Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chile's Bachelet says greens back her energy plan: "Leading presidential contender Michelle Bachelet ... pledged to make 15 percent of the country's energy come from renewable resources by 2010."

What, apart from useless mainstream political parties, is to stop Australia from reaching such a target also?

""But clearly we also need to develop the traditional energy forms," she said at a breakfast with foreign correspondents two weeks before elections on Dec. 11. "Chile has an enormous number of river basins, but we have to define which ones we will flood to produce the energy we need, and which ones we will preserve.""

""What I'm proposing is a an environment minister and a superintendency for environmental monitoring, with a budget to do it with," she said.... Bachelet said her government would work with environmentalists to develop small wind and solar energy projects in different parts of the country. "During my government I'm not going to develop nuclear energy," she said."

Another example of furious media criticism of Bush or Cheney or Blair that seems to becoming more common: "It is the stupidity of this war that is most offensive. The stupidity especially of its author, Tony Blair, who is increasingly becoming regarded as the greatest dupe ever to occupy Number 10. Sir Christopher Meyer’s self-regarding and patronising memoirs, DC Confidential, confirmed that Blair was cynically cultivated by his American NeoCon friends.

"They coldly identified and exploited his weaknesses: Blair’s vanity, his intellectual shallowness and his susceptibility to being easily led by powerful figures. They ferried him around in Rolls Royces, introduced him to stars, awarded him medals, held him aloft as a true American champion, worthy of ovations in Congress. It was like a Mafia sting.... The Republicans used Blair first as a human shield, second as a kind of moral hedge fund, and third as a Trojan horse within the United Nations.... He’s essentially a political salesman, not a policy analyst. The Americans knew that too."

"Iraq is an extraordinary scandal. It is like Watergate, Suez and Northern Ireland rolled into one. Indeed, the sheer scale of the deception has blinded us to it. It is almost too much to comprehend.... We can’t allow boredom to dull our moral sensibilities to what is beginning to look like the crime of the century."

Madison Capital Times has a shot at Dick Cheney: "If this keeps up, President Bush might yet come to recognize what most Americans already well understand: Dick Cheney is too crooked, too cruel and too crazy to be allowed to continue warping this country's policies. And if Bush doesn't recognize the need to get rid of Cheney, Congress should."

Bush in Babylon: Seymour Hersh's latest article portrays Bush as determined to 'stay the course' but out of touch and unreachable by fact and reason as the Iraq debacle steadily unfolds. Athens in Sicily? Crassus in Mesopotamia? Hitler in Stalingrad?

"Murtha reported that the number of attacks in Iraq has increased from a hundred and fifty a week to more than seven hundred a week in the past year."

"“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ”"

Why would Bush feel any pain? Its not his money that's being squandered or his blood being spilt.

"Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”"

Hersh expands on his article in an interview. And in another interview, Hersh gives the impression of a real disaster in Iraq and an equally disastrous Bush administration incapable of handling it: a situation verging on collapse.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Another useful entry in the literature on Ayn Rand: You have to like passages such as this:

"‘Who is John Galt?’ the novel [Atlas Shrugged] begins: the question is rhetorical, an expression of despair. The setting is, loosely, America in the 1940s – Washington, Wisconsin, Mexico are mentioned, as are diners, bums, hamburgers, negligees – but film-set-thin and vague and flat. Everything is running down: typewriters break and no one can fix them, mines and smelters lie idle, and out West, in an image experienced as the ultimate horror, a farmer is spotted using a plough. Men of talent, composers, industrialists, financiers, one by one destroy their businesses and disappear. Faceless governments pass progressively more anti-business legislation: the Equalisation of Opportunity Bill; the Anti-Dog Eat Dog Rule.

"Across this blasted landscape strides the beautiful Dagny Taggart, her body ‘slim and nervous’, her planes ‘angular’, her instep ‘arched’ – her only desire to get the trains of Taggart Transcontinental to run on time. In this, Dagny believes John Galt to be her enemy, and she goes on believing this for many hundreds of pages. But Galt is in fact a great scientist and inventor, the greatest the world has ever known: disgusted by its values, he has retreated into a perfect society, deep in the Rocky Mountains, from where he and his collaborators plan a global strike of all great minds. The story ends with Dagny and Galt standing on a mountain-top, their hair blowing and blending together; Galt traces the holy sign of the dollar over the desolate earth."

What is wrong with sedition law: "SEDITION laws are at best silly and at worst a catch-all clause for governments who want to bury dissent.... The silliness of sedition laws cannot be overstated: unlike murder legislation, on which there is wide and ancestral unity, all attempts to define and prosecute sedition become absurd with time.... To bring the sovereign into contempt or hatred is also listed as a crime, and on that basis the royal children should all be doing time. The impossibility of defining sedition in a liberal democratic society is shown up by Ruddock's defence of the proposals. Ruddock says they are 'designed to protect the community from those who would abuse our democratic values and threaten our harmonious and tolerant society'.

"Does that include people who threaten our harmonious society by whipping up ethnic, sectional hysteria for political benefit? Does that include those who lie about the behaviour of unfortunate minorities to sow a sense of fear? If I were attorney-general, and these provisions were law, I'd certainly have my eye on you, Phil, and your proven, recidivist tendencies 'to abuse our democratic values and threaten our harmonious and tolerant society'."

"Minister, if you do not intend further repression, may I ask you this? Why did agents claiming to be from the Attorney-General's Department visit the filmmaker Carmel Travers, who had on her computer a manuscript from whistle-blower Andrew Wilkie, and smash the hard drives of her two computers with hammers, a process they referred to as "cleansing"? Four other Australians, including Robert Manne, were similarly dealt with.

"The victims were warned it was an offence to tell anyone what had happened, even their partners, a form of bullying which, being accustomed to the traditions of free speech, they ultimately ignored. Most absurdly of all, Wilkie's manuscript, Axis of Deceit, had already been published."

That was Thomas Kenneally writing, and other artists in this Herald article also make effective points against the sedition laws.

Report on Iraqi Oil: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth: "The UK and US have long had their eyes on the massive energy resources of Iraq and the Gulf. In 1918 Sir Maurice Hankey, Britain’s First Secretary of the War Cabinet wrote:

“Oil in the next war will occupy the place of coal in the present war, or at least a parallel place to coal. The only big potential supply that we can get under British control is the Persian [now Iran] and Mesopotamian [now Iraq] supply… Control over these oil supplies becomes a first class British war aim.”(1)

"After World War II both the US and UK identified the importance of Middle Eastern oil. British officials believed that the area was “a vital prize for any power interested in world influence or domination”(2), while their US counterparts saw the oil resources of Saudi Arabia as a “stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history”(3).

"With over 60% of the world’s oil reserves,(4) their interest in the Gulf region is unsurprising. Iraq alone has the third largest oil reserves on the planet – accounting for 10% of the world total. Iraq is also reckoned to have the world’s largest unexplored potential, primarily in the Western Desert. On top of its 115 billion barrels of proven reserves, Iraq is estimated to have between 100 and 200 billion barrels of further possible (as yet undiscovered) reserves. Furthermore, not only are Iraqi and Gulf reserves huge, they are mostly onshore, in favourable reservoir structures, and extractable at extremely low cost.

"Since the nationalisation of the major oil industries of the Middle East in the 1970s, Gulf reserves have been out of the direct control of the West and off the balance sheets of its companies."

"In February 2005, Interim Oil Minister Thamer al-Ghadban stated that "As for the extraction sector, that is, dealing with the oil and gas reserves, which are 'assets', privatisation is completely out of the question at the moment."(20) But if the non-privatisation of oil was a surprise, this was largely based on a misconception of what “privatisation” means in the Iraqi context. In the minds of some neo-conservatives, writing on Iraqi oil before the war, privatisation meant the transfer of legal ownership of Iraq's oil reserves into private hands. However, in all countries of the world except the USA (a), reserves (prior to their extraction) are legally the property of the state. This is the case in Iraq, and remains so under the new Constitution. There has never been a realistic prospect of US-style privatisation of Iraq’s oil reserves. But this does not mean that private companies would not develop Iraq’s oil.

"In some ways, the debate on “privatisation” has obscured the important practical issues of who gets the revenue from the oil, and who controls the way in which oil is developed."

"While these disputes were raging in the Middle East, a different model was emerging in Indonesia. There, a new form of contract was introduced in the late 1960s: the production sharing agreement (PSA).

"An ingenious arrangement, PSAs shift the ownership of oil from companies to state, and invert the flow of payments between state and company. Whereas in a concession system, foreign companies have rights to the oil in the ground, and compensate host states for taking their resources (via royalties and taxes), a PSA leaves the oil legally in the hands of the state, while the foreign companies are compensated for their investment in oil production infrastructure and for the risks they have taken in doing so.

"Although many in the oil industry were initially suspicious of Indonesia’s move, they soon realised that by setting the terms the right way, a PSA could deliver the same practical outcomes as a concession, with the advantage of relieving nationalist pressures within the country. In one of the standard textbooks on petroleum fiscal systems, industry consultant Daniel Johnston comments:

“At first [PSAs] and concessionary systems appear to be quite different. They have major symbolic and philosophical differences, but these serve more of a political function than anything else. The terminology is certainly distinct, but these systems are really not that different from a financial point of view.”(22) "

" Our analysis shows that production sharing agreements have two major disadvantages for the Iraqi people:

1. The loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in potential revenue;

2. The loss of democratic control of Iraq's oil industry to international companies"

"We have seen in the preceding chapters that, under the influence of the US and the UK, powerful politicians and technocrats in the Iraqi Oil Ministry are pushing to hand all of Iraq’s undeveloped fields to multinational oil companies, to be developed under production sharing agreements. They aim to do this in the early part of 2006.

"The results for Iraq would be devastating:

# Iraq would lose an enormous amount of revenue (making it conversely highly profitable for the foreign companies);

# The terms of the contracts would be agreed while the Iraqi state is very weak and still under occupation, but be fixed for 25-40 years;

# PSAs would deny Iraq the ability to regulate or plan its oil industry, leaving foreign companies’ operations immune from future legislation;

# PSAs would shift decisions on any disputes out of Iraq into international arbitration courts, where the Iraqi constitution, body of law and national interest are simply not relevant."

Naturally it remains to be seen whether the course of the insurgency and withdrawal of US forces will interfere with the implementation of this Imperialist plot.

Uri Avnery comments on the political earthquake in Israel: "THE LIKUD has reverted to what it was before coming to power in 1977: a radical right-wing party. This is the classic Herut party, which believes in the Greater Israel (called in Hebrew "The Whole of Eretz YIsrael"), from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River (at least). It opposes any peace agreement with the Palestinian people and wants to maintain the occupation, until circumstances allow for the annexation of all the occupied territories. Since it also wants a homogeneous Jewish state, this contains a hidden message: the Arabs must be induced to leave the country. In right-wing parlance, this is called "voluntary transfer". However, the party takes care not spell this out openly."

"THE SHARON PARTY (called Kadima, "Forward") is built on a lie.... Sharon does not make a secret of his real intentions: to annex to Israel 58% of the West Bank, including the ever-expanding "settlement blocs", as well as various "security zones" (the extended Jordan valley and the roads between the settlements) and Great-Great- Jerusalem, up to the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement. Since there can be no Palestinian partner for such a "solution", he plans to implement this by a unilateral diktat, backed by force, without any dialogue with the Palestinians."

"[Labour's new leader] Amir Peretz supports a serious peace program: negotiations with the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state, on the basis of the borders of 1967. He will represent this in a social context: the money wasted on war, occupation and the settlements is stolen from the poor and increases the gap between rich and poor."

"Strangely enough, many commentators ignore the most manifest and most decisive fact: The whole system has undergone a shift to the left. The Likud nucleus is stuck on the right, where it always was. But all the others have moved. The Sharon-party, which has split from the Likud, has given up its main article of faith: the Whole of Eretz Yisrael."

"For years now an abnormal situation has prevailed in Israel and driven social scientists crazy: according to all public opinion polls, most of the public wants peace and is prepared to make almost all the necessary concessions, but in the Knesset this position has hardly been represented at all.. During all these years, my optimism has irritated many people. I told everyone: this will not go on. Some day, in a way that we cannot yet foresee, this abnormal state will right itself. One way or another, the political scene will attune itself to public opinion."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Gypsies in the Holocaust: "It is extremely difficult to locate the sorts of sources about Gypsies in the Holocaust of the type widely available about Jewish victims of the Nazi terror. This may reflect difference between an extremely literate culture and a largely illiterate one. It is known that perhaps 250,000 Gypsies were killed, and that proportionately they suffered losses greater than any other group of victims except Jews. The accounts here were collected, and made available on the net, from various sources.

"'Gypsies,' or the 'Roma' as they prefer to be called, are an ethnic group which originated in India (their language-Romany-is directly descended from Sanskrit) which for unknown reasons took to a wandering lifestyle in the late middle ages. Eventually they reached Europe and became part of the ethnic mix of many countries, contributing not a little in areas such a music and the arts.

"Because they were strangers to many of the people they moved among, strong prejudices grew up, and indeed continue to this day. Although they were indisputably 'Aryan' according to the Nazi racial typology, they were pursued relentlessly."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thatcher 'threatened to nuke Argentina': "'Excuse me. I had a difference to settle with the Iron Lady. That Thatcher, what an impossible woman!' [French President Mitterand] said as he arrived, more than 45 minutes late, on May 7 1982. 'With her four nuclear submarines in the south Atlantic, she's threatening to unleash an atomic weapon against Argentina if I don't provide her with the secret codes that will make the missiles we sold the Argentinians deaf and blind.' He reminded Mr Magoudi that on May 4 an Exocet missile had struck HMS Sheffield. 'To make matters worse, it was fired from a Super-Etendard jet,' he said. 'All the materiel was French!'

"In words that the psychoanalyst has sworn to the publisher, Meren Sell, are genuine, the president continued: 'She's livid. She blames me personally for this new Trafalgar ... I was obliged to give in. She's got them now, the codes.'

"Mr Mitterrand - who once described Mrs Thatcher as "the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe" - went on: "One cannot win against the insular syndrome of an unbridled Englishwoman. Provoke a nuclear war for a few islands inhabited by three sheep as hairy as they are freezing! But it's a good job I gave way. Otherwise, I assure you, the Lady's metallic finger would have hit the button.

"France, he insisted, would have the last word. "I'll build a tunnel under the Channel. I'll succeed where Napoleon III failed. And do you know why she'll accept my tunnel? I'll flatter her shopkeeper's spirit. I'll tell her it won't cost the Crown a penny."

Set this down as another close call.... The arms trade, nuclear weapons. One of these days, with the hubris and madness of politicians, especially at war....

Desalination more expensive than recycling: "Sydney Water papers show desalination on the scale now planned by the State Government would cost almost double that of a similar sized recycling scheme and consume more than three times as much energy, Sydney Water papers reveal. A recycling scheme that produced 100 million litres of water a day would cost $285 million to build or $1.15 for every 1000 litres of water, according to a Sydney Water report dated August 17, 2005.... the recycling scheme is far less energy intensive, consuming 1.5 megawatts of power for every million litres of water, compared with 5.3 megawatts per million litres for a desalination plant."

Why on earth is the government supporting the desalination option? Because of connections between the government and the plant builders?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

True Tyranny Defined: Bush Admin. v. Jose Padilla: Glenn Greenwald gives an eloquent exposition of habeas corpus and how fundamental it is to human rights and human freedom, and how much it is threatened by the Bush Administration and its enablers, which must include its servile admirers and imitators, the Howard government.

Peace Talks in Cairo don't include US: "The United States has so far been hostile at worst and lukewarm at best in regard to a critical peace initiative by the League of Arab States. A major conference held in Cairo this weekend provided the spectrum of Iraq’s political class with an opportunity to engage in a give-and-take about a negotiated end to the war in Iraq. During the three-day conference, which ended Monday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani made an offer to start talks with the armed Iraqi fighters. 'If those who call themselves the Iraqi resistance desired to contact me, I would welcome them,” said Talabani."

"The fact that the United States is not trumpeting the importance of the Cairo peace talks, and the fact that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top-level officials did not attend it, are failures of diplomacy. Not only did scores of Iraqi political leaders travel to Cairo to talk face to face in a manner that could not have happened in Baghdad, but the meeting was also attended by heads of state, including Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran. After three days of talks, the attendees decided to convene a full-fledged peace conference in Cairo in late February or early March.

"The significance of the meeting is that it brought together Shiite and Kurdish officials with leaders of various Sunni factions, including some of those with close ties to the Iraqi resistance. Waiting in the wings were people representing a spectrum of groups currently battling the U.S. occupation. According to Aiham al-Sammarae, who served in Iraq’s 2003-2004 interim government, several leaders of insurgent groups went to Cairo to participate on the fringes of the meeting. Opposition from Iraq’s main Shiite parties made it impossible for them to attend the conference itself, but that may be the next step. In a surprising statement after the conference, the attendees condemned terrorism but added that “resistance is a legitimate right of all peoples.” "

"The conference drew strong support from Russia, from the European Union, whose chief foreign affairs official, Javier Solana, helped organize it, and from the United Nations. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan also helped organize the meeting and sent Ashraf Qazi, his special representative, to the conference itself. The broad support from virtually all of the international community made the cool reception from the United States even more glaring."

The future of Iraq is being decided in Cairo and the US is not even present. We havent seen a superpower looking this helpless since the future of Easten Europe was being decided while hundreds of Red Army tanks were parked uselessly and impotently in Warsaw pact bases. In fact it is worse: American force are being shot up on a daily basis with the consent of the parties to the peace talks to which the US is not even a partner. If the US doesnt stitch together in short order some sort of 'declare victory and come home' policy it is facing the mother of all humiliations - defeat and expulsion from the Middle East with scorn and contempt. In fact that outcome and perception might already be impossible to avoid.

Interview with Finkelstein: Beyond Chutzpah: "I think [readers are] going to be very surprised by the fact that this whole claim of the new anti-Semitism is a complete fraud and they are going to be very surprised that Israel’s human rights record is quite abysmal.... Everybody who has read it has made the comment that it’s quite shocking to see the magnitude of Israel’s human rights crimes in the Occupied Territories."

"American Jewish organizations didn’t give a fig about Israel before the June 1967 War. After 1967, Israel became their cause because it was safe.... The biggest mistake anyone can make about people in power is to ascribe to them ideological convictions. Ben-Gurion was a Zionist. Abba Eban was a Zionist. The early founders of the state of Israel were Zionist for sure because they were committed to ideas. Just like the Bolsheviks were clearly Communist. But once you get into power, people are interested in one thing – more power. And then they adjust their beliefs and their ideology to serve that goal."

"I don’t think Alan Dershowitz cares about Israel. He never wrote about Israel before June 67. The Holocaust – he’s said: Growing up, we never discussed the Holocaust. I don’t remember one single conversation with anyone about the Holocaust. They don’t care about the Holocaust or Israel, they care about their careers. So, I’ve always found it perplexing as to why these people are elevated by giving them an ideology and acting as if they are acting out of conviction.... Harvard can’t acknowledge that its senior most professor of law [Dershowitz] is a hoaxer and a plagiarist. It says something about the institution – it’s so devastating that they just can’t do it. It shines a light on them that is quite shocking. There’s the element of Israel and there’s the element of institutional protection."

"[Ariel Sharon and the like are] not proponents of the two-state solution, this is nonsense. There’s an international consensus on what the two-state settlement means. It’s a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Anything else is garbage. There are people like Sharon who don’t support a two-state settlement. They support a one state solution for Israel and a phone booth for the Palestinians."

"Every state has that right [to build a wall and defend itself]. You build a wall on your own property. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t get along with their neighbors, and so they decided to build a wrought-iron fence around their property. So the first thing you have to do, at least in New York, you have to hire a surveyor and the surveyor demarcates the border. If you’re one inch into your neighbor’s property, under the law, you have to tear down the fence. Very uncomplicated.

"The West Bank and Gaza, under international law, are occupied territories. Israel doesn’t have title to one half of one inch of the West Bank or Gaza or East Jerusalem. Want to build a fence? Build it on your border and protect your people. This has nothing to do with terrorism. This has nothing to do with protecting the settlements. If you want to protect the settlements, you do what Israel has done. You build electronic fences around the settlements. Kiryat Arba is very well-protected and there are no terrorist attacks. It has to do with creating a new border.... There’s nothing Israel can do without US support. It can’t breathe without US support. The US bankrolls everything, and it’s just silly to think that Israel can do anything without the support."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Government of Iran publishes statement on nuclear program in New York Times - excerpts:
In a region already suffering from upheaval and uncertainty, a crisis is being manufactured in which there will be no winners. Worse yet, the hysteria about the dangers of an alleged Iran nuclear weapons program rest solely and intentionally on misperceptions and outright lies. In the avalanche of anti-Iran media commentaries, conspicuously absent is any reference to important facts, coupled with a twisted representation of the developments over the past 25 years. Before the international community is led to another 'crisis of choice', it is imperative that the public knows all the facts and is empowered to make an informed and sober decision about an impending catastrophe....

Since early 1980s, Iran's peaceful nuclear program and its inalienable right to nuclear technology have been the subject of the most extensive and intensive campaign of denial, obstruction, intervention and misinformation....

Although it is true that Iran is rich in oil and gas, these resources are finite and, given the pace of Iran's economic development, they will be depleted within two to five decades. ... Iran can't rely exclusively on fossil energy. Since Iranian national economy is still dependent on oil revenue, it can't allow the ever increasing domestic demand affect the oil revenues from the oil export.

The assumption that nuclear energy is needed to counter fossil fuel depletion is widespread throughout the corporate neoliberal West, so this is a difficult argument for them to counter, unless they throw their lot in with renewable energy (as they ought). Nuclear energy has always been a cover for nuclear bombs, which is one of the reasons we must reject nuclear energy in the first place. Also, although Iran makes a notable mention of fossil fuel depletion, they do not, as is so often the case in discussing the nuclear industry, mention the depletion of uranium stocks.

Iran aims at reaching [20,000 megawatts] by 2020, which may save Iran 190 million barrels of crude oil or $10 billion per year in today's prices. Therefore, Iran's nuclear program is neither ambitious nor economically unjustifiable. Diversification - including the development of nuclear energy - is the only sound and responsible energy strategy for Iran....

Having been a victim of a pattern of deprivation from peaceful nuclear material and technology, Iran cannot solely rely on procurement of fuel from outside sources. Such dependence would in effect hold Iran's multi-billion dollar investment in power plants hostage to the political whims of suppliers in a tightly controlled market....

The second false assumption is that because Iran is surrounded by nuclear weapons in all directions - the U.S., Russia, Pakistan and Israel - any sound Iranian strategists must be seeking to develop a nuclear deterrent capability for Iran as well. It is true that Iran has neighbors with abundant nuclear weapons, but this does not mean that Iran must follow suit. In fact, the predominant view among
Iranian decision-makers is that development, acquisition or possession of nuclear weapons would only undermine Iranian security. Viable security for Iran can be attained only through inclusion and regional and global engagement. Iran's history is the perfect illustration of its geo-strategic outlook. Over the past 250 years, Iran has not waged a single war of aggression against its neighbors, nor has it initiated any hostilities....

There is also a fundamental ideological objection to weapons of mass destruction, including a religious decree issued by the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran prohibiting the development, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons.

I dont think this argument will convince many people. Once a fully developed nuclear industry infrastructure has been established, such as in Germany or Japan, it would take just 6 months to manufacture bombs. And the conventional wisdom is that nuclear weapons is about the only thing that would deter either Israel or the US from attacking. The clout or regional hegemonic authority that nuclear weapons would provide Iran is such that one feels the temptation would be almost too great to resist. And whilst undoubtedly all true religions would prohibit the production much less use of these monstrous weapons surely it would be a first if that sentiment were to overcome the demands of state and military power. But let them prove me wrong.

There follows a lengthier section on the EU3 negotiations and the latest developments (or manipulations) in the IAEA. On the whole I think the Imperialist powers would struggle to come up with reply as credible as this official statement from Iran. A presentation from Colin Powell, perhaps? A dossier from Tony Blair?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Campaign to shut down SOA draws large numbers of protestors: "Outside the gates into Fort Benning, GA this morning (Sunday, November 20) there are 15,000 plus demonstrators. Each is holding a small cross or other religious symbol bearing the name of a man, a woman, or a child killed in Latin America by a graduate of the US Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning. Each name will be read aloud during a solemn procession. It is a moving and powerful event. During the day, some demonstrators will commit civil disobedience. The likely outcome is not a “photo opportunity” arrest but rather a six month or one year term in a federal penitentiary."

Digby rightly objects to the US torture regime, and it is especially bad that torture is publicly supported by such senior officials as the President, Vice President, Attorney General etc; however as Digby's commenters point out (and as can be seen from the above item about SOA) torture and objection to torture by the US is not new. Here is some more information about the US torture regime. It is well documented in many books, by Chomsky and others. The crucial point is made, that "Torture does not assist in the solving of crimes.... Torture exists for one reason only, to terrorize a population that opposes a dictatorship."

Territory nuclear waste dump precursor to nuclear industry?: "Argued the NSW independent Peter Andren: 'I acknowledge the need for safe repositories for the byproducts and the waste of [nuclear] medical technology. But I do believe, within the Government's planning process, there may be preparation for much broader waste deposits that may lead us towards preparing ourselves for the slide down the slippery slope towards nuclear power in this country. [This debate] only underlines the degree to which we have very little handle on just what we do with the waste of the nuclear power cycle. There is a need for safe storage. But that safe storage should not be preparing sites six, seven, eight or 15 years down the track, which have perhaps a primary agenda of preparing us for the day when we are looking at the storage of the byproducts of nuclear power.'

"Argued the Queensland Liberals' Peter Lindsay: 'Nuclear is not bad. Nuclear is the fuel of the future. It is going to come to Australia. People ought to get used to the reality that it is a very safe source of energy. One day we will see Australia go nuclear.'

"And there's the rub. Does the Howard Government have an eye on the future when it starts building federal nuclear waste 'facilities' in the Northern Territory? ... Can Australians trust their Government when it so often says one thing and then slithers 180 degrees into something else? Like Howard's "never, ever" pledge on a GST nine months before he became Prime Minister and three years before he introduced one? Or all that duplicitous twaddle about why our Government was taking Australia into Iraq?"

"Bob Hawke, after all, is only one who thinks it's a good idea. As Hawke told the ABC TV's Maxine McKew on September 29: "We have a real issue in the world of nuclear waste being stored in unsafe places. The bonus for Australia is that we would revolutionise the economics of [this country]. Forget the current account deficit problem. As far as you could see in the future, Australia would be earning billions of dollars making the world safer and doing the world a great turn. We are talking about billions and billions of dollars a year … "Progress is about facing up to challenges, facing up to prejudice, facing up to emotion, and putting national interest on the table. That's what good policymaking and leadership is about."

This raises the question of how and why Hawke and Labor got into the pro-nuclear camp. Most likely it is nothing but a corporate push. And as I argued in a previous post, nuclear power is expensive, poisonous, non-renewable and not the answer.

Pinochet victim likely to be next President of Chile: "Current polls on the Dec. 11 election show Michelle Bachelet ... with a staggering 24-percentage-point lead on her closest rival."

"In January 1975 Bachelet was arrested by a Chilean military squad. As a member of the outlawed Socialist Party, Bachelet was part of an underground resistance and one of thousands accused of being an enemy of the military government led by Army General Augusto Pinochet. Bachelet found herself under surveillance and then the military sought to eliminate her."

""Our room had bars on the window," said Bachelet. "We had four or five bunks, and we were eight women. The beds were full, sometimes two women slept together, we didn't all fit . . . We were blindfolded all day, we took them off, but obviously when the guards arrived we lowered the blindfolds. If not, they beat us."

"The 1973-1990 Pinochet government killed approximately 3,000 Chileans. Many of them, including Bachelet's boyfriend, simply "disappeared" and their bodies have never been located. Bachelet's father Alberto, a general in the Chilean Air Force, was accused of working with the socialist Allende government. He was tortured by his colleagues until his heart collapsed. He died in a public prison cell.

"Bachelet's mother, Angela Jeria, was kidnapped together with her daughter and locked in a cage for five days without food. Their cellmates were raped by guards."

"Thanks to their family connections to top military officials, Bachelet and her mother were spared death. Instead they were beaten, then exiled to Australia with orders not to re-enter Chile. Bachelet, ever the rebel, quickly helped organize Socialist Party resistance groups and secretly planned her return to Chile."

Expansionist Zionism finally coming to an end?: "A quarter of West Bank settlers living east of the security fence are willing to leave their homes immediately if they are compensated, according to a poll conducted by the TNS Teleseker company for the One Home (Bait Ehad) movement published Saturday.

"According to the poll, 74 percent of the general public supports a new 'evacuation-compensation' bill that would enable settlers to leave their settlements and move within the Green Line border in return for alternative housing, and 35 percent of the settlers living east of the fence support this bill. The poll also shows that 70 percent of the general public believes that additional West Bank settlements will be evacuated."

"According to Vilan, following the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this summer, "settlers are aware that they are next in line to be evacuated. The separation fence, which has left tens of thousands of families outside of Israel's future area, who are exposed to Palestinian terror and are unable to sell their homes for a price that will enable them to buy another home, has deepened their misery."

"Alon Pinkas, one of the movement's leaders, said that "it is clear that there will be a second disengagement in Judea and Samaria, it is clear that it will take place before a permanent agreement, and it is clear that it will include the 80,000 settlers living outside of the fence. Therefore, the government must stop using settlers as bargaining chips and hostages and enable them to voluntary leave right now.""

Meanwhile Ariel Sharon, the Likud Prime Minister, has announced he is resigning from Likud to form a new 'centrist' party with Shimon Peres to contest the next elections. Sharon's move suggests that aggressive, expansionist, colonialist, lebensraum, not-one-step-backwards Zionism, for so long the bi-partisan mainstream policy of Israel, has finally been relegated to the right, and is about to be abandoned in the face of reality.

Its possible also that Sharon can see the writing on the wall: the huge strategic failure of the Iraq invasion; the inevitability of Iranian regional hegemony; the futility of endless fighting against the Palestinians, who will neither die nor abandon their remaining lands. Perhaps Sharon can visualise the end state of the Zionist project, the final borders, and it is somewhat less than the 'Nile to Euphrates' delusions of extremists.

These events can also be interpreted to mean that Palestinian resistance, with virtually no aid from the rest of the world and facing the combined might of the US/Israel, has ground the expansionist Zionist project to a standstill. The 'apartheid wall', not the Green line, is looking more and more like the final boundaries of the Jewish state.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

"Cheney is Vice President for Torture": "The American Senate says torture should be banned - whatever the justification. But President Bush has threatened to veto their ruling. [Admiral Stansfield Turner] claims President Bush is not telling the truth when he says that torture is not a method used by the US.

"Speaking of Bush's claims that the US does not use torture, Admiral Turner, who ran the CIA from 1977 to 1981, said: 'I do not believe him'. On Dick Cheney he said 'I'm embarrassed the United States has a vice president for torture. 'He condones torture, what else is he?'.

"Admiral Turner claims the secret CIA prisons used for torture are known as 'black sites', terror suspects are picked up in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are flown by CIA-controlled private aircraft to countries where there are secret interrogation centres, operating outside any country's jurisdiction.

"No one will confirm their locations, but there are several possibilities: The Mihail-Kogalniceanu military airbase in Romania is believed by many to be one such facility."

Perhaps Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill would like to revise his statement that Australia's policy is identical with the US. Perhaps the Australian government would like to revise their policy on the 'war on terror'. Or perhaps not. Is there any difference between them and Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Top terrorist explains why Australia is a target, Government does not listen: "Asia's most wanted terrorist has warned Australia will be the prime target of new 'intimidation and terror' attacks while its troops remain in Iraq. In a video message found by Indonesian police, Jemaah Islamiah's mastermind Noordin Top urges strikes against Australia and denounces the Prime Minister, John Howard, for leading Australia into tragedy."

"[Noordin] repeatedly stabs his finger in the air while angrily denouncing the West. "America, Australia, England and Italy are all our enemies," he says. "We especially remind Australia that you, Downer and Howard, are killing Australia, leading it into darkness and tragedy and into mujahideen terror. "Know that as long as you continue to colonise the land of Iraq and Afghanistan and intimidate Muslims then you too will feel our intimidation and terror."

"Noordin says: "We remind you our enemies are also allies of Bush and Blair. Infidel governments, traitors who rule over Muslims and who chase clerics and mujahideen, they are our enemies too, the ones we target in our attacks.""

"Asked about the comments linking Australia's presence in Iraq to the terrorist threat, [Foreign Minister] Downer said terrorists "use whatever argument suits them", which seques smoothly into Prime Minister John 'Dumya' Howard's position that they 'hate us for our freedoms'.

Defence Minister Robert Hill says "Australian troops in Iraq due to return home next year may now need to stay on ... the Australian government could decide to maintain the present level of about 1500 troops in Iraq.... The US is keen to have a strong Australian presence in the country over the next year. Senator Hill described Australia and America's views on Iraq as identical."

Hopefully, however, we dont get an identical result, ie thousands of civilian and/or military casualties through insurgency or terrorist attacks. If we do, the government and its policies have a major responsibility.

Will the Anglo-Saxon powers reap what they sow? Naturally everyone is responsible for their actions and the likely consequences of them. Why should this be such a muddle?

In a broad sense the Anglo-Saxon powers are responsible. This is what Chalmers Johnson calls 'blowback'. Basically the Western, Imperialist powers have been meddling in the Middle East (ie, killing Arabs and cheating them of their resources) since the First World War and now the chickens have finally come home to roost.

The contemporary situation needs to be contrasted with Vietnam and even the First Gulf War. During the Vietnam war the US unleashed vast military violence, killing millions of Indo-Chinese, and making Kissinger the world's biggest living war criminal. However amazing the Vietnamese resistance to this onslaught was, it apparently did not occur to them (or to anyone) that they could or should strike back in the US homeland.

This is the significance of September 11 and why it was such a big shock, both in the US and Europe. For the first time in 500 years the guns have been turned the other way. There is a reasonable prospect over time that a WMD will be detonated in a Western city.

Of course the regimes of Bush/Blair/Howard have terrorism as a low priority compared to imperialism and corporatism. Rather terrorism can be exploited via the politics of fear to increase the strength of their grip on power. Through their policies they have quite deliberately increased the risk of terrorist attack in the homeland. It is worth noting that prior to the invasion of Iraq, Iraq did not have a single suicide bomber in the whole of its (violent) history; since the aggression, there have been hundreds, something like one a day.

The Anglo-saxon imperialist policy in Iraq is criminal folly. And somewhat to the surprise of many of us, it is a near total failure, in its own military and strategic terms.

A senior house Democrat has recently expressed this by labelling the invasion a 'flawed policy wrapped in illusion' and calling for the early withdrawal of US troops as the only available option. It remains to be seen whether the crazed and incompetent Bush administration is capable of making this necessary adjustment.

NB. Airpower is the great, unpunished warcrime. It is true the Nazis started it, in Guernica, but the Allies, especially the US, have the blood of millions of victims on their hands. There can hardly be peace and non-violence in the world until an airforce general is hauled before a court and charged with warcrimes and crimes against humanity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Belated Armistice Day posting: "The sculpture of Northumberland Fusilier Private Herbert Burden fronts a semi-circle of 306 wooden posts, each bearing the name of an executed British or Commonwealth soldier. At 16, Private Burden lied about his age in order to 'join up' and was executed for desertion, having lost his nerve during heavy fighting at Ypres. He was 17 years old."

Digby and his excellent commenters lament the attempt by the US Senate to overthrow habeus corpus: As an example of a commenter superior to most posters, witness the following from 'Antifa':

"The American Senate has merrily voted to overturn the nation's Constitution. Yes, the very same Constitution that is the envy of the world. The Constitution that enshrines the inalienable right of every human being to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And to prompt judicial review of any incarceration. Forty-nine Senators have voted to separate these inalienable rights from hundreds of human beings, permanently denying them any hope of trial, explanation, or release.

"As if it was within the power of these Senators to stand above the law and cast such a criminal vote. They make a mockery of themselves and the nation to even consider the gesture, much less carry it out. It cannot stand except in the full breach of every fundamental law of the land. Yet it does great harm that they have done so. Their foppish action is a blow to civilization as well as international law. They know not what they toy with here.

"From the medieval days of the Magna Carta uncounted generations have fought and bled for this very principle that no man is above the law, that the law must apply promptly and equally to every person. Our civilization stands upon that rock. This is what is enshrined in the Latin legal phrase habeas corpus, commonly translated as "produce the person here in court."

"Actually, there are several versions of the phrase, which is simply lifted from the opening sentence of the common legal writ issued routinely since medieval times: habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, "You will produce the person here in court for examination." Just as common was habeas corpus ad testificandum, "You will produce the person here in court to testify."

"No legal or private authority may refuse the order. To allow refusal is to shatter the rule of law throughout the nation.

"Prior to this liberating standard, and perennially in opposition to it, is the doctrine of the divine right of kings and other rulers to stand above the law: Rex solutus est a legibus, "The King is free from the laws."

"Throughout history, whether they be Popes, Presidents, dictators, or cult leaders like David Koresh, the man at the top of any political organization can hardly help but find such an arrangement exceedingly convenient and pleasant, and so very easily rationalized. From Roman times to our own sorry situation, the assumption of divine rights above the law has proved to be the most corrosive and corrupting influence on empires and nations that has ever been brought to bear, for it rots everything instantly from within. If one man is above the law, then all may be. Then there is no law.

"George Bush believes in the divine right of kings. He believes, as he has stated, that God told him to run for President. He believes, as he has stated, that God told him to smite Iraq. He believes, as he has stated, that his job would be a lot easier if he was a dictator. George Bush believes, as he has stated, that he does not need to explain himself to anyone. It is for others to explain themselves; he says he is above even self-examination. What he says and does is right because he feels it is right. He doesn't do nuance, and he has surrounded himself only with people who don't feel the need to relate to reality -- they simply make a new reality every morning, and let the rest of us sort it out afterwards.

"Well, the rule of law that generations of Americans have fought, bled and died for says we don't operate that way around here, no matter what King George and his advisors may say. That all went out the window in 1776, and no matter how many different people have tried in so many different ways to bring it back, we won't have it in America.

"George is trying again, and so these are parlous times for our Republic. Right now, we have our American government openly pursuing, and defending, two gross violations of the common law tradition of the rule of law. Two flagrant violations of the letter and very spirit of our Constitution.

"One is George Bush's claim that he, personally, can order the incarceration of anyone he "deems" to be an enemy combatant. Imprison them without charges, without review, without trial, without end, without recourse. It is in support of this divine right of King George that the American Senate has lately thrown the Constitution overboard in pursuit of petty political theater, heedless of the fact they have no right or standing to even vote on such a decree, much less give it the force of law. That's how hollow the institution has become under Republican piracy.

"The other gross violation is the new tool in Federal law enforcement's toolkit, the National Security Letter. This is a private and secret permit to investigate anyone, citizen or not, to the utmost degree, in the utmost secrecy. All sorts of data mining is available to modern investigators, from credit and bank card usage, security tapes, mortgages, tax filings, school records, emails, letters, photos, bills paid, web surfing, and even the contents of your home, your computer, your safe deposit box, and your work records. None of this information is discarded, ever, and it is illegal for anyone aware of even a bit of it to tell you that such an investigation has gone on.

"Your private home, your bed, your property and your opinions are no longer private under the auspices of a National Security Letter. You may be freely burgled at any time, wiretapped, bugged, recorded and photographed, and your most private musings, writings, conversations, photos, habits and opinions may be used against you for purposes of deeming you an enemy combatant.

"It is easy to see that any of a thousand offhand remarks will suffice to "deem" you an enemy of the State simply because you neither approve of nor cooperate with the State's latest crimes or international wars. This is, indeed, King George's mantra: "You are either with us, or against us."

"This is a full blown return to the two centuries of royal abuses prior to the French Revolution, when the French government, with the absentee blessings of the King, issued many thousands of lettres de cachet, or 'letters bearing the King's Seal.' Like today's National Security Letters, in most instances the French King never saw or heard of the lettres de cachet issued in his name. They could be had for the asking by government officials; they could be purchased in blank sets by wealthy persons desiring to rid themselves of troublesome individuals as the occasion arose -- simply by filling in their name on the blank spot provided, and handing the paper to the local police. The person who had troubled their composure or plans soon disappeared, permanently.

"Printed up in the thousands by Gutenberg's new invention, and sold to those wealthy enough to buy them, the letters all said the same thing. Take such and such person to the Bastille or some other local jail, convent, nunnery, hospital or workhouse and remand them there to the permanent care of the proper authorities. No trial, no further news, no recourse.

"Like Guantanamo today, it was simply understood that there were no restraints or restrictions on the treatment of the inmate once they arrived. After all, to never hear from them again was the ideal.

"King George Bush now freely exercises his divine right to bypass centuries of established common law, upon which our nation and culture and civilization rests, and bless the issue of many thousands of such lettres de cachet, upon American citizens and citizens of nations he has ordered invaded. Some get the full "enemy combatant" treatment, most are simply watched until the time to seize them arrives. They are on the short list permanently, until action on their status is called for.

"Because of this, the bulwark against injustice and servitude that was provided by the American Constitution is now wholly breached. The hole may appear small now, but there is nothing to prevent ever widening use of this pernicious right of King George to seize and disappear anyone who troubles his plans and aims. He doesn't even need to see the letters that send thousands to secret prisons around the globe. They are simply issued in his name. Like the Sun King in Versailles, George does not wish to be disturbed with the sordid details of his empire.

"King George will receive soon enough the hard lessons that the English and French Kings were forced to receive. That no man is divine; that no man stands above the law. Not for long. Not in America.

"The principle has nothing to do with being American or not. The American Declaration of Independence and Constitution refer to mankind itself when it enumerates the rights of mankind. Our founding documents do not distinguish between enemy combatants, citizens, POW's or rebels or pirates or loyalists or horse thieves or troublesome peasants and farmers complaining about British taxes. They refer to mankind in the broadest and most universal sense of the word, and they state without reservations that every human being has inalienable rights. Among them is the right to prompt and full judicial review when they stand accused by anyone, of anything.

"That is the law of this land, bought with patriot's blood over and over again.

"What does that make these National Security Letters?

"Crimes against the Constitution.

"What does that make of every Federal, State or local law enforcement official who participates in carrying out or hiding or storing information gathered under one of these National Security Letters?

"A traitor to their oath of office and to the Constitution.

"What does that make King George Bush as he pursues his divine right to "deem" people enemy combatants?

"A traitor to his office and a traitor to the Constitution.

"What does that make the forty-nine Senators who voted to deny the inalienable rights of human beings enumerated in the American Constitution to human beings held incognito in Guantanamo?

"Traitors to their office and to the Constitution.

"These are all high crimes and misdemeanors. These are all hanging offenses.

"These Senators, these agents, this President have cast their lot with pirates and traitors, and will receive the due of pirates and traitors, at the hands of Americans. They are living in their last days even now. They have taken all the rope they need to hang themselves, and are busy tying their own knots.

"What King George and his sycophants and agents have done is awaken yet again a sleeping giant, and when we come for each and every one of these people they will do well to tremble.

"For the first oath of the free American has always been: Don't Tread On Me."

See also NorCalJim: "No writ. No Geneva. Nothing. A new category of human. Not entitled to the rights of a citizen. Not entitled to the Geneva rights of POWs or civilians. A new category, a new class, a new status entirely. Well, not entirely. It is the same status as that of the slave. Chattel. Brought forth appropriately enough, by southern white men."

It is interesting to note that Australian David Hicks was sold into this system (sold into slavery?) for a reported US$1000.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chomsky on 'Intelligent Design': "The background of the current evolution/intelligent design controversy is the widespread rejection of science, a phenomenon with deep roots in American history that has been cynically exploited for narrow political gain during the last quarter-century. Intelligent Design raises the question whether it is intelligent to disregard scientific evidence about matters of supreme importance to the nation and world like global warming.

"An old-fashioned conservative would believe in the value of Enlightenment ideals rationality, critical analysis, freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry and would try to adapt them to a modern society. The Founding Fathers, children of the Enlightenment, championed those ideals and took pains to create a Constitution that espoused religious freedom yet separated church and state. The United States, despite the occasional messianism of its leaders, isn't a theocracy. In our time, the Bush administration's hostility to scientific inquiry puts the world at risk. Environmental catastrophe, whether you think the world has been developing only since Genesis or for eons, is far too serious to ignore."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Argentine football legend Diego Maradona gestures after putting on a t-shirt that reads 'Stop Bush' during a news conference at a Buenos Aires train station November 3, 2005. Maradona and other activists will travel by train to Mar del Plata, 400 km (250 miles) south of Buenos Aires, to participate in the Third People's Summit, the alternative to the Summit of the Americas.

Pilger on Latin America: The Rise Of America's New Enemy : "Hugo Chavez is neither a 'firebrand' nor an 'autocrat' but a humanitarian and a democrat who commands almost two thirds of the popular vote, accredited by victories in no less than nine elections. Compare that with the fifth of the British electorate that re-installed Blair, an authentic autocrat. Chavez and the rise of popular social movements, from Colombia down to Argentina, represent bloodless, radical change across the continent, inspired by the great independence struggles that began with Simon Bolivar, born in Venezuela, who brought the ideas of the French Revolution to societies cowed by Spanish absolutism. Bolivar, like Che Guevara in the 1960s and Chavez today, understood the new colonial master to the north. 'The USA,' he said in 1819, 'appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.'"

Alan Ramsay: Here and there, the signs of tyranny: "[Former PM Malcolm] Fraser said, very deliberately, almost as if he was thinking aloud: 'I believe there's been a change in the nature of politics worldwide, and a change in the nature of much of Australia. We're much less master of our own destiny than we used to be. I believe Australia has become, or been led to be, a fearful nation. I am really enormously concerned at recent laws that have been introduced, and I suspect that, in 50 years' time, this will be regarded as a watershed in Australian democracy, in Australian freedom.

''It will be regarded not as a time when we took an important step to liberation and to the preservation of the basic liberties, which we thought we could all take for granted, [but] a time when we took a very significant step back to a darker past. I believe that's what this particular period will be remembered for.'"

Fraser's statement represents the type of traditional conservatism informed by the philosophy of classical liberalism which requires respect even if one is a socialist or social democrat. Howard has betrayed and abandoned all that. Howard is not a conservative or genuine liberal but a radical corporatist, a pseudo-fascist, in the sense of Orcinus.

"The state of political debate in this country has to be pretty abysmal when the very few public figures who openly question the policy atrocities of the Howard Government and the fear-mongering and media hysteria being incited over "national security" include a 75-year-old Liberal ex-prime minister once reviled for seven years of national division and a 64-year-old scaled-back advertising yobbo (John Singleton), now one of our wealthiest corporate citizens.... The only political leader, state or federal, who says anything near as telling is the Greens' fearless Bob Brown."

"Instead we got this sort of vacuous game-playing from the Government's back bench: Bronwyn Bishop (Liberal, NSW), parroting a question written in the minister's office - "My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House on developments in our alliance with the US? Is the minister aware of any alternative positions on the alliance?""

One of Howard's most fundamental ploys is to flog the 'alliance' for all it is worth, knowing that Beazley and Labor are too weak to distinguish themselves. Howard's tactic has to be taken head on, and the country ultimately led in a direction other than its traditional subservience to Imperial power under the longstanding delusion and folly that this provides either security or advantage to Australia. What advantage did Australia gain from a failed invasion of Turkey in 1915, killing 8,000 of our own kids, and an unknown number of Turks, many of whom probably died wondering where the hell 'Australia' was and why were they attacking our country? Did the British Empire provide us with protection from the Japanese? Of course not, not only did they abandon the entirety of the Far East empire after the fall of Singapore (in fact a logical imperial/strategic decison), they had the audacity to demand colonial troops remain at the disposal of London instead of defending Australia against imminent attack. Did the invasion of Iraq protect us from Arab terrorism? Did either empire or any empire ever do anything 'altruistically' for its provinces and allies or did it act in its own interests? Wake up Australia!

An alternative policy requires a detailed, committed narrative, something that the modern Labor party is obviously incapable of. Look at the feeble, tentative effort by Crean; and the odd performance of Latham, who either destroyed himself or was destroyed. And so we are back to the future with Beazley. Beazley: with a physique like a planet and a head like a chirping canary, Beazley has plenty of gut but no guts to denounce the rotten policies of the Howard government.

And now Ramsay moves onto what has been described as pseudo-fascism:

""In a [January, 2004] essay coyly titled 'Fascism Anyone?' Dr Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to the facist regimes [of] Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Soeharto and Pinochet. His comparisons yielded 14 'identifying characteristics'.

""[These included] constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs. Flags are seen everywhere. Disdain for human rights: because of fear of enemies and the need for national security, people are persuaded human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of 'need'. People tend to look the other way or even approve. Identification of enemies and scapegoats: people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe - racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals, communists, socialists and terrorists.

""Supremacy of the military [which receives] a disproportionate amount of government funding. Obsession with national security: Fear is used as a motivational tool. Corporate power is protected, labour power is suppressed. Unions are either eliminated or severely suppressed, the industrial and business aristocracy are often the ones who put the government leaders into power. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts … "

"In John Howard's Australia, who does this list remind you of?"

Mike Carlton has also not minced words in an earlier column: "And in the general hardening of outlook that set in ... practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years - imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages and the deportation of whole populations - not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive. George Orwell, 1984"

"ORWELL jumped the gun with the date, but everything else is moving along pretty much as he predicted.

"John Howard's anti-terrorism bill frogmarches Australia down the road to tyranny, towards an authoritarian state in which the police may arrest people at will, and hold them secretly and indefinitely without charge or trial.

""Suspects" may be questioned by ASIO, on subjects about which they may know nothing, and be jailed for up to five years if officialdom deems their answers unsatisfactory."

"Malcolm Fraser, bless him, was right to say on Wednesday that "these are powers whose breadth and arbitrary nature, with lack of judicial oversight, should not exist in any democratic country". At some risk of getting arrested for ill will, he urges that these laws be opposed. But no one is listening, least of all the Labor premiers, whose supine acquiescence is but another wretched example of the ALP's descent to irrelevance."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Creationists believe Noah loaded baby dinosaurs onto the ark. In this scene, T.Rex (Latin for 'Tyrant King'), acknowledges, along with angels, humans and other creatures, the Supreme Overlordship of the Baby Jesus

Intelligent design knocked out?: "But ID is also revealing itself here in Pennsylvania in another form. It's having a coming-out party as a deliberate satirical echo of the great liberal lie of the modern age: the idea that progressive science and religion can coexist.

"For a century or so since Nietzsche, popular culture in the West has operated according to an uneasy truce, in which God both is and is not dead. We teach our children the evidence-based materialism of science and tell them they can believe in God and a faith-based morality in their spare time if they like.

"And in some parts of the country, we celebrate Scopes as a victory over ignorance, while still insisting that we do not also celebrate it as a victory over religion. What these endless Scopes sequels tell us is that somewhere many years from now we're going to hit a fork in the road, beyond which this have-it-both-ways philosophy isn't going to fly anymore. Is God dead, or isn't he? Are we believers, or not? They know what we think. They just want us to come out and say it."

This kind of 'anti-religious' thinking is a miskate. I remember the Professor of Philosophy at UNSW (forget his name) already remarking years ago that it was once thought religion would die out in the scientific age but this had not happened and it was as strong as ever. And Hegel said somewhere that no animal had religion but no recorded human society was without it. It is clear that the basic human need of religious practice and belief (and non-belief) of a wide variety of kinds is going to persist for some time to come yet. To expect it to fade away is as much an error as an evangelist expecting the whole world will convert to the 'true faith.'

Jesus expounds his teachings of peace, love and compassion to disciples whilst dinosaurs fly by in the background

Freedom of opinion and belief must be respected; at the same time religion ought not be ignored, lest it be captured by fascistic and totalitarian elements (this appears to be a deliberate tactic of the postwar corporate right). There is a tension - probably present in all religions and certainly present in Christianity in the form of the conflict between the 'lamb of god' (Christ) and the 'beast of babylon' (Antichrist) - between the true humane, moral and compassionate teachings of religion and its corruption and debasement in enslavement to power.

Self-styled 'religion' ought be roundly and publicly condemned if it is to be anti-scientific (eg, in defending flat earth, geocentric or creationist ideas against all scientific evidence); or if it is to be immoral (eg, promoting the murder of foreign heads of state or warcrimes and other atrocities.) No person, religious or otherwise, ought be silent in the face of such distortions.

People are entitled to believe whatever they like (including creationism) but they cannot promote such ideas as science when it is not science. A firm line needs to be drawn lest specific religious beliefs be illegitimately and wrongly imposed on the general population. Religion ideas can be discussed in religion, morals, and history class; would-be scientific ideas can be submitted to peer-reviewed journals, and on their scientific or otherwise status must accept the judgement of the scientific method.

The Guardian's Mock Interview (including farbicated quotes) with Noam Chomsky: "How much does the Guardian's hit-and-run job on Chomsky matter? Enough, to warrant detailed inspection. Chomsky's enemies have often opted for these artful onslaughts in which he's set up as somehow an apologist for monstrosity, instead of being properly identified as one of the most methodical and tireless dissectors and denouncers of monstrosity in our era. Their contemptible tactics should be seen for what they are."

Medialens comment: "Although the Prospect poll [who is the world's greatest intellectual?] was largely a joke, it did bring Chomsky's name to the attention of thousands of people who would otherwise never have heard of him. But anyone who read Emma Brockes's article in the Guardian can only have come away with one conclusion about Chomsky. Namely, that he is an idiot - an angry, flaky fanatic given to denying obvious crimes against humanity."

Smears against Chomsky in publications where the readership has heard about him but don't know much of his actual thought or writings seem to be a basic tactic dating back from the 70s at least. Newspaper readers who don't see through this are likely to end up believing Chomsky supports totalitarianism, Pol Pot and Stalinism; is an anti-semite, a Holocaust and massacre denier etc etc, absurd as all this is for anyone who has the slightest grasp of the reality.

A Znet commenter remarks: "The Guardian owes much of its credibility to people like George Monbiot, Naomi Klein who often produce very worthy pieces for them. However, what these writers also do is create the illusion that the Guradian is far more progressive and open to ideas than it really is." The same of course could be said for the New York Times or any 'liberal' newspaper and it is a key function that they have.

It can be pretty tiresome (though revealing) to have to wade through these 'journalists' who attempt to 'interview' Chomsky without having the slightest concept of what they are dealing with, or even what their own role in the propaganda machine is. Sometimes, however, it is funny. An example is the frightful hack Tim Sebastian. This clown decided to attack Chomsky and after going round the block a few times on some elementary points of logic and morality is finally flummoxed for a moment sufficiently to enforce a pause in his line of questioning. LOL.

Another example of the phenomenon of people being sufficiently upset with Chomsky to want to challenge him in debate without having any idea of what they are dealing with is sci-fi author, homophobe and genocidal, vengeful sadist Orson Scott Card. Card is quoted as saying: "When I did reality checks against the idiotic, immoral, anti-American, vicious things [Chomsky] says, I find him a moral wasteland, and a fool. And I’ll defend that with anybody, and I’ll get out the books and the sources and the documentation..."

It should be apparent that Card doesn't have any idea what he is talking about. Chomsky probably wouldn't want to waste his time on someone as ignorant and foolish as this, but somebody else should take Card up on his offer.

NB. Card's moral view is perhaps expressed in the quote from one of his books “Speakers for the Dead held as their only doctrine that good or evil exist entirely in human motive, and not at all in the act”, a monstrous view which ignores not only reality and consequences but also the well known psychological fact that people including war criminals typically believe they are operating from the best of motives. On the other hand as it it all only a work of fiction Card may be a better man than his writings suggest.

UPDATE: Chomsky responds to the Guardian articls: "It was evident from the electronic version that it was a scurrilous piece of journalism. That’s clear even from internal evidence. The reporter obviously had a definite agenda: to focus the defamation exercise on my denial of the Srebrenica massacre. From the character of what appeared, it is not easy to doubt that she was assigned this task. When I wouldn’t go along, she simply invented the denial, repeatedly, along with others." The Guardian reviews the controversy and finds in favour of Chomsky.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Republican Endorses Unspeakable Terror: "The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody.

"The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment should not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by 'an element of the United States government' other than the Defense Department."

In other words, the Wehrmacht is (nominally) forbidden to torture prisoners, thanks be to God they must only be handed over to the Gestapo for that purpose.

"An editorial appearing Wednesday in the Washington Post did not mince words in denouncing Cheney's intervention. His actions, the newspaper declared, demonstrated that "this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.""

"Decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan." While the Post does not say so explicitly, these statements brand the second highest executive official in the country as a war criminal."

After a while, one becomes almost numb to this sort of news. At the time when we thought we would be fighting for ecological survival, sustainable societies and renewable energy, we have to track back and fight old battles over torture, tyranny and 'cruel and unusual punishment.'

It seems, as MEJ says, Cheney "is being allowed to go around and do his Sauron impression by demanding the right to torture, reinforcing his image as the evil dark lord." The Post article is suggestive of how much the tide may have turned in the American establishment due to the failure of the war that Cheney has become the target.

Social Change Today, Noam Chomsky interviewed by Steven Durel: "There are many signs of movement towards a more repressive authoritarian State and it happens to be extreme in the Bush Administration. They call themselves conservatives, but that is an insult to conservativism. They are right wing, reactionary statists. They want a very powerful State to control personal life, the economic world and international society, and they use force if necessary. There's nothing conservative about that.

SD: I went down to Washington a few weeks ago for a gathering of 100,000 war protestors. Most of them were demanding an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq. Conversely, the majority of politicians are telling us that we can't leave and to do so would be to subject Iraq to some kind of theocracy that might take root. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

NC: Whatever you thought about Saddam Hussein, it was a secular government. Now it's very likely that there will be a large theocracy. What's more, it's likely that the theocracy will be oriented with Iran. There are close connections between the Shiite south and Iran. A lot of Shiite leadership comes from Iran. Ayatollah Sistani, a large majority of the religious leaders and the main militia in the south, the Badr Brigades, are Iranian trained and armed.

The effect of the American invasion has been to devastate the society. By last October, the best estimates we had were that about 100,000 people had been killed. By now it’s got to be much worse. The level of malnutrition doubled. Child malnutrition is now at the level of Burundi.

What does the population want? A couple days ago, the major Shiite party demanded that the British soldiers in the south stay in their barracks. The Sunni population obviously wants the American troops out. This Sadr group has announced that they want the Americans to leave."

Terror laws seek to silence dissent: "Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today told a peace and civil liberties rally in Sydney that the Government's new terror laws seek to silence dissent and opposition to Australia's involvement in the war in Iraq.

"'We will not accept these laws. We will not be intimidated, Senator Nettle said. 'We will not let the threat of seven years jail stop us from opposing the war in Iraq. 'We will not let terrorism laws prevent us from engaging in protest. They can deport us or detain us like they did to Scott Parkin but we will continue to oppose their war and we will continue to oppose their terrorism laws.

"'This government is more concerned about using the fear of terrorism for political ends than addressing the real root causes of terrorism. If the Government was serious about addressing the threat of terrorism they would bring Australia's troops home from Iraq and urge the Americans to leave as well.

"'Mr Howard and Mr Beazley have betrayed Australians by their scaremongering and fear rather than standing up to defend the great principles this country was built on. 'The Greens will continue to lead the campaign to defend our civil liberties, our democracy and the freedoms we enjoy in Australia by opposing the Government's new terror laws,' Senator Nettle said. "

Terrorist citizenship strip canvassed: "The federal government is considering introducing laws to strip Australian citizenship from convicted terrorists, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says."

This is more populist nonsense, which panders to latent racism. If someone is guilty of a serious crime, such as murder, then they are sent to jail after a fair trial, not 'stripped of citizenship.' Citizenship is a human right, and there ought not be two classes of citizenship, ie citizens who can be 'stripped' of citizenship, and citizens who cannot.

Professor David Brown: Majority verdicts: a poor judgement: "THE decision yesterday by the NSW Attorney-General, Bob Debus, to move to majority verdicts in jury trials constitutes a capitulation to political and media pressure rather than a considered response to the issues.

"There is no clearer demonstration of this than the fact the decision was announced the same day as the tabling of a NSW Law Reform Commission report on majority verdicts, which recommends against this very change. In short, political pressure trumped considered legal argument.

"A curious feature of that debate has been the lack of reference to the High Court decision of Cheatle in 1993. Here the High Court said that on the grounds of "history, principle and authority", the right to jury trial contained in the constitution meant the right to a unanimous verdict; a unanimous High Court bench held that unanimity was "an essential feature" of a jury trial.... This central argument favouring unanimity is traceable to the Magna Carta. Early Australian colonists saw the right to a (unanimous) jury trial as a fundamental political inheritance and an analogue to the right to vote. The absence of jury trial for the first 40 years in NSW became a grievance that filled the more politically serious and astute press of early Sydney."

Perhaps I am imagining things, but in days gone by the views of the Courts, and more so the High Court, and other distinguished legal personages would be treated with the greatest respect. Careful arguments would have to be made and objections countered before proceeding with any such changes.

These days both major parties are progressively abandoning very longstanding traditional values of conservatism and legal practice. Its hard not to conclude it is part of a process of populism and power aggrandisement on the part of the executive.
PS. We need a lawyer-blogger who understands and explains our traditional legal rights and civil liberties, and monitors the assaults on them from State and Party power. Is there anybody out there?

Iran oil bourse:a threat to the petrodollar?: "From an economic perspective, invoicing oil in euros would be logical for Iran as trade with the euro zone countries accounts for 45% of its total trade. More than a third of Iran's oil exports are destined for Europe, while oil exports to the United States are non existent. The IOB could create a new euro denominated crude oil marker."

"The decline in the dollar against the euro since 2002 - some 26% to date - has substantially reduced Iran's purchasing power against its main importing partner. If the decline continues, more states will increase the percentage of euros vis-à-vis the dollar they hold in reserve."

"It is primarily the US which stands to lose out from any move away from the petrodollar status quo, it is the world's largest importer of oil.... In terms of its own oil imports, the US can print dollar bills without exporting commodities or manufactured goods as these can be paid for by issuing yet more dollars and T-bills."

"In the 1970s, not long after the collapse of the gold standard, the US agreed with Saudi Arabia that Opec oil should be traded in dollars in effect replacing the gold standard with the oil standard. Since then, consecutive US governments have been able to print dollar bills and treasury bonds in order to paper over huge current account and budgetary deficits, last year's US current account deficit was $646 billion."

"George Perkovich, of the Washington based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has argued that Iran's decision to consider invoicing oil sales in euros is "part of a very intelligent strategy to go on the offense in every way possible and mobilise other actors against the US."

"Although a matter of conjecture, some observers consider Iran's threat to the petrodollar system so great that it could provoke a US military attack on Iran, most likely under the cover of a preemptive attack on its nuclear facilities, much like the cover of WMD America used against Iraq."

Iran is more or less saying to the empty flightsuit, bring it on cowboy, you're finished.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Terror threat in Australia?: Richard Ackland asks the predictable questions about the credibility of the government's terror warning. The credibility of the government and its intelligence agencies has been destroyed by the fixed, false and forged 'intelligence' about the threat from Saddam. We may be subjected to a terrorist attack soon. We do not know. But it is at least as likely that the information is false and politicised.

Kucinich: It's the War: "Ending the war in Iraq is right for a lot of reasons. The war was unjustified, unnecessary and unprovoked. It is counterproductive, strengthening al-Qaeda and weakening the moral authority of the United States. It is deadly: Many Americans, and many, many more Iraqis, have been killed or injured as a result of the fighting. And it is costly: Well over $250 billion in taxpayer funds have already been spent, with no end in sight."

"Democrats should clearly call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. If Democrats do not make this the centerpiece of their campaign in 2006, they risk repeating recent history, in which they failed to recover seats in the House and Senate. National Democratic leaders have already tried, and tried again, to ignore the war, and it didn’t work politically."

"Why is it an unconscionable political blunder to sweep the war and occupation of Iraq under the rug? Because the war is one of the most potent political scandals of all time, and it has energized grassroots activity all over the country."

The same analysis applies to the ALP. Why does Labor have to be so pathetically weak in tackling the biggest issue of the day?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Unanswered Questions about Bali Nine: Friskodude asks some questions

Unleashing the Id: Digby and his commenters discuss torture, conservatism and repression in the light of reports Australian David Hicks was tortured. Does Prime Minister Howard condone this treatment of an Australian citizen?

Experts Say US is Losing War on Terror: "U.S. terrorism experts Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon have reached a stark conclusion about the war on terrorism: the United States is losing. Despite an early victory over the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the two former Clinton administration officials say President George W. Bush's policies have created a new haven for terrorism in Iraq that escalates the potential for Islamic violence against Europe and the United States."

""It's been fairly disastrous," said Benjamin, who worked as a director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council.... "(Bush) has given them an excellent American target in Iraq but in the process has energized the jihad and given militants the kind of urban warfare experience that will raise the future threat to the United States exponentially, [Simon said]".

This joins a seemingly endless line of expert opinion which agrees with the obvious, with common sense and with public opinion that the war on Iraq has increased the threat of terror attack against US and allied targets. In fact, as Chomsky argues, the contention we are fighting a 'war on terror' cannot be taken seriously. Terror is simply not a high priority for the Bush Administration; other goals such as hegemony, control of oil and military bases are obviously considered more important than ending terrorism.

Billions at risk - the tunnel farce laid bare: " Just days before he was sacked, the chief of the Roads and Traffic Authority, Paul Forward, told the State Government that reversing the traffic plans for the Cross City Tunnel could trigger damages "so great" that it might be better to buy out the contract. In frank advice to the Minister for Roads, Joe Tripodi, two weeks ago, Mr Forward revealed how financially crippling it would be if the Government tried to alter the arrangements that funnel traffic into the $680 million tunnel."

"As well as the tunnel cost, the Government would be liable for the future profits envisaged when the deal was signed in 2003. In the final years of the 30-year tunnel contract, profits are predicted to be more than $130 million a year. It means the total exposure could run close to $2 billion."

But what if oil production peaks and goes into irrreversible decline, triggering rising prices and demand destruction? Is there really going to be large profits 20 or 30 years from now?