting public found out about these policies.'

'Regime Change' - Iran countdown begins
'Heading the hawks are defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and vice-president Dick Cheney. Heading the doves is Secretary of State Colin Powell, this time in the company of Condoleezza Rice, head of the National Security Council, who last time was a hawk. But the hawk camp is once again the same posse of neo-conservatives in key posts who last time forced through the invasion policy on Iraq. The difference this time, however, is that the talk is not of open war but of destabilisation. Pentagon officials advocate fomenting a popular uprising to topple Iran’s government.'

Transcripts Raise Alarm Across NATO
The leak of the "Waldorf Transcript" in particular and the fuss being made over it and other leaks on both sides of the Atlantic seems to be something that should not be taken so much at face value but as an indication that the Anglo-American establishment is of a view that the more extreme elements of the Bush Administration must be reined in. The Bush doctrine could well be buried in Iraq.

Interview with Robin Cook MP: ‘Why Rumsfeld Is Wrong’
'Q: Isn’t it possible that Saddam Hussein ordered their destruction, as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested?
Cook: No. I don’t think it’s even remotely possible. I just cannot follow the Rumsfeld logic; that watching CNN and seeing the American build-up Saddam said to his generals, “It’s obvious that the U.S. is going to invade; we had better destroy our biggest weapons, so that when I am toppled there might be some very difficult questions for Donald Rumsfeld to answer.”'

Monday, June 02, 2003

Nader: Media Moguls Pay No Rent for Using Our Airwaves
'Such commercialism would not be so appalling except that these media moguls are doing all this on our property - the public airwaves - and paying us no rent for exclusive use of our property. Yet they are deciding who says what and who doesn't say what 24 hours a day. The public airwaves are the property of the American people. The FCC is our hapless, industry-indentured (paid junkets are a way of life for FCC officials) real estate agent that gives away the spectrum.'

'Above all, the people need to stop having to beg. We own the public airwaves and, after charging the radio and TV stations rent, there will be ample funds for a return to the people of their public airwaves for some time every day in the form of their own audience network. See'

A Threadbare Emperor Tours the World
'It begins with the dollar, which has plummeted some 30 percent against the Euro since Bush launched his imperial agenda after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. While the decline might aid U.S. exporters, normally cautious analysts are becoming increasingly agitated over whether foreign investors who kept the dollar up and the Treasury solvent during the 1990s are now moving their money elsewhere. ''A big foreign withdrawal ... could even trigger a panic,'' warned Newsweek's Robert Samuelson last week, a panic now made more likely as a result of the 330-billion-dollar tax cut Bush just bullied through Congress.'

'According to the 'Financial Times', Bush's fiscal policy shows that ''the lunatics are now in charge of the asylum'', while 'New York Times' columnist and Harvard economics professor Paul Krugman this week asserted that Washington's fiscal health is now dependent on ''investors remain(ing) in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic''. His conclusion, similar to the FT's: ''The people now running America ... (are) radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need.'''

3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference
'Like most Nigerians, you're probably finding that it's increasingly difficult to earn a decent living from email. That's why you need to attend the 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference.'

Clean water in short supply in third world
'Sema Kedir, the mother of three found hanging from a tree near her home in central Ethiopia. The only clue to her fate lay in the shattered remains of a clay pot near by. She had collapsed on the final leg of the 12-mile hike from the nearest water well and spilled the precious liquid that would have kept her children alive for another day or two. Already in debt to a neighbor, she could not afford to raise money for a new pot: there seemed no way out.'

Economist survey warns of boom and bust conditions in global housing market
This 8 page Economist survey is a very good report including informative graphs covering many countries. However it does not elucidate the most basic concepts of real estate, namely the distinction between land values and improvements; and the fact that land value is spurious capital based merely on the privatization of ground rent and which would not exist (nor would speculation) in a reformed land tenure and public revenue system.

'“BUYING property is by far the safest investment you can make. House prices will never fall like share prices.” This is the advice offered by countless estate agents around the globe.'

In 200 years of enclosed monopoly capitalism probably the number one constant is the land boom, bust and depression or recession. But they never learn. The land value cycle, like the single tax remedy of George, is definitely one for Orwell's Memory Hole.

'Over the past few years, house prices have been booming almost everywhere except Germany and Japan. Since the mid-1990s, house prices in Australia, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden have all risen by more than 50% in real terms. American house prices are up a more modest 30%, but that is still the biggest real gain over any such period in recorded history. Commercial-property prices in some big cities have also been looking rather frothy... How long can the party last? Estate agents, builders, lenders, many economists and even Alan Greenspan, chairman of America's Federal Reserve, have all insisted that there is no house-price bubble.'

According to the George/Hoyt/Harrison 18 year cycle in land values the next peak (at least in Australia) should be in the year 2007. This means we have a good few years of boom times left yet and the last couple of years are usually the most spectacular...