Friday, January 31, 2003

PM says UN needs to act on Iraq to survive.
"Prime Minister John Howard says the authority of the United Nations may be fatally damaged if the world body does not act against Iraq."

It is the US that is obviously posing the main threat to world peace, and the authority of the UN will be eroded if it does not act against the threat of US aggression. Howard by providing additional cover and support for US aggression is playing the part of accomplice to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Mr Howard has again emphasised the Government has not decided whether Australia will be involved in a war against Baghdad."

This lacks all credibility. Just as it is all but inevitable that the US will attack Iraq, having decided months and months ago to do so, it is all but inevitable that Australian forces deployed to the region will also attack.

"He says his goal is to see Iraq disarmed and that could lead to the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime."

The American goal of the war is not to "disarm" Iraq, but to overthrow the regime, to occupy the country, and to acquire control over the oil fields in the South around Basra and in the North around Mosul/Kirkuk. Howard is treating the people like mugs that couldnt understand this.

Jihad Unspun - Coalition Casualties In The US War On Afghanistan Oct 01 - June 02
Jihad Unspun reports 867 US dead and 537 US injured. These seem high figures, and a high ratio of dead to wounded. However they claim that "source material has been gathered from mainstream and uncensored news sources. Only those reports that could be verified in more than one source are included here."

German Chancellor Schroeder interview: Inspectors need more time
Question: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a ZDF interview that he would turn over new evidence next Wednesday. Could that change your mind?

Schroeder: First of all, it will be a good thing if the Security Council gets new evidence. That would give the inspectors a better base for conducting their work. I would have liked for this evidence -- whatever it may be -- to have been released earlier and to have been handed over to the inspectors so that they could have studied the matter. But it is still a good idea to release the evidence, and I think that it must be examined and studied by the inspectors -- they are the experts. That means that they will need more time. That is our position -- and not only ours, by the way.

Tough battle ahead in U.N. Security Council over Iraq
"On Wednesday the Council debated the Iraq crisis for the whole day in two sessions. According to diplomats attending the sessions at least 11 out of the 15 members of the Council are for giving the inspectors more time in Iraq... At the end of the day only Spain and Bulgaria were with Britain and the United States.

"The Security Council is not going to take up Iraq until next Wednesday when the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, will be here to present additional information and intelligence to the Council. This meeting of the Security Council will see the participation of several Foreign Ministers — Britain, France and Germany have said their Ministers will attend and Washington is hoping that the Foreign Ministers of Russia and China also attend. The February 5 meeting of the Council is critical for two reasons: the Bush administration will have to present compelling evidence to sway members; and after the presentation of the additional information, the United States will press for a Resolution declaring that Iraq is in "material breach''— code words for justifying military action."

Europe faces huge test over Iraq - historically France and Germany buckle under
"Chancellor Gerhard Schröder says Germany “will not take part in a military intervention in Iraq,“ although it is less clear whether his government will oppose war when the UN Security Council votes. France also offers resolute ambiguity, threatening, but not promising, a veto. Yet Washington remains skeptical that its critics are serious, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has indicated that he expects Paris to give in - as it always does... Over the years, Washington has learned that it can browbeat most any nation into submission on most any issue, but the coming showdown over Iraq offers Europe another chance.

"France must do more than bluster. Only by vetoing any UN war resolution can France hope to stop the Bush administration's war plans. And only by making a commitment and sticking to it will Paris be able to encourage China and Russia to join it. A veto by two or three of the Security Council's permanent members, supported by the negative votes of Germany and perhaps other states, would demonstrate a sobering lack of international support. If the chancellor [Schroeder] believes Washington's Iraq policy to be misguided, even dangerous, he must say so - and vote against any Security Council resolution, bar the use of German troops in any fashion, and deny Washington use of German airspace and bases.

"The credibility of European and other critics of Washington is at stake. Giving in will feed Washington's conviction that it can impose its will without constraint. The Iraq process will inevitably be repeated, only with Iran or North Korea as the next target."

This vigourous analysis was published in a German newspaper. However, as Powell has already signalled, the US will not risk a veto of a war resolution, they will instead bring forward something milder, such as that Iraq is in material breach, and continue their argument that a specific war resolution is not necessary; also, it is not so much UN diplomacy that has any chance of stopping war as popular opposition around the world, including the US itself. But it is true that if France and Germany want to make a historic decision to oppose US hegemony, they will not be able to finesse it. A firm committment would have to be made and followed through determinedly. Otherwise they will inevitably buckle under sustained US pressure, which unfortunately is the most likely outcome. It is asking too much of politicians, unless they are strongly supported by as much as 80 or 90% of their populations, to make a principled stand against aggression.

15,000 people cram in to hear Chomsky address
"The key word at this year's World Social Forum, which ended Tuesday in Porto Alegre, Brazil, was "big." Big attendance: more than 100,000 delegates in all! Big speeches: more than 15,000 crammed in to see Noam Chomsky!"

Noam is virtually attaining rock star status. His voice and delivery style is dry, to say the least. He is not at all what would be described as "charismatic", or a platform orator. But the content of his talks is excellent, and that is what increasing numbers of people have come to realise.

Owning houses makes us rich, says SMH.
"Treasury's Economic Roundup, to be issued today, will show runaway housing prices drove up net private wealth by 12.6 per cent last financial year. Real wealth grew by 10 per cent per Australian, after allowing for inflation and population growth... Proportionately, more money is tied up in bricks and mortar in Australia than any other OECD country - which reduces Australia's exposure to falling share prices. Almost two-thirds of Australian private wealth is in housing, compared with one third in the US."

This is a continuation of the standard lie. Bricks and mortar depreciate over time, like all real capital. It is the value of land which is making people "rich". And land value is not wealth at all, but merely spurious capital or anti-capital, the capitalisation of an unearned income. A boom in land value should not be a matter of joy but of concern as to the inevitable bust and recession, as well as the growing inequality of the haves and havenots.

Bush to turn up heat on UN waverers
"The United States is preparing a new resolution for the United Nations that would place Iraq in "material breach" of its obligation to disarm. It would be worded in a way that will enable the US to attack Baghdad without the Security Council having to vote to sanction the strike. UN officials told the Herald that the US would present the resolution to the five permanent council members on February 5, after the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, outlines what he says will be compelling evidence that Iraq has interfered with the work of weapons inspectors.

"UN officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said France would back the new resolution, despite its apparent opposition to war. "They've got no alternative," one official said. "What are they going to do, render the Security Council irrelevant? They can't do that. It's the basis of French authority. It's their forum for global relevance. If it is meaningless, they are meaningless."

It is only too plausible that France, Germany and Russia will cave in to US pressure, and vote for such a resolution, just as they caved in and voted for Resolution 1441 in November 2002. They will be able to say to their domestic population that they have not voted for a war resolution on Iraq. What is needed however is a stronger stance against US aggression, a determination not to appease any further. France is conceding the initiative. They should have already announced their own draft resolution, something along the lines of authorising several more months of weapons inspections, and campaigned for support for that resolution amongst the Security Council Members. Powell's offer to provide "proof" to the Security Council next week should not be dismissed, but neither should it be allowed to divert or delay the response to the Weapons Inspectors report.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Germany remains against Iraq war
"Germany is unlikely to be swayed from its opposition to any U.S.-led war on Iraq by the new information that President George W. Bush plans to present to the U.N. Security Council next week, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said. "I think people are deluding themselves about our position," Schröder said in a television interview on German public television Wednesday night. "It is strongly based and built on principles. I think any sort of theoretical discussion cannot shake this principle-based position."

Media Lens: Lie And Rely
"Opinion polls show that 70% of the British public feel that no good case has been made for war on Iraq. Figures from the US suggest that opposition to an invasion with US ground troops is at 43%, up from 38% in a poll taken January 10-12 and up from 20% in a poll taken in November. Support for an invasion is at 52%, down from 56% in January and 74% in November. 56% say UN weapons inspectors should be given more time to complete their search for banned chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. These are remarkable figures from a country subjected to the most sophisticated and intensive system of propaganda ever devised. Nevertheless the media tirelessly attempt to keep us sealed in a bubble of pro-war propaganda."

Bob Brown: Bush is a bully
"Australian Greens Party leader and federal senator Bob Brown, however, criticised Bush as a "bully" who was "treating the rest of the world with thinly disguised contempt". Brown, whose party's share of the vote has surged in state and federal elections over the past year, said Bush was only contributing to international instability. "The biggest job now confronting the United Nations is how to control the US and its bellicose president," he said."

Benny Morris on the "Generous Offer" and Arafat's "Refusal" (via DY)
This article by a "radical historian" simply reiterates the myth of Barak's "generous offer" and how there is no one sensible in Palestine who Israel can negotiate with. Uri Avnery and others have trenchantly criticised this conception and it should not retain currency in serious (ie, non-corporate) media. As Avnery has said, both Assad and Arafat would sign in an instant if Israel offered the same terms they offered Sadat, ie the return of Sadat's territory, every last centimetre of it. The inability of the media, of Israelis (including government officials), and of the West to understand this is crippling the efforts to make peace.

Israeli Secular party takes on the orthodox
"Opinion polls suggest Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, 71, a sharp-tongued former television presenter, will more than double the six seats his Shinui (Change) party has in the 120-seat Knesset. His hawkish, centre-right secularist party could even end up as the third-largest party, after Likud and Labour, and find its way into government for the first time since it was founded in the 1980s. With its explicitly anti-clerical policies, Shinui is the only secular party to place itself firmly on the front line of the struggle between Israel's agnostic or moderately religious majority and a small but powerful alliance of ultra-orthodox Jews."

The success of the Shinui party is an interesting development which vindicates Israel Shahak's concerns about the steady polarization of Jewish society and the strength of the dislike of the religious fundamentalist group.

Uri Avnery address to Swedish Parliament
"Since then, for 53 years, I have tried hard to live up to that commitment. I created a magazine, and as its editor, for 40 years, I battled against the demagogues preaching national and religious hatred. As a member of the Knesset for ten years. I strove for a democratic, liberal, secular, multi-ethnic, civil society in Israel, based on equality and social justice, living in close partnership with a free, sovereign State of Palestine."

Afghanistan in Ruined Condition after 25 years of war (via RW)
"Over 80% of Afghan people live in rural areas, yet they have seen many of their basic resources - water for irrigation, trees for food and fuel - lost in just a generation. In urban areas the most basic necessity for human wellbeing - safe water - may be reaching as few as 12% of the people."

An Annotated Overview of the Foreign Policy Segments of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address
Very good critique of Bush's foreign policy by Stephen Zunes

Text: State of the Union address - Bush on.... the Bush gang?
"Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world. In each case, their ambitions of cruelty and murder had no limit."

Pilger: Blair is a Coward & Appeaser
"[Blair] is the embodiment of the most dangerous appeasement humanity has known since the 1930s. The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American "interests", such as a voracious appetite for the world's resources, like oil."

Saddam mustn't be allowed to get away with it: Howard
"Letting Saddam Hussein get away with keeping weapons of mass destruction "makes it a more dangerous world for all of us", Prime Minister John Howard said today to explain why his government is supporting the US in the wake of the UN weapons inspectors highly critical report on Iraq."

Let's just recall what the report said: no WMDs were found; some chemical and biological material is believed unaccounted for; the nuclear weapons programme is believed not to have been restarted; further inspections over a period of months would lead to credible confirmation of this. Setting aside for the moment consideration of the doctrine of deterrence and the oil factor, on the basis of this report Howard supports terminating the inspections within weeks (ie, when the attack force is ready) and launching an aggressive, illegal war which could kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people; destabilise the region with unpredictable consequences; and create lasting enmity and 'blowback' against the 'West' right across the Arab and Muslim worlds. It is monstrous. It is Bush, Blair and Howard that are a danger for the world, not Saddam.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Roy on India and Globalisation
"The two arms of the Indian Government have evolved the perfect pincer action. While one arm is busy selling India off in chunks, the other, to divert attention, is orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of Hindu nationalism and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear tests, rewriting history books, burning churches, and demolishing mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil liberties and human rights, the definition of who is an Indian citizen and who is not, particularly with regard to religious minorities, is becoming common practice now.

"Last March, in the state of Gujarat, two thousand Muslims were butchered in a State-sponsored pogrom. Muslim women were specially targeted. They were stripped, and gang-raped, before being burned alive. Arsonists burned and looted shops, homes, textiles mills, and mosques. In January this year, the Government that orchestrated the killing was voted back into office with a comfortable majority. Nobody has been punished for the genocide."

Record Industry Facing Collapse
"Rightly or wrongly, record companies are detested by politicians (for corrupting youth), by webcasters (for demanding royalties), and by their customers (for inflating prices). Musicians and songwriters are famous for loathing the labels, and many have resisted licensing their songs to MusicNet and pressplay. (Both are under investigation for possible antitrust violations.) Radio and MTV aren't in the industry's corner; the labels, through "independent promotion" programs, effectively have to pay them to broadcast music. And the electronics industry's attitude toward the labels is summed up by an Apple slogan: Rip. Mix. Burn. Which, a music executive once told me, translates into "Fuck you, record labels."

"For years, the safest path to success in the music business has been to hunt the teen market. But by ignoring career artists at the expense of the latest trends, the labels have lost touch with wide swaths of society. Ultimately, Timothy suggested to me that night, the industry as we know it could vanish not so much because of technology but because few people over the age of 30 would care if it did."

The Gathering Storm: Uri Avnery Officially Threatened
"We shall anchor in legislation more severe measures, including the cancellation of citizenship, against people like Uri Avnery, Leah Tsemel and refuseniks of all kinds, who are defaming the country abroad."

Likud party corruption
"It started with the primary elections in the Likud party. They were conducted on a pure business basis. Since the public opinion polls promised the Likud a third of the 120 Knesset seats, it was worthwhile to invest money. The politicians paid the vote-traders, some of them known criminals, who hired more than a hundred thousand "new members". These stuffed the 3000-men Central Committee. The newly elected Committee members sold their votes to the highest bidders among the various candidates for the Likud Knesset list."

This corruption exposes a major flaw of the list system of proportional representation, that the party sets the order of the list and the voters have no choice in the matter. An important feature of Hare-Clark Proportional Representation system which should not be lost or compromised is the right of the voter to choose among the candidates put up by each party, in other words the right to vote for individuals and not for parties. 'List' and 'above the line' voting systems should be abolished.

Uri Avnery on Amram Mitzna (who lost to Sharon)
"Amram Mitzna... had a new and invigorating message: To place peace at the head of the agenda. To reopen the negotiations that were killed by Ehud Barak. To negotiate under fire, because that is the only way to stop the fire. To talk with Yasser Arafat, because he is the only person able to sign a peace agreement, if convinced, and convince his people to accept it. To achieve peace between the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine. And even before that, to order the unilateral withdrawal from all the Gaza Strip, the dismantling of all the settlements there and the isolated settlements on the West Bank.

"This message has a great potential: The Israeli public is fed up with the situation, it knows already that there is no military solution, and it is being told that there is no political solution, either. There is no security, the economy is in tatters, there is no solution in sight."

This is an optimistic essay on Avnery's part. The problem with Labour and the Israeli "Peace" movement is that while they affect to stand for the "peace process" they are every bit as zionistic (if not more so) than Sharon and the hardline Likudniks. Hence the Labour party has a huge credibility problem. Even if they were genuinely in favour of peace there is a lot of work to do to convince anybody that that is so. A role for a genuine statesman, but is Mitzna such a person?

The Perils of Pax Americana
"Bush's advocacy of "pre-emptive" action is hardly original; the U.S. has attempted to define the contours of politics in every part of the world for the past half-century. It employed its alliances, from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), justifying their interventions as preventing the spread of Soviet influence or Communism, although they often were intended to forestall any political changes Washington deemed unacceptable."

The Evidence Bush is Withholding Weakens, Not Strengthens the Case for War
"A detailed report in the January 24 Washington Post by Joby Warrick, headlined "U.S. Claim on Iraqi Nuclear Program Is Called Into Question" adds to a growing body of evidence that the Bush
administration is hoarding intelligence information that disproves or weakens the case against Saddam Hussein with respect to banned WMD activities as well as collaboration with al Qaeda on 9-11 and other terrorist activities... The IAEA finds the alibi of the lying, cheat-and-retreat Iraqis far more convincing than the accusation of the plain-spoken, straight-shooting Texan.

"On January 26, party-line Powell repeated the hoary, unproven chestnut of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection in a major address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Later that day, National Public Radio sought comment from Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) on Powell's accusation. He dismissed it with contempt, pointing out just how pathetically flimsy was the case the White House made to forty senators just a few days before. Powell's dovish admirers need to face this fact: In an administration dominated by dishonest, unilateral hawks, he does indeed stand apart: He's a dishonest multilateral hawk."

Iraq Largely Cooperating with Inspectors, UN Security Council Hears
"Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq has largely cooperated with arms experts, in a report to the UN Security Council that could determine whether the world body backs military action against Baghdad... As appeals mounted worldwide for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he expected the Security Council to give weapons inspectors more time to complete their work in Iraq."

This French report is in stark contrast to a virtual propaganda barrage in the English speaking press, which regards the Inspectors Report as a virtual casus belli. Even public broadcasters ABC and SBS in Australia were overwhelmed by the war propaganda. The Report found no WMDs, it found the nuclear program was not restarted, and asked for more time to continue the work. The absurdity of launching a war of mass death and destruction over weapons which either do not exist or if they do exist are no threat to either the United States or even neigbouring countries was not mentioned in yesterday's propaganda.

U.S. Guilty of 'Shocking Double Standards' on Iraq - Butler
"The spectacle of the United States, armed with its weapons of mass destruction, acting without
Security Council authority to invade a country in the heartland of Arabia and, if necessary, use its weapons of mass destruction to win that battle, is something that will so deeply violate any notion of fairness in this world that I strongly suspect it could set loose forces that we would deeply live to regret," Butler said.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Bryan Kavanagh's modification of the Hoyt-Harrison-George Economic Cycle
"The 18 year cycle is based upon the Homer Hoyt/Fred Harrison model - and it is an excellent one. However, rather than producing this as catechism, we need to continue the research. For example, my analysis of *the whole of the Australian property market* since 1972 (see attachment) which removes the effects of local and regional phenomena, and which permits analysis against national GDP figures, shows that the 18 year cycle may be as few as *16* years, and that there is indeed an intermediate lesser cycle of 8 to 9 years duration. The 16/18 year cycle is certainly the big one, being inclusive of booms in residential, commercial, industrial and rural markets. The intermediate cycle is preponderantly a residential one - which is not to belittle it excessively, because 75% of all land values are residential in Australia, the other 25% being rural/industrial/commercial."

Chirac and Schroeder say inspectors must have more time in Iraq
"A presidential palace spokesman said later that Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had agreed in a telephone conversation that the inspectors must have as much time as they needed to complete their mission."

Chomsky on the situation in Haiti
"It’s totally outrageous. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. It’s in miserable condition. It also happens to be the leading target of US intervention in the 20th century. Ever since Woodrow Wilson occupied it, restored slavery, overthrew the parliamentary system and basically turned it into a US plantation; ever since then the US has supported brutal dictators, a murderous national- all of whom never had an embargo on them no matter how many atrocities they were carrying out. In the early 90’s Haiti had its first democratic election. To everyone’s surprise they elected a populist priest who [won] through large scale organization and activism in the slums and the hills (who nobody was paying any attention to). The US moved in immediately to undermine the regime: it cut off aid, supported anti-Aristide elements, and a couple of months later a coup came."

Deutsche Welle reporting of Inspectors Report
"German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said U.N. weapons inspectors must get the time they need to search Iraq, saying a preemptive military strike would be the triumph of the "law of the jungle". German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the inspections helped reduce, if not eliminate, the threat Iraq posed, as well as contributing information about its arms. Russia's Ambasador to the United Nations Sergei Lavrov said UN weapons inspections must continue their work since the inspectors have neither proven nor disproven that Baghdad has weapons of mass destruction. Russia, France and China, have been insisting on a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iraq's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction."

Its instructive to compare Deutsche Welle to the Sydney Morning Herald, or probably to any US/UK/Australian corporate reporting. SMH for example gives prominence to US and UK reaction, with the effect that the case for war has been made. Deutsche Welle does the reverse.

UN Iraq Nuclear inspection conclusion
"To conclude: we have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s. However, our work is steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course. With our verification system now in place, barring exceptional circumstances, and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq, we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme. These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war. We trust that we will continue to have your support as we make every effort to verify Iraq’s nuclear disarmament through peaceful means, and to demonstrate that the inspection process can and does work, as a central feature of the international nuclear arms control regime."

Such a conclusion surely makes the case for a continuation of the inspections for another few months as requested, ie that there is no case for war right now. It will be up to France, Germany, Russia and others to support a resolution to this effect. Of course, the statements of Britain and the US and the prominence that they are given in the SMH reporting indicate that the Bush Administration is still determined to go to war at a time of their choosing.

Latest poll figures: world public opposition to war substantial and growing
Polls taken across North America, Europe, the Arab world and Australia show public resistance to war against Iraq, especially without UN sanction. More worrying for the Bush Administration, the opposition seems to be growing with time.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Europe poll: Bush biggest threat to world peace
"Time's European edition asked its readers what nation posed the greatest threat to world peace. Of the 268,000 respondents (as of this writing), 7.8% replied North Korea, 8.9% named Iraq and a shocking 83.3% said the United States."

World Rebels Against America
"On Wednesday, when the Security Council meets, France, assisted by Germany, will lead Russia, China and others in resisting American calls for a U.N. mandate for war. For the first time in its history, the council may be confronted with an anti-American resolution... North American pundits have it that Bush has a small window of opportunity for war because a delay would push it into the unbearable heat of the Middle East summer. The greater truth, as seen from here, may be that his options are closing because of growing people power, even in America... The longer Bush delays the war, the more difficult it will be to launch it. But the only way he can go quickly is to abandon the fig leaf of the United Nations, proving that his enlisting of the U.N. was a sham all along.

"Reports out of London speak of Whitehall being inundated with cables from British missions abroad warning of widespread fury. European diplomats I spoke to talk of "long-lasting enmity in the Arab, Asian and African world against the Western model," in the words of one. And over at the staid Davos conference in Switzerland, Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammed Mahatir told the corporate and political elite of the world Thursday: "People want revenge. You kill our people, we will kill you." He was not issuing a threat."

Weak U.S. Case For War
"Despite a huge military buildup, Bush has failed to put forward a compelling case for attacking Iraq, a full year after making his "axis of evil" speech. That's remarkable, given America's tendency to rally to the president in war, the 9/11 effect, the power of the presidential bully pulpit, the reach of U.S. intelligence services, and a largely compliant American media."

Bush backs off UN to give troops more time
"The Bush Administration will agree to continued United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq for at least several weeks, United States and diplomatic sources said yesterday. Requests from Britain, the need to build more public and political support in the US and overseas, and military forces up to a month away from full deployment had led to the decision, the sources said."

This hardly seems like news as the US were not to be ready to attack before about mid February anyway. It could come down to a matter of timing, how long the Security Council wants the Inspections to continue; and how long the US can tolerate their presence before either launching the war or being forced to call it off.

The Netizen - Noam Chomsky Interview
"I think there is a major social experiment going on, not for the first time, but it takes two forms. That is to try to impose on the rich societies themselves, particularly the United States, our model, which is more or less the third world model. The typical third world society has a small sector of extreme wealth and privilege protected by massive state power and then a huge mass of people living in something ranging from unpleasantness to misery, and a sector of superfluous people they have to get rid of somehow. And, I think, the social policy in the last 20-25 years has been designed to try to induce such a structure in the rich societies."

Are We Itching for War or Just Really Stupid?
"A question in a recent Knight Ridder poll prompted a remarkable response from Americans. It's the kind of response that provokes some to shake their heads or roll their eyes, and probably P.T. Barnum to spin in his grave, wishing he were alive today because he'd just be swimming in money. The question was this: How many of the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq?"

50% of Americans answered one, some or most of the hijackers were Iraqis. (There were none, of course. Most came from Saudi Arabia). The writer of the article wonders about American stupidity but he should instead reflect on the range and power of the American propaganda system that it can lead to results like these.

In Timing and In Size, Last Weekend's Antiwar Protests Made History
"Yet the size of the protests was hardly the only thing that made them unique. Over 35 years ago, when the contemporary antiwar movement was first emerging as a truly mass phenomenon, many protesters naively assumed that the U.S. government simply didn't understand the realities of the national liberation struggles it was opposing in Indochina. It was only years later, after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, that the true American motives in the region were understood."

Chinese Desertification Aggressively Expanding
"Between 1994 and 1999, the country's Environmental Protection Agency reports, the Gobi Desert expanded by 20,240 square miles, to within just 150 miles of Beijing, New, smaller, areas of desert are erupting all over the country. In all, this "desertification" is affecting 40 per cent of the country's land. Partly as a result, harvests – which more than quadrupled between 1950 and 1998 – have fallen sharply, even as China's population and appetite grow."

The Nuclear Option in Iraq
"One year after President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea the "axis of evil," the United States is thinking about the unthinkable: It is preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iraq."

Run-down Iraqi hospitals struggle to treat cancers linked to Gulf War bombing
"Hospital statistics in Basra show cancer rates are on the rise. In 1988, there were 11 cases per 100,000 people in the city. By 2001, there were 116 per 100,000, according to Dr Jawad al-Ali, a cancer specialist who teaches at the Saddam Training Hospital.

"Throughout the country, the number of cancer cases has grown steadily since the Gulf War, with 7481 cases in 1989 and 8592 in 1997, according to registry statistics. At first, doctors were puzzled by the surge in cancer patients in Basra, which was heavily targeted by the US-led bombing campaign. Then it was discovered that many American munitions contained depleted uranium, which remains radioactive, prompting a series of studies."

Oil behind annihilation plan, warns ex-UN official Halliday; Perle frustrated by France
"Former UN official Denis Halliday warned in Baghdad today that the United States and Britain were ready to "annihilate" Iraqi society in order to control the country's oil wealth."

"Meanwhile US Pentagon adviser Richard Perle said today that France was seeking to undermine US leadership in the showdown with Iraq to protect its commercial interest in Iraqi oil. "The French have an attitude toward the United States, toward their role in Europe, toward the role of the United States in Europe in which they clearly want to diminish the significance, the importance, the leadership of the United States," Perle said."

There is undoubtedly a lot of truth in what Perle says, and the current Iraq crisis could be a watershed in transatlantic relations, an open breach marking the beginning of a long term and long-expected rivalry between the United States and United Europe. Perle also says, "the Germans have essentially put themselves out of this game by arguing, as the German chancellor did, that, even if the United Nations were to sanction a military action, Germany will have nothing to do with it. So the German chancellor should do us all a favour and stop talking about an issue that he has taken himself out of completely." However, here I think Perle misjudges. Schroeder through his consistent stand against war has instead put Germany into the debate in a significant way. Acting in conjunction with France and perhaps also Russia and China, Germany may be able to block UN support for the American war on Iraq; and succeed in placing the Bush Administration in an uncomfortable and possibly unsustainable position of contrareity with the UN Security Council, their own domestic population, and virtually the entire world.

Powell claims Saddam has 'clear ties' to al-Qaeda
"In his address, Powell said: "We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action on Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing," Powell told the gathering of global political and business leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. This is not about (UN weapons) inspectors finding smoking guns. It is about Iraq's failure to tell the inspectors where to find its weapons of mass terror."

"Powell's hard-hitting comments today provoked criticism from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Amnesty International, pessimism from King Abdullah II of Jordan and praise from US businessmen. Powell's speech met with a standing ovation from the first 10 rows of his audience, which were packed with US politicians and executives. The rest of the large conference hall stayed seated."

What a scene that would be, 10 rows of US politicians and executives telling us all who they are and where they stand, the American military/corporate/political complex, united in aggressive warfare, while the rest of the world sits back in horror.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Afghan war update (via RW)
"America's Afghan adventure has gotten off to as poor a start as that of the Soviet Union. The US-installed ruler of Kabul, veteran CIA `asset' Hamid Karzai, must be protected from his own people by up to 200 US bodyguards. Much of Afghanistan is in chaos, fought over by feuding warlords and drug barons. There are almost daily attacks on US occupation forces. My old mujihadin sources say US casualties and equipment losses in Afghanistan are far higher than Washington is reporting - and rising."

Neo-classical economics under attack (via RW)
"How do you start a fire under a huge wet blanket? A faction of disgruntled economists says that is their predicament. Their efforts to open the field to diverse views are smothered, they say, by an orthodoxy -- neoclassical economics and its derivatives -- that is indulgently theoretical and mathematical in its aspiration to be more "scientific" than any other social science."

In this article the usual critics - such as Marx and Veblen - are mentioned but again (as usual) George is not. A list of recent books critical of NCE is given at the end but it does not include Gaffney's "Neo-Classical economics as a stratagem against Henry George", surely by far the most challenging and interesting review of NCE in recent years. NCE equates land and capital in order to deflect georgism - a manifestly absurd position. George's Value Theory also provides the key to the riddle of markets and exploitation, which neither Marxism nor NCE have been able to properly grasp.

Repeal of Estate Tax Morally Bankrupt
"Revenue from the estate tax today generates about $30 billion, or about 1 percent of federal revenue. But that amount will skyrocket in the coming years because of an unprecedented intergenerational transfer of wealth.

"The estimated size of the intergenerational transfer of wealth between 1998 and 2052 ranges from a low estimate of $40.6 trillion, based on a modest 2 percent growth rate, to a high estimate of $136.2 trillion, based on a 4 percent growth rate . . ."

Palestinian Militants demand end to Israeli attacks
"Palestinian militant groups meeting in Egypt say they will not end attacks against Israeli civilians without a promise from Israel to end its military aggression in the West Bank and Gaza. Representatives of 12 militant Muslim groups attending the meeting say they are making progress toward agreement to unify political action by the various factions. However, Friday's sessions ended with a statement saying resistance must continue until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land."

Blow to US Hawks as Inspectors Draw Blank
"The United Nations' nuclear inspectors will deliver a serious blow on Monday to Washington's case for going to war with Iraq, telling the world they have found nothing and giving Saddam Hussein good grades for cooperation. Just as damaging to the US position will be the insistence to the UN security council by the chief nuclear inspector, Mohamed El Baradei, that his team needs several more months to complete its work and that some important testing equipment has only just arrived in the country."

U.S. Weighs Tactical Nuclear Strike on Iraq
"If the United States dropped a bomb on an Arab country, it might be a military success, but it would be a diplomatic, political and strategic disaster," said Joseph Cirincione, director of nonproliferation studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington." No kidding.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Shahak on Israeli plans against Iran
"But I do want to make some comments on ihe incitement of Israelis against Iran. I am well aware that a lot of expert opinions and predictions quoted here will sound to non-Israeli readers like fantasy running amok. Yet I perceive those opinions and predictions, no matter how mendacious and deceitful they obviously are, as politically quite meaningful. Let me explain my reasons. In the first place, I have not quoted the opinions of raving extremists. I was careful to select only the writings of respected and influential Israeli experts or commentators on strategic affairs, who can be presumed to be well acquainted with the thinking of the Israeli Security System. Since militarily Israel is the strongest state in the Middle East and has the monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region, strategical doctrines of its Security System deserve to be disseminated world-wide, especially when they are forcefully pressed upon the Israeli public. Whether one likes it or not, Israel is a great power, not only in military but also in political terms, by virtue of its increasing influence upon US policies. The opinions of the Israeli Security System may mean something different from what they say. But this doesn't detract from their importance."

Shahak on Yom Kippur, Dayan and Nuking Syrian cities
"Already on the second day of the Yom Kippur War (7 October), however, Dayan together with all other Israeli leaders realized that the war was going badly, with all their hopes for a rapid victory dashed. As Brown recounts, they nevertheless kept pretending to the Israelis as well as to the whole world (including their friend Henry Kissinger) that everything was going on according to the Israeli Army's plans... The deception only aggravated the situation."

Russia Military See U.S. Iraq Attack in Feb -Report
"Russia's armed forces have obtained information that the United States and its allies have already decided to launch military action in Iraq from mid-February... U.S.-led operations would be launched once an attacking force of 150,000 had been assembled in the Gulf... the operation is planned for the second half of February. The decision to launch it has been taken but not yet been made public... The source added that the main aim of the war would be to secure control of Iraqi oilfields."

Israel Shahak on Israeli nuclear madness
"Moreover, some argue that Israel's unremittent nuclear development only propels Arab countries, Iran and other Muslim states to equip themselves with all sorts of non-conventional, but primarily nuclear, weapons.' None of these apprehensions have ever appeared not only in the censored Hebrew press but, to the best of my knowledge, in the mainstream international press as well. All of them are nevertheless in my view quite justified. Not only is the prospect of Dimona one day becoming another Chernobyl something to be seriously discussed. The prospect of Gush Emunim ('The Block of the Faithful'), or some secular right-wing Israeli fanatics, or some of the delirious Israeli Army generals, seizing control of Israeli nuclear weapons and using them in accordance with their `knowledge' of politics or by the authority of `divine command' cannot be precluded either. In my view the likelihood of the occurrence of some such calamity is growing. We should not forget that while Israeli Jewish society undergoes a steady political polarization, the Israeli Security System increasingly relies on the recruitment of cohorts from the ranks of the extreme right."

"When dealing with the long-concealed events of October 1973 War, I documented that the Israeli Army High Command of that time, possibly including Moshe Dayan, favoured Israeli nuclear response against Syria, but were halted in doing so by Golda Meir, backed by Kissinger."

Christopher Hitchens: Israel Shahak, 1933-2001 (The Nation, 23 July 2001)
"For Shahak, the liberation of the Jewish people was an aspect of the Enlightenment, and involved their own self-emancipation from ghetto life and from clerical control, no less than from ancient “Gentile” prejudice. It therefore naturally ensued that Jews should never traffic in superstitions or racial myths; they stood to lose the most from the toleration of such rubbish. And it went almost without saying that there could be no defensible Jewish excuse for denying the human rights of others...

"Only the other day, I read some sanguinary proclamation from the rabbinical commander of the Shas party, Ovadia Yosef, himself much sought after by both Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. It was a vulgar demand for the holy extermination of non-Jews; the vilest effusions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad would have been hard-pressed to match it. The man wants a dictatorial theocracy for Jews and helotry or expulsion for the Palestinians, and he sees (as Shahak did in reverse) the connection. This is not a detail; Yosef’s government receives an enormous US subsidy, and his intended victims live (and die, every day) under a Pax Americana. Men like Shahak, who force us to face these reponsibilities, are naturally rare. He was never interviewed by the New York Times, and its obituary pages have let pass the death of a great and serious man."

- Shahak must surely be one of the most important Jewish/Israeli writers of recent times. It is therefore a minor classic of New York Times censorship by omission that he was never interviewed and had no obituary.

Levy on developers to pay for new roads
"Sydney developers will be forced to pay a $15,000 levy on newly released blocks of land, under a new government plan to ensure the private sector helps fund new roads and public transport."

Development levies are not without merit but it would be better if State and Local government shouldered their responsibilities for transport and other essential infrastructure development and funded them via the existing mechanisms of land tax and site value rating.

Australian troops on rocky war path
"The Minister for Defence, Robert Hill, said the decision to send troops before a UN resolution on a war against Iraq was "for the safety of the forces, for them to be able to guarantee their professional best".

"We believe that they are entitled to a period within the region to acclimatise, to work with coalition allies," he said. He said the deployment would put pressure on Saddam Hussein to voluntarily disarm."

This is deception of the public. The minor nature of Australia's deployment will hardly be noticed by Iraq compared to the immense American force. The deployment of the troops means they will inevitably be engaged when the war starts. Howard, Hill and the government are putting themselves in a position where they will have no choice but to support an illegal US war which is opposed by majorities of the population right across the Western world.

PM talks tough as troops go
"The Prime Minister, John Howard, has joined the United States in condemning Iraq's lack of co-operation with weapons inspectors as Washington warned that its diplomatic efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein were "just about exhausted". Mr Howard also refused to endorse giving the inspectors "as much time as they want"

- Howard is simply echoing the Washington line, reading the script provided by them. The US has given every indication they will attack without a second UN resolution, which looks increasingly unlikely to be had, and Howard will find himself committed to war despite the strong protest back home.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

France Vows to Block Resolution on Iraq War
"France suggested today it would wage a major diplomatic fight, including possible use of its veto power, to prevent the U.N. Security Council from passing a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Russia and China, which have veto power, and Germany, which will chair the Security Council in February, also signaled today they were willing to let the inspections continue for months."

"Rising opposition to war, particularly in France, appears to have played a role in the hardening positions on the Security Council. Foreign officials are also aware of polls in the United States suggesting that support for a war drops dramatically if the Bush administration does not have U.N. approval. At the United Nations, several foreign ministers said a war in Iraq would spawn more terrorist acts around the globe and, in the words of Germany's Joschka Fischer, have "disastrous consequences for long-term regional stability."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is probably an unpopular figure right now in the Bush administration. The US hyperpower neither needs nor wants UN "endorsement" for their attack on Iraq. They did not seek or obtain UN endorsement for their wars against Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, and the decision to attack Iraq was made from the start on the basis that it would be unilateral if necessary. But now the potential UN opposition is emerging in domestic opinion polls as a serious political obstacle. At the time of UN resolution 1441 there was an argument that UN credibility would have been enhanced by vetoing the Resolution, which was regarded as a figleaf of diplomatic respectability for unilateral US aggression. The United States got the wording that if there was "material breach" Iraq would face "serious consequences", meaning war; however France and Russia stated immediately after the Resolution was passed that the UN Security Council would have to meet and consider the matter again before war was started.

Thus the international debate has been successfully framed in terms of a need for the UN Security Council to respond to the report of the Weapons Inspectors, and to be the body that authorises war. The US might not want to risk the bringing of a second resolution in order to avoid the embarrassment of it being vetoed or voted down. They will instead argue that Saddam is in "material breach" and a second resolution is not necessary. However France and Germany would be able to propose a resolution calling for an extension of time to allow the inspectors to continue their work, perhaps for months. Such a resolution would have every chance of being supported by the Security Council. The US would then be in the awkward position of either having to veto the resolution or else ignore it and commence the war at a time of their choosing. Either choice would reveal them as being starkly out of touch with both the UN and with the domestic populations of Western countries. Powell's efforts to push the Bush administration into seeking UN approval for their actions has in fact, either deliberately or not, only succeeded in creating substantial obstacles in front of the War party which dominates the Bush administration.

European Leaders Hear Anti-War Cry -- And Listen
"In France, a new poll published by the left-wing newspaper L'Humanite showed 82 percent against a war with Iraq and 75 percent in favor of France's using its veto on the UN security council to block a new UN resolution. A poll conducted by the weekly Journal du Dimanche showed similar results. The German polling group Infratest-Dimpa showed that 76 percent of the population opposed a war with Iraq even if it had UN backing."

"We will not take part in a military intervention in Iraq, and that is exactly how our voting behavior will be in all international bodies," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a weekend speech. German Defense Minister Peter Struck said that a "yes" vote by Germany was "no longer conceivable."

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Chirac: Unilateral action illegal
"French President Jacques Chirac said that any unilateral action against Iraq would break international law. He said it was up to the UN Security Council to decide on the inspectors' progress report, due to be presented on January 27. But US Secretary of State Colin Powell told a German daily... many countries believed a new UN resolution was needed to justify a war against Iraq, he said. "But we have always made clear that the US will act without a second resolution"

Given that war is a crime, the worst of crimes, it has to be wondered whether in the event of an illegal war PM Howard and Defence Minister Hill would be vulnerable for warcrimes prosecution. Meantime, Iraqi President Saddam has promised to rout any US invasion at the gates of Baghdad, an improbable scenario, it seems to me.

UN Security Council split over disarming Saddam: Germany opposed
"Germany said bluntly that it would not support any use of force to compel Iraq to disarm fearing "disastrous consequences"... German Foreign Joschka Fischer said Berlin would reject the use of force because it could destabilise the Middle East and hamper the anti-terror campaign. "These are fundamental reasons for our rejection of military action," Fischer said."

Monday, January 20, 2003

Strong anti-war article by Labor MP Carmen Lawrence
"The rhetoric of Bush administration invites us to believe that they are good international citizens, interested only in bringing democracy to downtrodden people and preventing the development of weapons of mass destruction. Sadly, neither is true. And the United States has reserved to itself the right to act as it chooses. The Howard Government not only endorses this stance, but angered our neighbours when Howard recently indicated that he believed he would be justified in bombing our neighbours in order to hit terrorist targets."

Resigning from the frontbench and speaking her mind are the best things she could have done. More Labor MPs should also find the courage to speak their minds on an issue which must be of concern to many of them.

Bin Laden urges Muslims to unite against 'crusader coalition'
"A 26 page statement purportedly written by terrorist leader Osama bin Laden urges Muslims to stop fighting each other and unite against the "crusader coalition" that is attacking the Islamic world."

Eqypt's President Mubarek: Chances of war 50/50
"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took another swipe at US-led plans to invade Iraq, saying a war would "pour oil on the flames" in the volatile region and have disastrous consequences. "A military attack against Iraq would have terrible consequences that no one can predict, which will pour oil on the fire," he said in a speech in the southern town of Toshka on Sunday. "No country in the world can stop the United States from attacking Iraq, but we are warning against the consequences of such an attack and trying to find a way to prevent it," he said."

US was ready to attack North Korea: President Roh
"Mr Roh, who will become president next month, told a panel of academics in Seoul on Saturday that senior US officials had considered using military force on nuclear targets last month but decided on a diplomatic solution. "At the time of the [December19 South Korean] elections, some US officials, who held considerable responsibility in the Administration, talked about the possibility of attacking North Korea," Associated Press quoted Mr Roh as saying."

The case for war: No time to be faint-hearted
"The weight of opposition to the projected war with Iraq baffles explanation."

So bemoans military historian and warmonger John Keegan, a sentiment which is sure to be shared by a great many compliant, power serving intellectuals across the Western world. Keegan proceeds to make the "case" for war, such as it is. This is to be contrasted with the case against war as stated for example by Scott Burchill (see below).

Jordan's King Abdullah: Iraq war will happen; Isreali ethnic cleansing will not.
"King Abdullah II of Jordan, a US ally who has repeatedly spoken out against war with eastern neighbour Iraq, acknowledged today that the chances of preventing a US-led conflict were now "tiny". "Jordan has made enormous diplomatic efforts with the major powers, but the chances of avoiding war are tiny given the realities in both the region and the world," the official Petra news agency quoted the king as saying.

"Turning to another neighbour, Israel, Abdullah ruled out suggestions that the Jewish state might seek to capitalise on the instability caused by a war to force an exodus of Palestinians from the occupied territories into Jordan. "That will not happen," he said."

Poll: Canadians say any military role must have UN backing
"Sixty-two per cent of Canadians think the country's armed forces should take part in a United States-led war in Iraq only if the invasion is authorised by the United Nations, a poll released at the weekend has found. The Ipsos-Reid poll for The Globe and Mail found only 15per cent felt Ottawa should send troops if the US attacked Iraq without UN authorisation. A third of those in the Canadian poll said they regarded the Bush Administration as the greatest single threat to world peace, ahead of Iraq, North Korea or the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Eighteen per cent said they opposed any Canadian participation in an attack on Iraq, even if it was backed by the UN."

Liberal rift opens over war stance
"Senior Liberal identities said the issue of whether troops should be dispatched if the UN Security Council did not endorse a resolution authorising the use of force was deeply dividing the party. While the Prime Minister, John Howard, has repeatedly said Australia still hoped for a peaceful solution, he has, in line with the US position, declined to rule out military action even if it is not sanctioned by the UN. A Herald poll, published on Saturday, found 92 per cent of Australians would not support such involvement."

Australia should not, of course, be involved in any war on Iraq with or without a UN resolution. But the extent of opposition in Australia, the US and the UK to a war without UN backing will place immense pressure on the US to get the necessary UN Security Council resolution. A combination of bribes, intimidation and heavy handed diplomacy may well achieve the desired result for the US, as it has done in the past. But the Council may vote against such a resolution, and countries such as France, Russia and China may veto it. Will the Bush Administration go ahead without UN support? It has has signalled repeatedly that it will. For the UN to retain credibility, it must vote down or veto the resolution to attack Iraq if and when it is put by the US. The lesson of history is that it is a mistake to appease warmongers. If you give them one country, they want another, and another, until they are stopped by united, concerted action against; until war itself is effectively outlawed. Formally speaking, war was in fact outlawed by the establishment of the UN following the Second World War, but so much more needs to be done to put it permanently behind us.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Fisk: This Looming War Isn't About Chemical Warheads or Human Rights: It's About Oil
"Through the open door, where rain splashed on the paving stones, a sharp east wind howled in from the east, from the Jordanian and Iraqi deserts. Every man in the room believed President Bush wanted Iraqi oil. Indeed, every Arab I've met in the past six months believes that this – and this alone – explains his enthusiasm for invading Iraq. Many Israelis think the same. So do I."

Jervis Bay: Land Values rise by 300% over last 3 years
A boom of this magnitude should set the alarm bells ringing as to the inevitable bust. Land value taxation at higher rates, of course, will act to dampen the boom. And persons who own two or more valuable properties can hardly be described as underprivileged. The Herald, of course, frames the story primarily in terms of the 'injustice' of land tax to the 'entrapped' landowners. This article is in fact a typical example of media bias. The relevant facts are correctly carried, however the choice of headline and the first paragraph emphasise the message that is wanted to be got across, ie that land tax is unfair.

NSW Land tax raises $1.01b in 2002 from 120,000 assessments.
"The Government is on the defensive over suggestions that official property valuations have been inflated to boost revenue."

The Sydney Morning Herald continues its campaign against land tax by giving prominence to someone described as "an eastern suburbs lawyer who's operating in a commercial environment. He's not just doing this for the good of humanity", (Minister's spokesman)and " the advocate for your clients' and your own private interests. You are entitled to engage in the political process by lobbying for the changes you desire but it is not my function to join you in that lobbying exercise." (NSW Ombudsman).

Nevertheless the article includes useful information on the NSW State Land Tax, eg there are 2.2m parcels of land in NSW; in 2002 it raised $1.01 billion versus $862 million in 1998. The Office of State Revenue, which collects the tax, issued more than 120,000 assessments last year. The main reform needed is to move valuation cycles of all properties in NSW to an annual basis; and to institute the practice of releasing all value figures on a standard basis, eg $ per square metre.

Sydney Land Value Boom: Homes create 11 new property millionaires every 24 hours
"More than 11 property millionaires were created every day last year during Sydney's unprecedented real estate boom. A total of 3123 million-dollar properties were sold between January and September last year - an average of 347 a month. This was up from 231 a month in 2001."

Saturday, January 18, 2003

"Land Value Taxation is a method of raising public revenue by means of an annual tax on the rental value of land. It would replace, not add to, existing taxes. As explained below, this elementary fiscal measure would go far towards correcting fundamental economic and social ills."

- the article gives the lie to the assumption (which in fact is often followed) that the real estate industry must be opposed to land value taxation.

Australians against non-UN attack on Iraq: poll
Remarkable poll figures which show the public is not buying the "war on terror" propaganda, and which must place the Howard government's war policy under pressure. 62 percent believe Australia should only be involved in a war if approved by the United Nations; one-third are opposed to war under any circumstances. 65 percent believe a unilateral attack will increase Australia's exposure to terrorist retribution. One indication of propaganda success, however, is that more people regard Iraq as a greater threat to Australian security than North Korea.

Gavin R. Putland: Don't let the banks steal your land
A critique of the Caplin/Joye home financing plan. The author proposes as a rememdy the "Mill tax" but it seems to me Henry George's land value tax at sufficiently high rates is the proper solution to ever rising land prices and ever greater inequality in th ownership of land and distribution of wealth.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Lincoln Feared the Rise of Corporations
"As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

Monopoly by Copyright extended by US Supreme Court (via RW)
"When the Free Software Foundation, Intel, Phillis Schlafly, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Kenneth Arrow, Brewster Kahle, and hundreds of creators and innovators all stand on one side saying, 'this makes no sense,' then it makes no sense. Let that be enough to move people to do something about it. Our courts will not."

The decision also once again suggests the US Supreme Court is in the pocket of corporate and elite interests. This should give pause to those in Australia who see fit to support the push to ensure "Capital C" conervatives are appointed to the High Court.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

US Anti-Terror Fight Undermines Human Rights: Human Rights Watch
"The group warned that repression in the name of security would backfire, breeding resentment of governments and the United States by the repressed. It noted resentment in Pakistan for Washington's uncritical backing of General Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup. "To fight terrorism, you need the support of people in countries where the terrorists live," said Roth. "Cozying up to oppressive governments is hardly a way to build those alliances."

Labour Warns Blair on War Against Iraq
"AN overwhelming majority of Labour?s senior officials are telling Tony Blair that he must not go to war against Iraq without UN approval."

- figures given on the extent of opposition to Blair throughout the party. Schroeder also expects a second resolution. Could such a resolution be obtained? China, Russia or France could veto it, or stall it. The UN should not, of course, appease the drive to war coming from the Bush administration.

John le Carre: The United States of America Has Gone Mad
"The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions. But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet."

"How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre."

Govt "supports" UN: Hill
[Defence Minister Hill] has told Channel Nine the Government fully supports the United Nations process. But Senator Hill says that could change if a decision to go to war is vetoed by one member of the UN Security Council."

Its like a vigilante group saying it supports the decision of the court provided it finds him guilty. If it finds him not guilty, we reserve the right to take "appropriate action".

Crean clarifies Labors stance on Iraq crisis
"HEATHER EWART: Now, in the briefings you've had in Canberra this week, do you get a sense that war is inevitable?
SIMON CREAN: No. I don't. And in fact to the contrary - that war can be avoided."

The US has been signalling for months and months that they are going to attack Iraq. With the deployment of forces and the President's committment, surely the attack is all but inevitable despite the growing worldwide opposition. Crean and Labor could take a tip from Germany's Gerhard Schroeder, who has said Germany will not participate in an attack on Iraq with or without a UN resolution.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Full text of Mullah Omar letter denouncing "Crusaders and Jews"
"America announced its war on Islam in Afghanistan and began it under the label of a 'War Against Terrorism', despite the opposition of the Muslim peoples to this Crusade, even though some of the governments of the Muslim countries assisted and supported it. The Jews today have followed the same path by boldly launching a war against our Muslim people in Palestine with every arrogance and without any hesitance or fear. They have killed women under their banner of 'War Against Terrorism'. "

101 Thinkers on Owning the Earth
A useful list of statements on the equal right to the use of the earth. In spite of the wide endorsement and mature status of this fundamental concept, it remains an unfortunate fact that it is not sufficiently known and understood amongs Greens, progressives, socialists, reformers and humanitarians of all stripes.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Prime Minister Howard's case for War from October 2001
There is a lot to object to in Howard's case, but let's just consider the following:

"The fact remains however that the United States has invested enormous capital in trying to resolve that conflict. It has proven to be one of the few international players that has the weight and influence to help chart a path toward peace. And the region has been brought to the brink of peace. From the Madrid Conference, through the Oslo Agreements to the attempts at Camp David last year when Ehud Barak offered so much and brought his government and the Palestinian Authority so close to a resolution, the US has been in the thick of the negotiations. It is therefore a monstrous falsehood to blame a conflict so complex and heart wrenching, and one that occupied the world for a good part of the last century, on the United States."

All this is simply propaganda and disinformation, the essence of the dominant Zionist/US/Western/Media narrative. The facts are that it is the United States and Israel which have blocked the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict by consistently vetoing the two-state solution for the past 30 years. If Israel at any time offered to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, dismantle the settlements, and recognise a Palestinian state based on those territories the whole Arab world (except for extremists like Bin Laden) would sign on the spot and the conflict would be over.

"The Australian government agrees with the United States that the parties must return urgently to the negotiating table. A solution must be found which guarantees Israel's right to exist behind secure and recognised borders. At the same time, the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to self determination need to be realised."

This sounds good but it is not specific enough. Australia must demand that Israel withdraw immediately from the Occupied Territories; dismantle all settlements on the Occupied Territories; and recognise a Palestinian State based on the Territories with a capital of East Jerusalem. Australia must also be offer to be among the first to recognise the Palestinian state; and offer to provide a degree of assistance towards establishing mutual security and other matters.

Iraq Links Cancers to Uranium Weapons
"Iraq has experienced a dramatic increase in child cancers, leukemia and birth defects in recent years. Wisam, Iraqi medical authorities and growing numbers of American activists cast blame on the U.S. weapons containing depleted uranium that were used in the 1991 Gulf War and in the 1998 missile attacks on Baghdad and other major cities. They also assert that such munitions -- which were also used by U.S. forces in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia in far smaller quantities -- may be a cause of Gulf War diseases, elusive maladies that have affected 50,000 to 80,000 U.S. veterans of the 1991 conflict."

Chomsky on Marx and the Soviet Union
"The early Marx draws extensively from the milieu in which he lived, and one finds many similarities to the thinking that animated classical liberalism, aspects of the Enlightenment and French and German Romanticism. Again, I'm not enough of a Marx scholar to pretend to an authoritative judgement. My impression, for what it is worth, is that the early Marx was very much a figure of the late Enlightenment, and the later Marx was a highly authoritarian activist, and a critical analyst of capitalism, who had little to say about socialist alternatives. But those are impressions."

"My response to the end of Soviet tyranny was similar to my reaction to the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini. In all cases, it is a victory for the human spirit. It should have been particularly welcome to socialists, since a great enemy of socialism had at last collapsed. Like you, I was intrigued to see how people - including people who had considered themselves anti-Stalinist and anti-Leninist - were demoralised by the collapse of the tyranny. What it reveals is that they were more deeply committed to Leninism than they believed."

Counterspin: Pro-war mythology - exceptional article by Scott Burchill
As opposition mounts to Australia's involvement in the proposed US aggression against Iraq, the Sydney Morning Herald has seen fit to publish Scott Burchill's detailed and trenchant critique of Western hypocrisy and the threadbare justification for the war. Even the fourth estate does not escape attention:

"Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this pre-war period is that despite intelligence dossiers, parliamentary speeches and months of disingenuous government propaganda portraying Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to life on earth, only 37% of Australians support an illegal, unilateral strike by Washington against Baghdad...

"Spin doctors and PR consultants will therefore be working hard over the next two months in an effort to close the gap between public opposition to a war against Iraq and government enthusiasm thinly disguised as a commitment to the The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) process. Their work will be made considerably easier by the support of loyal servants of state power within the fourth estate who will be reliable conduits for opinion management by governments in Canberra, London and Washington."

Monday, January 13, 2003

Nude Women Declare No War

April 2002: International Crisis Group's Peace plan for the Middle East
Yet another articulation of the two-state land-for-peace solution in Palestine. A well prepared report, it pays particular attention to the failure of the Oslo "incrementalist" approach and the consequent need for the final peace plan to be placed on the table at the beginning of negotiations, instead of being deferred indefinitely. Emphasis is placed on the role of a third party monitoring force, however it might have been more useful to forcefully challenge the US (and the American people) over their responsibility for the failure of the two state solution to materialise. The US Government and the American people need to endorse the internationally agreed solution and needs to back that up with concrete action, such as suspension of aid to Israel if it does not take steps to implement the peace agreement.

The Beirut Declaration of the League of Arab States - March 2002
A seven point plan for peace and security in Palestine based on Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories; security, recognition and normalisation of relations with Israel; and the establishment of a Palestinian state on those territories. Unfortunately the United States and Israel have consistently vetoed the two-state solution.

Speech of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at Arab League meeting in Beirut March 2002
"It is clear in our minds, and in the minds of our brethren in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, that the only acceptable objective of the peace process is the full Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Shareef (East Jerusalem) as its capital, and the return of refugees. Without moving towards this objective, the peace process is an exercise in futility and a play on words and a squandering of time which perpetuates the cycle of violence."

- the speech is a concise and eloquent statement of the Arab world's willingness to accept and implement the land for peace concept.

Gush Shalom Draft of Peace agreement between Arabs and Israelis
A practical draft based on the Green line two state concept, covering difficult issues such as the status of the refugees, the settlements, water resources, Jerusalem etc.

Uri Avnery: 80 theses on peace in Palestine
Useful point summary of the history of Zionism and the Arab/Israeli conflict. Pays particular attention to the failure of the Oslo accords, and the need for each side to understand the "national narrative" of the other. Ignores Sadat's 1971 peace offer, and hence perhaps underemphasises the willingness of the Arabs and Palestinians to recognise Israel and establish peace dating from the 70s at least.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Two Towers: Parody

TREEBEARD: We have opted, hoom, not to do a damn thing.

PIPPIN: I didn't expect that.


No Endgame in Afghanistan for US military
"The U.S. military is still fighting in Afghanistan. Rather than winding down, the number of U.S. troops in Operation Enduring Freedom doubled to roughly 10,000 over the last year and the numbers of attacks against them by Taliban and al-Qaeda guerrillas have been increasing. There were 55 attacks on U.S. troops in November alone. Operation Enduring Freedom may have had a brilliant opening and a good middlegame, but there is no endgame in sight. Part of the problem is that while the U.S. won a rapid victory 14 months ago using precision aerial bombardment by the Air Force, precision bribery of local warlords by the CIA, and the less than precise soldiering of the Northern Alliance, it hasn't reconstructed the Afghan economy or constructed a client regime with political authority that extends beyond the capital city of Kabul."

Seven US soldiers reportedly killed in clashes on Pakistani-Afghan border
"Peshawar: The situation remained tense at Angoor Adda (Pak-Afghan border near Paktika Province) on Tuesday 31 December following clashes between Pakistan's paramilitary troops and US soldiers a day earlier."

If confirmed, this is news: US troops killed by Pakistani paramilitaries on the Afghan-Pakistan border. I havent seen this reported anywhere, even on alternative media sites (except Sydney Indymedia, where I found the link).

Over 900 US Dead In Afghanistan To Date?
"Thus far, the USA has lost near 900 soldiers and officers in Afghanistan, and believe me this will not be the end of it. In Operation Anaconda alone, 177 American soldiers were killed and 16 helicopters shot down."

This seems to me a rather large number of US casualties and helicopter losses. On the other hand, it is the first attempt I am aware of to assess numbers of US dead in Afghanistan. If the report is true, then the US could be about to repeat the Soviet experience. It is easy to march on Kabul, but hell to hold the lawless country over a number of years.

PM accused of putting Australians at risk
"Despite Mr Howard's words to the contrary, Australian Democrats Leader Andrew Bartlett said the prime minister had guaranteed Australia's commitment to war against Iraq when he confirmed a military contingent would head to the region. "It is two-faced for the prime minister to continue to claim no decision has been made about joining a war with Iraq, while actually sending Australian troops," he said.

"Senator Bartlett said such a move was putting Australians in greater danger of being targeted by terrorists. "Mr Howard's gung-ho attitude is needlessly making all Australians a greater target for terrorists worldwide," he said."

Opposition to War Growing in France
"The poll mirrors other recent surveys, including one by the CSA polling group released Wednesday in the newspaper Le Parisian, which found 66 percent of the respondents opposed to a war and 24 percent in favor. A CSA poll in August found 58 percent opposed to military intervention, so the latest numbers suggest anti-war sentiment may be hardening."

Despite substantial opposition in both the UK and France, in the event of war (which looks likely) both countries would be likely to participate. The price of opposing the war and non-participation would be to be cut off from the spoils of conquest. Russia will likewise find it difficult to formally condemn the war when it happens, despite regularly voicing legitimate concerns.

Lessons of Munich: Appeasement does not work
"When a nation announces that it now feels free to act with force against perceived threats rather than waiting for actual attacks, we should pay attention. We should understand that the leader of the nation is now willing to bomb cities and deploy armies whenever and wherever he feels threatened. When the leader says he would not need "absolute proof" of the perceived threats, we should pay attention. We should not pretend that things are still the same when they are not still the same. We should not forget the lesson of Munich. When a regime says it no longer rules out first strikes with nuclear weapons, we should do whatever we can to urge our allies to work against such a regime. The more powerful a nation is, the larger its armies, the greater the need for noise rather than silence, for remembering rather than forgetting, for courage rather than cowardice."

Countries such as Australia which are prepared to go along with the pre-emptive aggression of the United States are performing a great disservice. The courage to oppose needs to be found.

EU Tells America to Toe the UN Line
"The European Union warned the US that there could be no war against Saddam Hussein without clear proof that he holds banned weapons. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, issued a blunt reminder to Washington that only the UN security council could determine whether military action was justified."

The proposed attack on Iraq is shaping up as a watershed. If the US unilaterally proceeds, overriding the substantial international opposition, it will be a demonstration of its aggression, isolation and ruthlessness. If it is forced to pull back, it could be a peak of US power to make war.

We face a full-blown nuclear crisis: Labor Foreign policy spokesman Rudd
"We now face a full-blown nuclear crisis in the region but our Government seems to be missing in action on this issue because it is in an advanced state of hyperactivity over Iraq." Mr Rudd said the north Asian emergency, and not the stand-off in the Middle East, posed an immediate threat to Australia. "Unlike Iraq, North Korea has a nuclear capability and is developing long-range nuclear missile warheads capable of reaching Australia," he said.

It is good to see Labor finally distancing itself from the government's priorities but more is needed. As Richard Butler has pointed out in his recent book on the the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty ("Fatal Choice"), in order for Non-nuclear countries to continue to adhere to the treaty, the Nuclear powers must make convincing steps of their own towards nuclear disarmament. In other words, the United States is a rogue state and is the first that should be asked to adhere to the NPT. The current aggressive, warmongering policies of the US are the strongest incentives to countries such as North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran and others to go nuclear, as everyone understands that nuclear weapons are the only viable deterrent against possible US aggression.

The Freenet Project
"Freenet is a really interesting project, an interesting fallout of broadband. A few years ago, the Internet was a young and wild medium. Then corporations took over. The Net is still young and some part of it are still wild, but there are becoming harder to find as corporations and politicians slowly understand the potential of free communication and distributions of ideas. Some learned it the hard way. But with the development of broadband, it is now possible to develop a new “homegrown” network, with “built-it” protections against repression. I guess that very few corporations and politicians understand fully the implications of broadband and of peer-to-peer applications."

- it seems to me one of the most interesting aspects of freenet is the concept of a unique ID for every file, somewhat like usenet. On the web, documents can be altered anytime and it is also full of broken links, also full of advertising and commercial junk, which has nearly ruined it. All you want is the original file, the original text.

Friday, January 10, 2003

The Anti-war movement has succeeded in containing US aggression
"The anti-war movement has much to be proud of. To the absolute fury of the right wing, the anti-war movement of yesterday and today still, to this day, shackles this country's ability to wage unfettered war. Right off the bat, they have to forget about any war that might last more than six months or cost more than a few hundred U.S. lives. For this, you can thank the peace movement and the Vietnamese, who, at tremendous cost, beat us militarily. The entire world owes a tremendous debt to the Vietnamese."

World on Path to Disaster, Bomb Pioneer Warns
"Arms control, Joseph Rotblat said, was as good as dead. The only way out of the disaster that lay ahead was to put the goal of total nuclear disarmament back on the agenda. "We have to convince the public that the continuation of current policies, in which the security of the world is maintained by the indefinite retention of nuclear weapons, is not realistic in the long run, because it is bound eventually to result in a nuclear holocaust in which the future of the human race
would be at stake. We must convince public opinion that the only alternative is the total elimination of nuclear weapons."

Scientific Dishonesty: Bjørn Lomborg's book "The Skeptical Environmentalist"
The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty has issued a ruling on Lomborg's book: "Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty."

Worthy of note are the following excerpts:

"The Skeptical Environmentalist" has given rise to extensive public discussion and debate, both in Denmark and internationally. There have been enthusiastic reviews in some of the world's top newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, and in The Economist."

"It is the view of the Working Party that the many, particularly American researchers, who have received Bjørn Lomborg's book with great gusto, even in a specifically negative fashion, are unlikely to have even given the book the time of day unless it had received such overwhelmingly positive write-ups in leading American newspapers and in The Economist. The USA is the society with the highest energy consumption in the world, and there are powerful interests in the USA bound up with increasing energy consumption and with the belief in free market forces."

One Generation to Save World: Worldwatch Institute
"The longer that no remedial action is taken, the greater the degree of misery and biological impoverishment that humankind must be prepared to accept, the institute says in its 20th annual report. Overuse of resources, pollution and destruction of natural areas continue to threaten life on the planet. Conditions continue to deteriorate rapidly, the report says, although there are some hopeful signs in that technical solutions to the problems have been found and - where there is political will - adopted. In most cases, though, nothing is being done.

"About one quarter of the developing world's crop land is being degraded, and the rate is increasing. The greatest threat is not a shortage of land, says the report, but a shortage of water, with more than 500 million people living in regions prone to chronic drought."

- the article includes a useful summary of key facts regarding the crisis.

Excerpts From Ernst Friedrich's "War Against War!"

Thursday, January 09, 2003

US Congressman Slams Drug War, Hints at Legalization
"Please understand that you are not about to read a forceful, logical argument for legalization. Burton is obviously ill-informed on the issue of illegal drugs and isn't familiar with the arguments (and counter-arguments) for various forms of drug-law reform. His adversary in this impromptu debate, Tom Carr, is likewise clueless. His arguments for the current Prohibition range from muddled to absolutely absurd and surreal. Watching these two spar is embarrassing. Basically, this is a discussion between two half-wits. What's so vitally important, though, is that one of the half-wits is starting to wake up. He doesn't know what the answers are, and he doesn't even know how to phrase the questions, but he has realized that the current course of action is pathetically unworkable. Luckily, this half-wit is a powerful US Congressman, and he has aired his thoughts in a congressional hearing with cameras rolling."

I think The Memory Hole is a bit hard on the "halfwits"; its not quite that bad. I'm sure they understand a good deal more than they let on. And they are not going to change any policy until the demand comes from the public. Also "Legalisation" is the wrong word for necessary reform. You will always struggle to get people to support legalisation. Regulation, however - strict regulation and taxation - could achieve the goals of taking the profit out of drugs and restricting their promotion and usage.