Friday, December 14, 2007

New PM a dud on climate change

The former Howard government's position on climate change was incredibly backward: it refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol and effectively denied that there was even a problem for ten long years. At least Rudd has ratified and talks of the need to tackle the issue. In reality, however, he is not that far removed from Howard or even the Bush administration.

Rudd will not even set a target, much less take the necessary steps to achieve the target.

WITH less than 24 hours to deadline, the crucial UN climate talks in Bali were deadlocked last night between the US and Europe - with Australia being drawn into the centre of the conflict.

The European Union demanded to know where Australia stood in the attempt by America to remove crucial wording in the draft Bali road map which calls for developed countries to make deep cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions.

Shortly before leaving Bali, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, signalled Australia would back moves by the US to remove the controversial wording from the draft. The Americans have refused to accept the phraseology, which refers to scientific advice that the developed world would need to cut its emissions by between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020 to avoid the most severe effects of climate change.

The EU's Environment Minister, Stavros Dimas, said last night that the wording was "indispensable" to the Bali road map.

"The Prime Minister lost an opportunity in his speech to commit to this range of 25 to 40 per cent," he told reporters, adding, "They still have time."

But in a thinly veiled criticism of Mr Rudd, he said that if Australia refused to back the European stand on the draft road map, the Prime Minister's signing of the Kyoto Protocol "will not have the substance we hoped for".

A spokeswoman for the main environmental groups at the conference, Jennifer Morgan, told reporters: "There is a wrecking crew here in Bali led by the Bush Administration and its minions. Those minions continue to be the governments of Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and others, with unfortunately Australia shadowing that group of minions."

During the long election campaign just concluded with Rudd Labor's sweeping victory, Rudd tried to make a virtue of his conservatism, and how he was much like a younger Howard. It is no such virtue at all, and on issues such as climage change and International Law, I am sure we will see this again and again, unfortunately.

Al Gore stated plainly at Bali that "my own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress."

The United States is a rogue state that must be contained and must not be appeased. Rudd's (partial) alignment of Australia with the US position is a disservice to both the people of Australia and the world community.

Global Warming and Climate Change: Fundamentals

Its anthropogenic (caused by human activity). Global temperature rises need to be kept to a maximum of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels or else risk runaway warming and serious consequences. Emissions need to be reduced by between 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and between 60-90% by the year 2050.

The UNEP report said irreversible damage to the world's climate will be likely unless greenhouse gas emissions drop to below 50% of their 1990 levels before 2050. To reach this level, the richer countries must cut emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 and developing countries must also make significant reductions.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Howard Gone at Last

A nation of 20 million people and this was our leader? A blinkered, reactionary, unenlightened man. A scarcely reconstructed racist, colonialist, imperialist, militarist, monarchist, sycophant, bigot and bosses' man through and through.

A true man of the 50s who altogether escaped what could be called the 'Second Enlightenment'. Howard and his type learnt nothing from the Sixties. Hence issues like those mentioned above were incomprehensible to him and simply derided as 'political correctness' or a 'black armband' view of history.

He could not bring himself to make an apology to people whose children had been forcibly taken from them by Government policy. What is this other than rank racism combined with blinkered incomprehension? This impossibly foolish man could not understand that the Vietnam war was either a crime or a disaster (or of course both) - not even long after the event. One would think such folly and ignorance would disqualify him from public life, but on the contrary, he ascended the highest office to repeat the folly in Iraq.

His political success and career could be put down to two things: luck and persistence. He was, by his own admission, in the right time and place to become Fraser's treasurer, and thus in line to become leader. Following Fraser's defeat both the country and the Liberal party were (understandably) not very impressed and he thus spent a difficult decade in opposition and internal infighting. This however gave him invaluable experience and showed or developed his other key virtue: persistence. With another stroke of luck he managed to regain the Liberal leadership and then the Prime Ministership.

Narrowly winning again in 1998, his most infamous victory was the cynically crafted Tampa election of 2001. Another victory in 2004 over a weak rival makes up his much lauded decade-long rule. But it was nothing other than a decade of reactionary conservatism.

I'm not much impressed with his famed 'economic management'. He simply ruled in a decade of boom times. And the land bust and global financial crisis might actually make life difficult for the Rudd government. All the more notable, therefore, that Costello has thrown in the towel. Evidently Peter 'no ticker' Costello doesn't believe his own warnings about a 'financial tsunami' and the political opportunities that that might present the Liberal opposition in a relatively short period of time.

Jeff Kennett harshly condemns Costello: "Costello says he has withdrawn in the interests of renewal within the party. For goodness sake, he is only 50 years of age.... Well, one news conference today has destroyed that dream. This one announcement says more about the character of the man than his 11 years as Treasurer of this country."

Howard could be given credit for only two things: his gun law reform (a modest achievement); and his support for East Timorese independence. It was a confused story, but when the opportunity arose, Howard somehow was able to back independence. Perhaps he was just reacting against Keating and Labor?

David Williamson:
There are many reasons to wish Johnnie bon voyage, the most pressing being the thought of another eighteen months of television footage of his morning walks.

It’s time to say no to those daggy shorts, the horrible knees, the resolute stride towards a neo con past where Anglo man still rules the world, and the total lack of wit or spontaneity in his travelling badinage. Joy number two will be picturing the tears and foot stamping of the well paid hosts of Howard acolytes littering our press.

Any journalist who can turn a man his own party dubbed a “lying rodent”, into the Saint who saved Australia, has, like their idol, a superb grasp of slippery rhetoric which has hopefully earned them enough money to retire. These same scribes have falsely divided Australia into “Howard hating elites”, and “ordinary Australians,” without ever asking the question as to why many with the remnants of a conscience, including “ordinary Australians”, find it hard to stomach him.

The shameless exploitation of fear and hysteria over four hundred genuine and dehydrating refugees on Tampa might be a start. The ludicrous and hugely expensive “Pacific solution” might be another. The moral sleaze of the Saddam kickbacks, the lies of children overboard, the blatant and immoral pork barrelling of Coalition electorates, the attempt to deliver a cowed and cheap workforce to employers without a mandate, the constant and unrelenting grovelling to George Bush, the deathbed conversion to climate change and reconciliation lite - the list could go on.... Many would like a return to simple decency, and Rudd patently has more of it than Howard.

David Williamson again:

The Coalition over its years of rule has progressively abandoned any moral dimension in its quest to retain power. We saw racist dog whistling on every possible occasion, brutal treatment of genuine refugees, studied blindness over the Saddam bribes, shameless pork barrelling in Coalition electorates, obsequious deference to George Bush, and in what proved to be one ideological bridge too far, Howard indulging his lifelong hatred of unions by blatantly tipping the power balance towards employers, then calling it, in true Orwellian fashion, Work Choices....

Many commentators saw the election as a race between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Mark Latham called it the Seinfeld election, a poll about nothing. Rudd as a younger version of Howard. That's a very superficial assessment, one I think is wrong. As one commentator said last week, the same thing was said about the 2000 US presidential election between Bush and Al Gore. The world could have well been a very different and better place today if the conservative US Supreme Court hadn't halted the recount that had Gore on track to win....

Morality does count, in life and in politics. I think part of the Rudd vote was due to the fact that Howard, in his selfish and single-minded quest to retain power, had pushed the sleaze boundaries further than Australians wanted to go.

Rudd will be different. If he can tilt our culture's tone to one in which fear, greed, indifference, cynicism and prejudice are a little less prevalent in our national life, then many of us will feel a little prouder to be Australians than we have in the past 11½ years.

Antony Lowenstein condemns Howard and includes some commenters with the harshest views.

Louise Newman doesn't mince words: ‘What I’m describing here is State-sponsored torture and child abuse.’

Keating, predictably, has some harsh words:
Think about [Howard's] tacit endorsement of Hanson's racism during his first government, his WASP-divined jihad against refugees — those wretched individuals who had enough faith in us to try to reach us in old tubs, while his wicked detention policy was presided over by that other psalm singer, Philip Ruddock. This is the John Howard the press gallery in Canberra went out of its way to sell to the public during 1995. The new-made person on immigration, not the old suburban, picket-fence racist of the 1980s, no, the enlightened unifier who now accepted Australia's ethnic diversity; the opposition leader who was going to maintain Keating Labor's social policies on industrial relations, on superannuation at 15%, on reconciliation, on native title, and on the unique labour market programs for the unemployed.

These solemn commitments by Howard, which helped him win the 1996 election, bit the dust under that breathtaking blanket of hypocrisy he labelled "non-core promises". Even on Medicare, contrary to his commitment, he forced each of us into private health or carry the consequences.

[Howard] turned out to be the most divisive prime minister in Australia's history. Not simply a conservative maintaining the status quo, but a militant reactionary bent on turning the clock back against social inclusion, co-operation in the workplace, the alignment of our foreign policies towards Asia, providing a truthful and honourable basis for our reconciliation, accepting the notion that all prime ministers since Menzies had — Holt, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke and me — that our ethnic diversity had made us better and stronger and that the nation's leitmotif was tolerance....

He also trod on the reasonable constitutional progression to an Australian republic, even when the proposal I championed had everything about it that the Liberal Party could accept: a president appointed by both houses of parliament (meaning by both major parties), while leaving the reserve powers with the new head of state.

The price of Howard conniving in its defeat will probably mean we will ultimately end up with an elected head of state, completely changing the representative nature of power, of the prime ministership and of the cabinet.

Keating may well be correct in this view but he must share some of the blame. The Republic issue was pushed too soon and politicised, leading to failure instead of consensus.

Bob Hawke mauls Howard: "I will now demolish those arguments, not with opinions but with facts.... As to TV advertisements and the trade unions: what an insult to voters' intelligence is Howard's "union thug" scam.... In some ways the greatest Howard myth, is his claim about foreign relations and security. Again, look at the facts: joining with his pal, George Bush, in Iraq (described by Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, former commander of the US-led forces there, as "a catastrophic failure"). It is the unanimous view of the Australian, US and UK intelligence agencies that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of a terrorist attack in our country. Thank you, Prime Minister."

Surely over the years the Labor opposition could have used some more direct criticism of the Government in the Hawkie style.

Robert Manne condemns Howard's backward, reactionary and futile war against 'political correctness', multiculturalism and reconciliation: "Compared to the harm it has done to Australia, however, [Howard's achievements] will seem relatively trivial."

Manne is also vigourous on other issues:
[The] Howard Government imprisoned these refugees for indefinite periods in appalling desert camps.... Iraq was the worst foreign policy blunder of any Australian government....

Unprecedented international co-operation is the only chance humanity now has for avoiding real disaster. Just as Western governments of the 1930s are now judged over their response to the Nazi threat, so will today's be judged by whether they have risen to the challenge of global warming. Of all Western governments, Bush's America and Howard's Australia — both of which believe that climate change can be combated by voluntary national emissions targets and yet-to-be-discovered technological miracles — will be seen by history as the most blind, reckless and delinquent.

In July 2005, the Howard Government took control of the Senate. Getting what it most desired provided the foundation for impending defeat. The Government now introduced to an unsuspecting public, radical "WorkChoices" legislation. Even the name was offensive.

Howard's whole career has been dominated by his union-busting ideology ("flexible labour markets") so it is a fitting irony that this issue played such a major role in doing him in.

Alan Ramsay points out that Howard's legacy is to destroy the Liberal party. As a reactionary conservative, Howard spent years diminishing the presence of the Liberal 'wets' or 'small-l liberals' - in other words, the people with values, understandings, and principles that might be worth supporting. What's left is an unappealing collection of religious fundamentalists, neo-con extremists, neo-liberal economic fundamentalists, Hansonite racists and nearly every other kind of unaccceptable right-wing political formation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Debnam breaks ranks on Kyoto - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Debnam breaks ranks on Kyoto - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): "Former New South Wales Liberal leader Peter Debnam has broken ranks with the Federal Coalition, saying the Kyoto protocol should have been ratified long ago. The New South Wales Opposition energy spokesman has told an energy conference clean coal is an oxymoron and nuclear power is not a realistic option for Australia. The Federal Coalition has refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change and insists nuclear energy must be considered. Mr Debnam says Australia has to grab clean sustainable energy strategies. 'In Australia we've been distracted by vested interests and by everything else imaginable, including the prolonged Kyoto debate,' he said. 'I wish we had ratified Kyoto long ago and then we could have led the world with bold initiatives in clean energy.' Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd says Mr Debnam's comments show that the Coalition is out of touch on climate change. 'We have people like Peter Debnam say ratification of protocol of the Kyoto protocol's the right way to go,' he said. '[But] Mr Howard, Mr Costello, Mr Turnbull [are] out there in denial land.'"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Global Financial Tsunami

Howard responds to expected interest rate rise: "Yesterday [PM Howard] seized on the economic fallout in the United States from the subprime mortgage market meltdown as another reason people should not vote for Labor. He singled out the resignations of the Citigroup chairman, Charles Prince, and Merrill Lynch chief executive, Stan O'Neal, after their banks reported heavy losses. 'This has ramifications around the world,' Mr Howard said. 'We have a strong economy but events around the world and some domestic events are presenting new challenges.'"

Earlier Treasurer Peter Costello remarked that a "huge tsunami" could engulf world financial markets, because of the US subprime mortgage meltdown and a possible floating of the Chinese currency.

These statements dont seem to have made much impression. Perhaps with the previous lies about children overboard, Iraq war, no GST and so on and so forth nobody believes or pays attention anymore to what the Government says. But for once Costello and Howard could be right. Its more than a 'subprime' crisis, its a classic land boom-and-bust, and a big one, the biggest ever. At the same time the US dollar appears to be on a terminal slide. The 'tsunami' might just become a reality.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Blogger Awards: Andy Stephenson

I dont usually pay much attention to these things, but Deltoid makes a case that a vote should be made this time. First, some background. William Rivers Pitt delivers a eulogy for Stephenson:

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

- Words inscribed on the gravestone of Brandon Lee

It was late July 2004, and it was a hot day for Seattle. The park was filled with activists, organizers and regular folks, there to hear a battery of speakers who had come together for this stop on the Rolling Thunder Democracy Tour. I spent a couple of hours that day in a crowded tent with election reform activist Andy Stephenson, running a teach-in on electronic touch-screen voting machines, corporate control of the vote, and what could be done about it.

I threw in my two cents here and there, but this was Andy’s show. He had thrown his entire life into the fight for election reform, he had crisscrossed the country a dozen times, he had raided the offices of public officials with camcorder in hand to ask questions and demand answers, he had run for the office of Secretary of State in Washington on a platform of reforming the way we run elections in this country, and on that hot July day in Seattle, he was despondent.

As we sweltered in the tent, Andy ticked off all the problems we were sure to face in the coming November presidential election. There was no independent vetting of these voting machines, he explained, so there was no way to tell if the hardware and software within was counting things properly. There were no paper ballots involved, so recounts were a thing of the past. Votes tallied on these machines wound be transferred via unsecured modem to central processing computers – which were basically PCs with Windows software – that had no security and could be easily tampered with. The companies distributing these machines and counting the votes were run by men who gave money to, and in some instances actively worked for, the Bush for President campaign.

I watched the crowd slump lower and lower into their seats as Andy rattled off the grim news. Meek hands were raised here and there. “What can we do about it?” people asked. Not much more than I’ve done, I could feel Andy thinking, and what I’ve done hasn’t fixed this damned situation one bit. He squared his shoulders and replied, “Get in touch with your Secretary of State and explain the situation. Write letters to the editor. Let people know this is happening. Do what you can.”

Flash forward to a cold day in January 2005. I walked the route of the Bush inauguration in Washington DC, counting the protesters and the Bush supporters who were squaring off in shouting matches on every corner. It wasn’t Boston cold, but it was cold enough, the chill in the air enhanced by the overwhelming police and military presence. I made my way down to the main protest gathering point, and there in the crowd was a familiar face.

Andy Stephenson stood off to the side, red hair sliding out from under a black wool cap, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his pea coat, ruddy face downcast as he watched the parade go by. We looked at each other a moment, no words available to capture the bottomless depths we felt yawning before us, and then turned to watch the show. When Bush went by in his rolling cannonball of an armored limousine, Andy and I and everyone gathered on that corner turned our backs.

Later that night we sat together with a large crew of activists in a bar that had come to be our gathering point for post-action decompression in DC. I looked over at one point and saw Andy weeping silently, shoulders shaking as all of the frustration and anger poured out of him. Everything he had warned us about in July had happened – in Ohio, in Florida, in New Mexico – and on that night he felt like an utter failure.

Several of us gathered around him to console him. I took his hand and said, “You know, Andy, it could be worse.” He looked up at me and asked, “How on Earth could it be worse?” I looked at him with straight-faced solemnity and said, “You could be straight.” He smiled that utterly incomparable Andy Stephenson smile and laughed until he was fit to split.

That was the last time I saw him.

Andy Stephenson passed away Thursday night from complications due to pancreatic cancer. A series of strokes caused by the cancer in his bloodstream and a post-operative infection carried him to his rest. At his side were his family and Ted, his partner of nineteen years. All across the country, thousands and thousands of people who had rallied to help him heard the news, and bent their heads, and wept. He was 43 years old.

The story of Andy Stephenson’s life and death carries with it all the brightness, and all the unspeakable darkness, that exists today in modern American politics. Here was a man of rare passion, an activist who poured his life into a cause, who continued fighting for this cause even after stricken with his disease, who encompassed the death of his sister and kept working, who never stopped believing that one person could make a difference.

Still, there is that darkness. It has been said that you can best know a person by knowing his enemies. In Andy’s case, his enemies rank among the foulest, most despicable sub-humans ever to draw breath. A small cadre of graveyard rats..

Now at this point I feel I have to break off Pitt's otherwise eloquent eulogy. Ordinarily, in a eulogy some restrained and dignified language is used to respect the occasion and memorialize the departed.

Pitt's peroration:

Andy will be remembered by his friends and family in Seattle this coming weekend. We will gather, we will sing his songs and tell his stories. We will remember the life of a man who gave of himself far more than he received, who was a patriot in the best sense of the word, whose smile could outshine the stars. We will rededicate ourselves to the causes he espoused, and we will prevail with his spirit as the wind at our backs.

Andy believed he had failed that night in January. If I could have one more chance to speak with him, I would tell him how wrong he was that night. You won, Andy. You were the best of us.

This is well said. One of the solutions to the problems of humanity is democracy. Not the only thing, but important nonetheless. And if we are to have democracy, then integrity in the voting systems and the counting is of course essential. Stephenson and others were fighting the good fight, and have not failed, but like Viking Heroes, go to Valhalla because they fought, not because they won.

A Sadly No commenter provides some useful information into pancreatic cancer, which took Stephenson away:

My father hates the pancreas, as every good surgeon does. It is a nasty little organ, full of awful things and prone to falling apart horribly under stress. It is necessary to be profoundly delicate with it under normal circumstances.

Pancreatic resection is among the worst surgical nightmares remaining in this modern world, where most surgeries can be done with little bitty cameras and servos in a gas-inflated cavity. Doing a pancreatic resection requires that the stomach be sliced open from stem to stern, the entire bowel - that is, everything below the stomach - be pulled out, and then you can finally do what you need to to the pancreas.

That is, cut off a tiny little piece of it, very delicately and sloooowly.

The whole time, this requires a superhuman effort from all involved. Nurses keeping intestines in place outside of the body, monitoring heartbeat and breathing and keeping them niiiice and stable during the most traumatic experience a normal human body will ever endure. It is a long surgery, so there is a substantial amount of commitment from people who could as well just leave the room a lot of the time - anesthesiologists, scrubs.

Pancreatic resection has a morbidity rate, depending on the skill of the operating techs and the equipment available, of as little as 70%. That is, within six months, you get one of those suckers done and chances are very good you will be dead - and for good reason. You’ve had a team of tired, agitated professionals slinging around a shit-filled tube in your torn-open gut for hours on end, trying to get at the most bilious little asshole of a gland in your body and poke it and cauterize it. There are so many things that can go wrong, something not going wrong is almost cause for alarm.

It says a lot, then, that there are near to no cases where pancreatic resection is refused.

Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence, a horrific death sentence; it’s a spreading, consuming horror in one of the nerve-blood-and-flesh-richest area of the body you don’t use to screw. If you survive six months without the surgery, you’ll wish you hadn’t. It is so bad that dying horribly of massive sepsis is a step up.

Everyone knows that cancer treatment has its best chance of success if diagnosed and treated early, pancreatic cancer especially so.

Stephenson had no medical insurance, like millions of Americans. So friends of his launched an Internet campaign to raise the funds ($50,000) necessary for surgery, using tools such as blogs and Paypal.

Elizabeth Ferrari - central to the fundraising effort - is quoted by Sadly No to explain the difficulties they had with this process:

What followed was a coordinated effort to block Andy [Stephenson]’s medical care or his benefit from the medical care we could secure for him. In specific, the Bush right had its agents make small donations so they could then call Paypal with allegations of fraud that froze Andy’s account. They also called Paypal, misrepresenting themselves as the hospital to “verify” that this effort was a scam.

And it got more vicious from there. Due to the frozen funds and the confusion it caused us all, Andy’s surgery date was cancelled by Johns Hopkins. It was with great difficulty that we were able to persuade the doctor to be put Andy back into the surgical rotation. That cost him two weeks while he suffered from the most aggressive, invasive form of cancer.


After Andy was admitted to the hospital, the rumors turned into threats. A bounty was offered by the Bush right for anyone who could sneak into his hospital room. It was said he was getting a face lift. A telegram was sent just to see if it could be successfully delivered. The harassment was nonstop. And we tried to shield Andy from it, with less success than we would have liked.


Andy left the hospital and spent two weeks recovering at a friend’s house, learning how to eat again, learning how to move, weaning himself from the morphine that he’d needed post surgery. During this time, one of his supporters in Baltimore had her car vandalized – a message was sent. Shortly after he left to return to Seattle, his second East Coast hostess was stalked to her home and watched as someone tried to open her front door. His supporters everywhere were systematically intimidated and all the while, they tried to keep it from Andy.

Andy then went back home to Seattle, looking forward to a medical course of chemotherapy and radiation. Once he arrived, he found that an anonymous tipster had managed to get his Medicaid shut down. It took us two weeks to get him back in the system. Andy had anaplastic pancreatic cancer and was again forced to wait weeks for follow up care.

By this time, Andy’s stalkers had set up a website. It purported to be concerned that the funds for his surgery were raised fraudulently. Thankfully by this time, Andy spent very time on line. But it wore on his core advocates who were repeatedly attacked, defamed and baited.


As late as week before Andy died, we couldn’t keep the poisonous campaign from him. He felt well enough to log into to his email and found a multipage denunciation, supposedly being filed with his state’s attorney general. He called me, not so much in a panic. Panic was no longer a speed Andy had. He called me in despair, because he could no longer fight the barrage of hatred being leveled at him. I don’t remember what I said to him but I hope it helped for a moment.

The attack from the Bush right never paused, not even through the agony of Andy’s last days. Not at all. Even the fact of his death is being disputed. Two days after his passing, his advocates are still being harassed, still receiving anonymous hate calls, “It was a scam.” The friend planning his service was visited by two men impersonating sheriffs on the morning after Andy passed. They were there to ask about fraud, they said.

Andy’s physical death has not stopped the attack, has not slowed the hatred, has not stemmed the steady stream of intimidation.

John Le Carre famously said ahead of the Iraq invasion that "the United States has gone mad." Yes it has, and not in a funny way, in a terrible and frightening way. Not to mention Karl Rove and neo-confederacy, American political discourse in the form of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Free Republic and the like is appalling. Not just the lies, the bad policy and arguably criminal activity of modern government - the utter immorality, the deranged, hateful rhetoric, the total disregard for truth, justice, compassion and human decency of these enablers, propagandists and cheerleaders is what is shocking. These people are cyber-stormtroopers. And they show dangerous signs now of donning the brownshirt and hitting the streets, causing real hurt to those who dare to oppose.

One of the brownshirt blogs, DUmmie FUnnie, is in the running for 'Funniest Blog' category. ha ha. Go now to Weblog Awards and vote for Sadly No to prevent the brownshirt victory.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

First Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan or Iraq by the enemy

Explosive device may have come from Iran: Nelson

The improvised explosive device that killed an Australian soldier and injured another in Afghanistan yesterday may have come into the country from Iran, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson says.

But he admitted the Australian Defence Force had no proof about the source of the device, which was detonated in a roadside bombing in Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan.

The dead Australian soldier was a driver in a convoy. It was the first time an Australian has been killed in direct enemy attacks in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Dr Nelson said there were 700 Australian troops in Oruzgan Province and another 300 soldiers in other parts of the country.

By his own admission there is no proof or evidence of Iranian involvement. The bomb may have been made anywhere, in Pakistan or perhaps in Afghanistan itself. Why is Nelson pointing the finger at Iran?

Is he trying to prepare the public for war with Iran, a war which must not happen. Australia, instead of enabling or participating in such a war, must join with humanity in doing everything possible to dissuade the US from such a catastrophe.

Howard and his government have been lucky in the Middle East. 5 years of devastating warfare and this is the first enemy killing of one of our own. Of course the contribution has been token and clever Howard seems to have taken care that the soldiers are kept out of harm's way.

The safest place for them would be back in Australia. What on earth are we doing on the other side of the world in an imperialist/colonialist war which is as disastrous as it is illegal and immoral? Did we learn nothing from the Gallipoli fiasco all those years ago? All troops should be brought home immediately.

The death comes as coalition forces in Afghanistan suffer their highest casualties since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001.

191 coalition soldiers have died so far this year, already matching last year's total. In 2005, 130 military personnel died, compared to 58 in 2004.

More than likely the White powers will have to pull out of Afghanistan just as they will have to pull out of Iraq.

All quiet on the leadership front as our troops die in faraway lands

Simon Jenkins has a little fun at the expense of the vile doctrine of 'liberal interventionism' or 'humanitarian war':

Amid the past week’s political sound and fury, one subject slid unnoticed under the platform. Britain is at war. Its soldiers are fighting and dying in two distant lands. Foreign policy, once the stuff of national debate, is consigned to cliché and platitude.

With casualties mounting in Iraq and Afghanistan, politicians dare not mention it, let alone disagree. The prime minister declared to his party conference in Bournemouth that “the message should go out to anyone facing persecution anywhere from Burma to Zimbabwe . . . we will not rest”. Britain will defend the oppressed anywhere in the world. Unfortunately Britain is doing nothing in Burma or Zimbabwe, while the message from Iraq and Afghanistan is that Britain chooses bad wars at America’s behest in which it gets beaten.

All the airbrushing in the world will not remove the greatest legacy that Tony Blair left his successors, that of “liberal interventionism”. Never articulated except in a confused speech in Chicago in 1999, it asserted Britain’s right to meddle in any country to which it took offence, under the rubric of “humanitarian just war”.

Nothing that Brown and his foreign secretary, David Miliband, said at their party conference indicated a change of direction. Nor did they say anything to which David Cameron and his shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, could risk taking exception. Blair’s wars, unprovoked by any threat to Britain, passed uncontested at the conferences, though the polls say they are highly unpopular.

In Brown’s case, Iraq has heavily qualified his core support within the Labour party. He went to Washington on taking office and received firm instructions not to quit Basra. Last week, in choosing to stay at the airbase (while pretending to “withdraw” troops), he disagreed with his generals and obeyed the White House. Brown has to engineer a retreat from Iraq to the beat of an American drum.

In Afghanistan British policy has detached itself from reality. Brown wants to “defeat the Taliban” and eradicate the poppy crop. He cannot do either. Indeed his supposed ally in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, is negotiating with the Taliban and has a government stuffed with drug lords.

For his part Cameron has been trapped into avoiding the government’s most vulnerable flank, its subservience to Washington.

In spite of the disasters of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we can only expect that this will continue until imperialism, militarism and colonialism is completely rooted out of the UK. The UK and its armed forces may have to be dismantled for this to happen.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Climate Change & Appeasement

A new WWF report illustrates the growing sense of crisis and urgency surrounding global warming, and contrasts with the fundamentally inadequate and insincere approach of the Howard Government.

There is now irrefutable scientific evidence that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing an ongoing rise in global temperature and that this warming is having impacts on human society and the natural environment today. Of great concern is the fact that many impacts are emerging at the high end of past scientific projections. In other words, international scientific reports appear to have been underestimating the speed and seriousness with which impacts would be felt. As a result, scientists are increasingly concerned that we may be approaching a set of tipping points, thresholds where large-scale qualitative changes will occur and new processes will be triggered that further amplify global warming. The result of reaching these tipping points could be that climate change becomes unstoppable and irreversible.

A climate tipping point may occur with global warming of 2-3oC but if warming reaches 3-4oC then the thresholds for irreversible change will almost certainly be crossed.

A favourite idea of the warmongers and far right is that the war against Hitler is never over, every enemy is a 'new Hitler', and anyone who speaks against a new war is an 'appeaser'. Overlooking the fact that, as John Pilger has said, the US is the Third Reich of our time (a great power bent on military aggression that must not be appeased and must be stopped), Hitler is long dead and the great crisis of our time is not the threat of Nazi militarism but the threat of global warming.

Its not enough that Hitler got jailed for mounting a coup, that he published a long book revealing his whole repugnant philosophy, that he made any number of screaming anti-semite and anti-democratic speeches, that once in power he simply murdered opponents and established a dictatorship, that he marched into the Rheinland.....

What does it take for people to wake up?

With there being no real dispute in the scientific community for many years, the Howard government has simply sat on its hands for a full decade and watched this crisis relentlessly develop. Of course there are links between the Government and the polluting industries, and the whole idea of putting the common good or the environment ahead of profits and markets is ideologically foreign.

The steps taken now are essentially 'public relations' in response to bad polling results. The Howard Government can generate no conviction in what it does. If it in anyway grasped the seriousness of the problem, chimeras like nuclear energy or clean coal would be abandoned; a carbon tax immediately introduced; firm targets set; renewable energy mandated; and many other action, including of course, abandoning the mulish stubbornness of its refusal to sign Kyoto.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Memory Hole: This Is War

This Is War: A useful reminder of what it's all about. "The orchestrated means of mass violence." Morally and spiritually destructive, as well as physically.

Another important leak: Saddam 'ready to walk away for $1bn'

Revealed: Saddam 'ready to walk away for $1bn': Better late than never, the leak of a transcript of an eve-of-war conversation between Bush and Spain's Aznar.

It helps to confirm what was obvious at the time: there were no weapons of mass destruction, and Bush knew that as well as anybody; diplomacy [from the point of view of the US] at the UN was a farce that was designed to provide a figleaf; the decision to go to war had already been taken for undisclosed reasons and would not be reversed even if Saddam went into exile or was killed or if there were found to be no WMDs.

In other words, it was a war of aggression based on lies, the 'Supreme Crime' of aggressive war.

However it is worth emphasizing what an immense diplomatic and geopolitical defeat the US and its allies Spain, the UK and Australia suffered at the UN over the Iraq war. It was Blair and Powell's idea to bully the UN into sanctioning the aggression (Cheney wanted to ignore the UN altogether), but they were completely outfoxed by France, Germany and Russia.

Instead of gaining international sanction for their war, the effect of the UN manoeuvres was to expose and discredit the US as a criminal aggressor before a global audience. The war was thus lost before it even started.

The UN could not stop the war anymore than the League of Nations could stop Hitler invading Poland but it performed sterling service in advising the public of what was happening.

It was February 2003 at Mr Bush's Crawford Texas ranch, less than a month before the invasion. Almost 150,000 US troops and their British allies were sitting in the Kuwaiti desert. The troops were well within range of any weapons of mass destruction, military analysts have pointed out.

US administration officials had already prepared public opinion for war by raising fears of Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme and his ability to create "mushroom clouds." But the transcript reveals the two leaders were more concerned about getting a fig leaf of international approval for the war, than any imminent threat from Saddam.

The transcript revolves around Washington's frustrations at failing to get UN Security Council approval for war – the now-famous second resolution.

At the time, both Tony Blair and President Bush were officially open to a diplomatic resolution of the Iraq crisis – including a negotiated exile of Saddam - but the Spanish Ambassador's notes reveal peace was never really an option.

IOZ bashes the Liberal Blogosphere

The Devil You Know: Hard-hitting diatribe against the blogosphere as represented by Digby and Kos and their alliance with the Democratic Party.

[Democratic House Speaker Pelosi] has done precisely nothing to end the occupation of Iraq. Indeed, since the Democrats took over Congress, The United States has escalated the Iraq conflict and has laid groundwork both in the Persian Gulf region and in the American Legislature for aggression against Iran. But what is the cost of another million dead Iraqis compared to control of two branches of the Federal Government?

US politics is a two horse race with both horses owned by the same owner [the corporations.] Democracy is crippled by first-past-the-post voting as much as by corporate donations. First-past-the-post is a very effective deterrent against the development of a third party, more to the left, which leaves politics trapped in the far right, and democracy disembowelled.

'Aspirational' Voters Hurting

SYDNEY households most vulnerable to higher petrol prices and housing interest rates are concentrated in a large arc running through the city's greater western region, a study has found.

Griffith University researchers have concluded that financial stress in these areas will make it harder for the Liberal Party to retain the marginal seats of Lindsay and Macquarie.

The study also found that the Liberal Party's hold on safer seats like Hughes and Macarthur in the south-west may be jeopardised by the high levels of exposure of households in these areas to higher costs.

Conventional wisdom states rising property prices are good; low interest rates are good; Howard's government has successfully kept interest rates low, thus helping them to stay in office.

All this is questionable. It may be overstating it to say John Howard Has No Control Over Interest Rates in Australia but it is very true that Howard made that promise [Keeping Interest Rates Low] "foreseeing that citizens would focus all their attention on INTEREST RATES, rather than on PRICES. In a credit bubble, it’s a lot easier to keep interest rates low (which is partly what creates the bubble) than it is to lower bubble-prices."

It is doubtful how much control the federal government really has over the basic interest rate regime. It was Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve that reduced interest rates to an extremely low 1% following the crash. And such a low interest rate only fuelled the US housing bubble, which is bursting now with even more damaging consequences. Although not as severe as in the US, the bubble burst in Australia is also likely to be quite harmful.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Poets Offer Advice to Howard

Sums it up well enough:

He could take it on the chin
or learn to speak Mandarin
Howard's popularity would be a ripper
if he hung out with a stripper.

(The Bard?)

You'll win with your last roll of the dice
If you follow these words of advice
First, call the election late in the year
When we all feel that ol' yuletide cheer
(Menzies did and it worked quite a treat
A way to avoid a nasty defeat)
Ask for help from Bishop and Brough
And tell Downer he's talked quite enough.
Spend more in every single marginal electorate
And thank God there's no fair spending inspectorate
Remind the voters of Rudd's inexperience
And of the union bosses' interference.
Lastly pray for a terror alert
To a threat only you can avert.

(Rob Ashton)

John Howard could still win the race,
And see Kevin Rudd sink without trace
By appealing to all
That is petty, dumb, small
Racist, crass, greedy and base.

(Mark Demetrius)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ex-heads of state tell current heads of state how to solve climate crisis

[In] the Club de Madrid, membership [is] limited to former heads of state. (Actually, even heads of state can get blackballed.) Those former heads of state are trying to get their successors to do what they couldn't and tackle the climate crisis. In collaboration with the United Nations Foundation, the Club today released their recommendations for what the world should do on the next round of climate crisis. The ex-heads acknowledge the severity of the crisis and call for current leaders to facilitate rapid reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, or face massive disaster

The recommendations are along the lines of the Stern report: at least 60% reduction in emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 (30% by 2020); it will only cost 1% of GDP; and will be cheaper now than later.

This emphasizes two points for me: the almost complete failure of government and democracy, ie that it cannot do what needs to be done. On the contrary, heads of government are committed to short term vested interests (ie, the fossil fuel industry) and can neither speak nor act in the crisis. Only after they have left office can the obvious be stated....

Secondly and following from this, leadership does not and perhaps cannot come from government. It must come from elsewhere and force government to (belatedly) act.

They also call for an international carbon tax system, but are light on details of how this would work. They argue that carbon taxes are "easier to implement than cap-and-trade schemes and are economically efficient. A system of harmonized, universal carbon taxes should be agreed by the international community." Uh, if we can't even get cap-and-trade, how are we going to get a carbon tax? And how do we deal with the problem that carbon taxes don't provide certainty about exactly how much reductions will be achieved -- maybe people will just to decide to bite the bullet, pay more taxes, and keep on polluting.

Firstly, it is once again admitted (what most economists, including conservative economists agree) that the carbon tax is the superior mechanism to 'cap and trade.' It will not happen however, and 'cap and trade' will be implemented for the reasons as stated above. Secondly, if the tax is too low to act as a real disincentive to reduce emissions, then the answer is obvious: increase the rate of the tax. This is an advantage of the carbon tax, not a defect: that it can be implemented incrementally, and ratcheted up as required. The carbon tax will also raise revenue that is desperately needed for a number of projects, such as research and development of renewable energy or building of light and heavy rail networks.

take note of how tropical biofuels are destroying the forests and driving global warming, with palm oil plantations in Indonesia alone responsible for more than 8 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions; on the teleconference for journalists covering the report, I got to ask former Chilean President Richard Lagos and former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth how to reconcile that observation with the report's backing for biofuels. Lagos responded by saying that the type of biofuel used had to be looked at closely, and Wirth pointed the way towards cellulosic ethanol. It seems the biofuel-as-planetary-savior argument may finally be beginning to die, even at the highest levels where it was once most fashionable.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Total Lunar Eclipse Creates Red Moon

In a strange and tragic incident, a man leapt to his death in Newcastle during the height of the eclipse.

Perhaps even more disturbing are the recent declarations from Bush that he will not withdraw from Iraq, Vietnam, Sicily or any place. If anything, Bush is going to surge into Iran.

'The nemesis that follows injustice never falters nor sleeps.' Hubris, thy doom approacheth...

Sarkozy repeats the big lie about Iran

Left I on the News:
An article appeared in the Times (UK) yesterday with this headline: "Sarkozy talks of bombing if Iran gets nuclear arms". Here's the first paragraph (with emphasis added):

President Sarkozy called Iran’s nuclear ambition the world’s most dangerous problem yesterday and raised the possibility that the country could be bombed if it persisted in building an atomic weapon.

Later in the article come references to Iran's "nuclear aims" and how "a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable." Charitably, one might describe all these references as indirect quotes, but not once does the article include even the most cursory of boilerplate language noting the fact that Iran has denied any such intention and that there isn't the slightest evidence that it is "building an atomic weapon."

Maybe the really big lie is the one about the Iranian President calling for a Holocaust against the Jews. Still, there is no doubt this one is a pretty big and important lie.

A US attack on Iran seems to me unlikely because even Cheney can probably see it would be a disaster, but I would say that this is world's most dangerous problem right now (after Iraq).

At the level of international diplomacy (and also national politics and corporate media) it seems to me that zero effort is being made to head off this possibility. Only the grassroots are protesting.

People like Sarkozy with this statement are, if anything, increasing the likelihood of an attack.

Isn't this grossly irresponsible?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Samantha Power, Bush & Terrorism

Chomsky on hypocrisy and double standards: This is a constant theme of Chomsky's, perhaps his most basic and important. The question of hypocrisy is an ordinary insight, but it assumes importance because of the intellectual 'culture' in which Chomsky lives and which he criticizes. What I call the 'Chomskyan Revolution' is the perception or sudden perception of this insight. An important moment in one's moral and intellectual journey if it happens. But some (many?) people cannot perceive this, even if it is explained to them. A few quotes:

[Powers'] was an interesting article, and her work, and its popularity, gives some insight into the reigning intellectual culture.

There are many interesting aspects to the article. One is that "terrorism" is implicitly defined as what THEY do to US, excluding what WE do to THEM. But that's so deeply engrained in the state religion that it's hardly worth mentioning....

What is interesting and enlightening is that no matter how many times trivialities like this are pointed out -- and it's been many times -- it is entirely incomprehensible within the intellectual culture. That reveals a very impressive level of subordination to authority and indoctrination, well beyond what one would expect in totalitarian states....

I've been intrigued to see how reviewers and commentators (Sam Harris, to pick one egregious example) simply cannot even see the comments, let alone comprehend them. Since it's all pretty obvious, it reveals, again, the remarkable successes of indoctrination under freedom, and the moral depravity and corruption of the dominant intellectual culture....

Insufficient attention has been paid to Orwell's observations on how in free England, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. One factor, he proposed, is a good education. When you have been through the best schools, finally Oxford and Cambridge, you simply have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things "it wouldn't do to say" -- and we may add, even to think.

It's a towering moment of shame in the vaunted 'Western' civilization. To fail to grasp it, even when it is explained in clear and simple language.

The famous quote from Gandhi is apropos here. When asked the question, What do you think of Western Civilization?, he replied: "It would be a good idea."

While we're quoting Gandhi, a couple of other teachings might have relevance to our violent and murderous 'Western Civilisation':

I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life....

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?...

It is my firm opinion that Europe does not represent the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan. And Satan’s successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips.

Friday, August 17, 2007

From Cold War to Class War

Wednesday, August 15, 2007: Michael Hudson audio interview comments on the global financial crisis: Its big, its bad, and its got to do with class war, land value, debt, dollar and empire.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Anatomy of a Colossal Defeat

Gilad Atzmon generates some striking phrases:

Limor and Shelah do not stop just with the Army and its commanders, they skilfully convey an image of a society that has lost its way, a society that has gradually become detached from its own reality and from its surrounding environment. A society that is facing total moral collapse, led by an egotistic, self-centred leadership, both politically and militarily.... Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and an insignificant number of warriors, proved to be the first Arabs to defeat the Israeli Army on the ground. Their victory left Israel in shatters [tatters?]. The Israeli power of deterrence disappeared completely.... The book is a glimpse into Israeli society in what seems to be its final dysfunctional yet destructive state. I am convinced that those Americans who have been moronically sponsoring the Israeli death apparatus for almost four decades, those who still believe that Israel is a ‘regional super power’ better read this journal of Israeli military cowardice and general political malfunctioning.

Though the book wouldn’t say it, the message is rather clear. Israel operates as a megalomaniac violent ghetto motivated by some bizarre murderous zeal flooded with American lethal technology.

As I've said before, one should negotiate from a position of strength, and therefore Israel should negotiate immediately a comprehensive settlement with the Arabs. The terms of the settlement are known and have been known for 40 years. 1967. Minor and mutual border adjustments. A practical resolution of the refugee question. But tragically of course, this is not going to happen, because of the fanaticism and blindness of Jewish Zionism (not to mention seemingly unlimited American financial, diplomatic and military support).

Israel and the global jewish community have yet to come to terms with the intrinsic evil and racism of the concept of a 'Jewish State'. It's somewhat similar to the Australian concept of a 'White Australia.' At a certain point (round about the 60s enlightenment for Australia) an awareness develops that this is an embarrassment.

Ok, most Australians might have agreed with this concept, many might still agree with it, and it could still be a predominantly White country, both now and in the future. But we're going to have to drop the concept of 'White Australia', and never mention it again. In addition, any laws, immigration or otherwise, discriminating against people on the basis of race will have to be systematically eliminated. There is no other possibility in a civilized society.

When the IDF was asked to engage some tiny groups of lightly trained paramilitary enthusiasts, it collapsed shamefully. It collapsed in spite of its technological superiority; it was defeated in spite of its overwhelming firepower, in spite of Bush’s and Blair’s disgraceful support. The Israeli Army collapsed because it was incompetent, it was not ready to fight, it did not know how to fight and most concerning for the Israelis, it didn’t even realise what it was fighting for.

Well, who would want to die for nothing, or for lies by corrupt government and military leaders? Time for a volunteer (mercenary) army, at least. In the early days, it was unity of people and leadership that made the Israeli army strong, while the 'Arab facade' leadership model made the Arabs weak and divided. But now with Hezbollah (and perhaps Hamas) the situation is reversed, as it inevitably must.

As time went by, with military failure becoming public knowledge, the more desperately Olmert, Peretz and Halutz tried to change the course of the war just to save their future careers. Though they realised that the chances of achieving a victory were melting down by the hour, they were determined to present the public something that would look like a victory or even simply as an achievement. This is apparently what political survival in the Israeli democracy means for real, you have to present something that may look like a victory.

This is the cold, monstrous evil of state power. Most people would be compassionate and sorrowful about the death of someone they knew or even just knew of; but for a narrow political or military advantage, maybe even nothing more than a temporary blip in the opinion polls, a human being could pointlessly condemn to death dozens of his own people, and never lose a minute's sleep over it.

Bush, Blair and Howard, acting criminally, based on obvious lies, have achieved the staggering slaughter of more than one million Iraqi people, and a good few thousand of their own citizens, and the astonishing destruction of a whole country. Would they be concerned about this? In the slightest?

Are you kidding me?

In order to save the political careers of Olmert and Peretz, the IDF launched more and more pointless risky operations with very limited tactical value. These operations failed one after the other without achieving a single thing. Yet they exposed the IDF’s weaknesses. They revealed an Army and a political leadership in a state of a panic. Towards the final hours of the war, some isolated patches of Israeli special units were stranded and starved along the southern Lebanese front with no access to water and food. A few units of Hezbollah warriors had managed to encircle top Israeli commandos. Seemingly, no one in Israel dared to risk logistic convoys into the battlefield. Food and ammunition that was dropped from cargo airplanes fell into the hands of the Hezbollah. In some areas, the wounded IDF commandos were lying on the ground, waiting many hours for rescue units. The defeat was total. The humiliation was colossal. Not only was the ‘Israeli Defence Army’ unable to defend Israel anymore, it even failed in defending itself.

Limor and Shelah expose many more interesting issues:

Brigadiers who failed to fight alongside their soldiers, instead they preferred to run the battle from secluded bunkers inside Israel.

Helicopter gunships were not allowed to enter Lebanese air space just to avoid the risk of being shot down, as a result, Israeli commandos were left to fight Hezbollah on equal terms (lacking air support).

A Lieutenant Colonel who refused to lead his soldiers into Lebanon admitted being deficient in operative tactical knowledge.

Reservist soldiers were heading towards the front with hardly any of their combatant gear because of some severe shortage in the army emergency stockrooms. Some of those reservists ended up spending their own money so that they could buy the necessary gear.

Its really a ferocious article by Atzmon, and as they say, go read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Housing Busts and Hedge Fund Meltdowns: A Spectator’s Guide

Housing Busts and Hedge Fund Meltdowns: A Spectator’s Guide: Nice image from the New York times helps explain some of the action in the subprime/ hedge fund markets. Crack open a tinnie and pull up a chair - this could be fun to watch.

It seems to me to be a classic george/hoyt/harrison 18-yr land boom and bust cycle, with a few features that could make it special. First, the Conservative Reaction against Socialism and the Sixties means we have had a good couple of decades of deregulation, privatisation and laissez faire behind us to help prepare for the big bang. Bascially, stagnant or falling wages, increased profits/surpluses and less regulation and control. Second, fancy new thingummies like computers, securitization, hedge funds and derivatives means we don't know how much credit has been created, what the risk is, who owns it or how to control it, or if it can be controlled. This has led to a land boom that the Economist magazine has described as the biggest bubble in history. Put it all together and the bust could be like the good ole days of 1890 or 1929. Third, the US army is doing a slow motion Barbarossa and Stalingrad with their Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) and Battle of Baghdad. Fourth, US current account deficit, dollar, budget deficit and economy could all go bust in a historic realignment of global hegemonic power - nothing less than the end of white power after 500 years of war and colonialism. And I haven't even mentioned peak oil and global warming.

Dr Strangemoney adds some thoughtful comments on the affair:

dr strangemoney: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bubble

General "Buck" Turgidson: General Ripper called Strategic Air Command headquarters shortly after he issued the go code. I have a portion of the transcript of that conversation if you'd like me to to read it.

President Merkin Muffley: Read it!

General "Buck" Turgidson: Ahem... The Duty Officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact that he *had* issued the go code, and he said, uh, "Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in, and no one can bring them back. For the sake of our country, and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them. Otherwise, we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation. Uh, my boys will give you the best kind of start, 1400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won't stop them now, uhuh. Uh, so let's get going, there's no other choice. God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural... fluids. God bless you all" and he hung up.

General "Buck" Turgidson: Uh, we're, still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.

President Merkin Muffley: There's nothing to figure out, General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.

General "Buck" Turgidson: We-he-ell, uh, I'd like to hold off judgement on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in.

President Merkin Muffley: General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you *assured* me there was *no* possibility of such a thing *ever* occurring!

General "Buck" Turgidson: Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.

[discussing the Doomsday machine]
President Merkin Muffley: How is it possible for this thing to be triggered automatically and at the same time impossible to untrigger?

Dr. Strangelove: Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing.

[Strangelove's plan for post-nuclear war survival involves living underground with a 10:1 female-to-male ratio]

General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.

Decoder ring for the kids at home:
nuclear weapons -> derivatives
post-nuclear war survival -> bailout

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Stop Bush: Rally at Sydney Town Hall, 10am, Saturday September 8

Stop Bush protest swells: "A coalition of student activists and two unions are expecting double the number of protesters - 10,000 - to attend a rally during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in September.

"The main student protester organisation, the Stop Bush Coalition, had originally estimated that 5000 people would March on Saturday, September 8.

"The APEC Taskforce expects 5000 summit-related delegates to attend the summit, while there will be a contingent of more than 5000 police and defence force in Sydney during Leaders' Week from September 2 to 9."

"The protesters now intend to march from Town Hall, in George Street, to outside the US Consulate in Martin Place - in the APEC declared area - before having a festival in Hyde Park, according to an attendee at the meeting."

"The protesters are also angry with police who accuse them of planning violent protest during the summit."

That would be pure projection on the part of the security authorities. Bush is responsible for an estimated one million deaths in Iraq (or 21 million survivals in Pentagon PR speak), and more deaths in Afghanistan, Somalia and no doubt elsewhere. But who among the powers that be will accuse and arrest him?

Hogeland on the Whiskey Rebellion

The Whiskey Rebellion: The writer makes some good points about abuse of executive power and violation of the Bill of Rights, but 'libertarianism' is a dumb-ass philosophy if ever there was one.

Nothing but a tool of the republican hard right. Get these dimwits to fail to understand the world and vote Republican. They are as silly and manipulated as the American evangelicals. In fact the Republican vote is made up of a coalition of corporate oligarchs, protestant evangelicals and right 'libertarians'. The 'libertarians' are probably held in greater contempt by oligarchical operatives than even the evangelicals because of the pretence of a philosophy and an education that they hold out.

He uses the word 'liberal' in the derogatory sense of the modern Republicans. Surely any serious thinker would avoid this. The name-calling of people as 'liberals' is an empty political and polemical tactic which brands the speaker as a Republican tool.

In reality classical liberalism, or enlightenment and the rights of man, is what the US Constitution and democratic republic is about (not 'libertarianism').


"Can the rise of the welfare state, say, be only coincidentally related to the simultaneous rise of rogue operations of the CIA?"

Hello. There is more than one country in the world besides the United States. Every developed country has a welfare state, and a better one than the US has (lucky for us).

Maybe the CIA has got something to do with American empire and global hegemony instead of the welfare state?

And from where on earth comes this whackjob idea that the welfare state (aged, sickness, unemployment benefit; health and education) is a bad thing? I know, I already said: it comes from the reactionary oligarchy that is trying to wind things back to the good ole days of monopoly capitalism and wage slavery. What I don't understand is why anybody who wasn't a fully-propertied member of the oligarchy could have any interest in such ideas.

Regarding the Supreme Court, it seems to have been packed almost to absolute majority with extremist rightists, people who are prepared to endorse the concept of the 'unitary executive', ie Fuhrer Principle.

Its a tragedy of modern america that issues like abortion have been used as a trojan horse to get these extremists into the court.

I think the world will conclude that a Constitution Bill of Rights is not a good idea - it inevitably leads to a politicisation of the judiciary. A statutory bill of rights is a better way to go.

We might also conclude that an elected president with powers of executive, military and pardon is also a serious error. This is virtually a military monarchy or an elected dictatorship. The head of state and head of government should be separated; and the head of government be a member of and fully answerable to parliament or congress, ie they must have the power to dismiss him by no confidence. This is the Westminster system and surely is better.

In the latter part of the article when he partially drops the strictures of libertarian dogma and discusses aspects of the rebellion the writer gets more interesting. Obviously, an anarchist, georgist or socialist reading of the rebellion makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nice IOZ post has a welcome jab at the 'blogosphere'

The tiresomely ignorant and in denial democratic/'progressive' blogosphere: "For many decades now, people like Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky and James Bovard have been airing what we now call the imperial critique, which, as someone once said, has the unique benefit of being correct. Men like Chalmers Johnson have affirmed it from the inside. Its basic tenets are empirically demonstrable. Its fundamentals comport with nearly everything we know about American policy at home and abroad. It provides a basic intellectual framework through which all the events, actions, and outcomes that so puzzle Democrats ("I'll never understand why we went to war in Iraq in the first place. How could this have happened?") become understandable and predictable. It provides a clear history of the precedents to our current politics and current wars. It allows us to easily grasp the linkages between our militant posture abroad, our system of worldwide military satrapies, our inability to extricate ourselves from ill-conceived foreign adventures, our slow militarizing of the mechanisms of law and law enforcement within our own borders, and the otherwise inexplicable complicity of the supposed opposition party in all of these things. It is plainly, clearly, almost self-evidently true, and for fifty years at least it has been scorned as a conspiracy theory or an intellectual parlor game for bored old men, crank writers, and the comfortably tenured.

"The United States finished the Second World War and never stepped down from its war footing. The entire government of the United States was methodically rearranged to support imperial ventures. The threat of the Soviet Union was consciously and carefully manipulated, exaggerated, and propogated to justify the construction of the vastest military capacity the world has ever known--and, hopefully, ever will know. Intelligence services were created with the specific capacity and intent to control, influence, undermine, and subvert foreign governments. A long series of territorial skirmishes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America commenced. A complex system of proxy wars, client states, and puppet governments was begun. Post-War affirmations of universal rights were conspicuously repurposed, as goes the current neologism, as "humanitarian intervention," which, you'll note, is a euphemism for military actions in foreign territory for purposes other than immediate self-defense. The phrase "vital national iterest" entered the lexicon as a euphemism for using the military to control resources, access, and assets. This is not some hidden, secret history. It requires no special discipline or competency; no access to state secrets; no extraordinary skills as an analyst or historian or economist. It is neat, accessible, and sitting in plain view for anyone with the slightest inclination to shed the enforced--and not very skillfully, I'd add--doxologies of the American Empire, principle among them: That America is not an empire.

"Nonetheless, I have listened to these ideas mocked or dismissed since my earliest recollection of political awareness by people who call themselves "liberals" or now "progressives" or always "Democrats." These are the people who now claim to be antiwar, who have spent the last six years rightly lamenting the horrors wrought by the present executive, finding that the institutions of representative democracy have been seriously undermined and exist at present mostly as formal ritual and tradition, and discovering that their party of identification is not actually interested in taking concrete measures to rectify any of it, although they'll occasionally complain about it before voting to authorize this or that further expansion of military funding, presidential power, domestic surveillance, ad inf. These are the people who coined cute phrases like "the new Naderism" and who treat as children anyone who notes that the line they toe is naught but dust on a windy day. They say to those of us who absent ourselves from the current liturgies and catechisms of phony democracy that we're lazy, have no program, and take no action. But of course the whole purpose of writing this history day in and out is to try to convince enough people of it to create a program and to have something to do. Even then, I wouldn't be optimistic, but enough people could at least put a small wrench in the imperial works from time to time. And when we seem cranky, irritable, and misanthropic, it's because so very many of these liberals and progressives and Democrats are willing to walk right up to the edge, as Greenwald does, and to acknowledge the legitimacy of our critique, and to acknowledge that it's true their party has sold them out again and again and again because it is dedicated to the bipartisan, imperial governing consensus, only to come back, a day or two later, pimping some Democratic Party nonsense and some Democratic Party candidates and telling us that we are assholes once again for refusing to make the expression of our political will the choice between a blond imperialist from Chappaqua and a balding imperialist from Manhattan."

It is tiresome to the point of being comical how so many people refuse or fail to recognise the validity of the 'Imperial Critique.' I feel, however, that the ideological control is breaking down, and could fail rather suddenly. Opportunity abounds.

Nevertheless it remains true that one ought vote Democratic rather than Republican to try and minimise the harm. US politics is seriously impeded by 'first past the post' voting, which places such a great obstacle in the way of forming a third party. At least in Australia with preferential voting the option is there to create or join a more progressive party (ie, the Greens) and direct preferences to Labor.

Howard warns against 'overreaction' to soldier video

Soldiers preparing for new duty in Northern Territory: "Prime Minister John Howard has warned against an overreaction to a video showing Australian soldiers [in Darwin] binge drinking and one person dressed in a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) outfit."

Are these the fellows Howard is going to send in to aboriginal settlements to fix up alcohol and abuse problems?

As a desperate political stunt leading up to the election, Howard pressed again the militarism button by proposing that 'the army' be sent in to sort out alcohol and abuse problems among Northern Territory aboriginals. Binge drinking klansmen however, is not a good look, even for Howard. Let's hope these fellows and their unit have 'other duties'.

Watered-down plan wins Nats over

Watered-down plan wins Nats over: "THE Howard Government has settled a Nationals revolt against its $10 billion Murray-Darling Basin takeover by specifically ruling out the forced acquisition of farmers' water entitlements.

"The backdown received support from Queensland Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce, who had led a revolt against the takeover over fears irrigation communities would be robbed of water.

"Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday draft legislation expected to go before federal parliament this week would rule out compulsory acquisition of water rights."

I guess the water holders don't much like the idea of being forced to sell in a depressed market, any more than landholders would like being forced to sell in a land bust. Wait till the rain comes and get some more from the government.

Water trading, water rights and water entitlements are another example of what I call enclosurism, or the tax-free privatisation of natural resources, or 'kapital', ie the kapitalized (exchange) value of politically guaranteed unearned incomes. The problem has arisen because the giveaway of water has exceeded the amount of water their actually is. It's as if the government made land grants to squatters and selectors but then found out they had granted more land than existed.

In principle, water and other natural resources ought be the property of the whole population, and should be allocated on an annual basis at market rates, limited in quantity to what is environmentally safe and socially equitable (a certain minimum free allocation must be regarded as an inalienable human right for every person).

This would gain revenue for the public, guarantee necessary social and environmental flows, and ration commercially exploited water to its most efficient use.

The Government's proposals to 'buyback' non-existent water allocations amount to a huge $10b taxpayer grant to private persons for something they don't own and which doesn't even exist. These private parties are saying to the government, you gave us an allocation of water but because it didn't rain we didn't get any so you will give us $10b instead. Classic Kapitalism. A corporate/conservative government of course, which serves kapital not people (or the environment), hastens to comply and calls it 'reform'.

Monday, August 06, 2007


The 'official' story is something like this: we had to drop the bomb on Japan to force them to surrender and thus save heaps of lives - allied soldiers and Japanese civilians who would all be killed in huge numbers when we invaded Japan.

This, it appears, would be a pack of lies invented after the fact of the bombings, setting aside the fact that even if it were true, it is no justification. Cut off from oil and overseas empire, Japan was totally defeated already. Invasion and further killing was not necessary - surrender or no surrender.

The atomic bombings were a war crime, a crime against humanity, an act of barbarism and state terrorism on a gigantic scale. A blunt and ruthless message to the Soviet Union and in fact the entire world.

It goes something like this: 'We've got a bomb. It's a big bomb. We're gonna drop it on a city and wipe it out. See that? We did it. You don't believe we could have done that? Wiped out a whole city and all it's people? You better believe it. There. We did it again. Got that?'

What makes the Holocaust horrific above all other crimes is that such a large number of innocent people could have been deliberately and cold-bloodedly murdered in a concentrated period of time, for no good reason, by a scientifically and technologically advanced society. The atomic bombing of Japan is in a somewhat similar category.

America lost its soul when it permitted itself to commit this crime. Since then, the postwar era could be described as a sustained struggle against the evil of US global hegemony, which has proved itself with its warcrimes and atrocities to be a kind of slow motion nazism. Many millions of victims over more than six decades on several continents. De-militarization, de-nuclearisation, de-nazification and dismantlement of the United States could be the only remedy.

On Aug. 9, three days after the Enola Gay dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and hours after Bockscar dropped it on Nagasaki, Truman announced, "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians." Actually, of course, it was not a military base, but a city, a fact that Truman must have known before he made the decision. And if he didn't know it, then how horrible is that? Someone who wants to drop a nuclear bomb on a target should surely do due diligence to find out what the target is. That seems like a minimal requirement.

In response to a clergyman who criticized his decision, Truman wrote:

"I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast."

It's a sad fact of humanity that once war starts the hate and killing is all but impossible to restrain. Another reason why the concept of 'humanitarian war' is such a nauseating fraud.

And how regrettable was it to Truman? He later wrote, "I telephoned Byrnes [his secretary of state] aboard ship to give him the news and then said to the group of sailors around me, 'This is the greatest thing in history.'"

"Careful scholarly treatment of the records and manuscripts opened over the past few years has greatly enhanced our understanding of why the Truman administration used atomic weapons against Japan. Experts continue to disagree on some issues, but critical questions have been answered. The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it."

Fleet Admiral Leahy, for instance, the chief of staff to the president and a friend of Truman's, thought the atom bomb unnecessary. Furthermore, he wrote, "in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."[4] Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and chief of Naval Operations, thought the war could be ended well before a planned November 1945 naval invasion. And in a public speech on Oct. 5, 1945, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, said, "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war."

Many Army leaders had similar views. Author Norman Cousins writes of Gen. Douglas MacArthur:

"[H]e saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."

What about the idea that the Japanese would fiercely resist an invasion of their main islands? It is one of those myths that have come about with few apparent facts to support it. The various military men who were close to the action were quite confident that the Japanese had been so thoroughly bombed and their infrastructure so thoroughly destroyed that there was no need for the atom bomb. The literature is rife with quotes to that effect.

Henderson goes on in his article to describe how, after the bombing, there was ongoing criticism from a number of sources, including Einstein, and so therefore they had to craft an official response. It was in this way that the 'saving American lives' story was invented, years after the fact.

(Photo is Seizo Yamada's ground level photo taken from approximately 7km NE of Hiroshima)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rodrigue Tremblay: Imperialism and Fascism are on the Rise in the USA

Imperialism and Fascism are on the Rise in the USA: Discussion of specific laws and actions which suggest the Bush Administration have put in place the mechanisms of tyranny. Extraordinary, really. Most Americans (most people in the world) seem to have been sleepwalking through this huge constitutional crisis.

In the event of some new crisis like 9/11, US democracy could be more or less actually abolished. But with the huge decline in the political fortunes of the Bush gang, one ought be sceptical of how far they can really proceed with these plots. More likely, the formal concentration of power will continue in the US system, at the same time as both grassroots and international challenges to that power rise to confront it.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Craig Murray on Lockerbie affair

From late 1989 to 1992 I [Craig Murray] was the Head of the Maritime Section of the FCO and No 2 in the Aviation and Maritime Department (for those into FCO arcana, the Maritime Section was headed by a Grade 5 First Secretary and the Aviation Section by a Grade 6 First Secretary). This was the period of the invasion of Kuwait and first Gulf War, in which the Maritime Section, including me, mostly got picked up and deposited in an underground bunker as the FCO part of the Embargo Surveillance Centre. We did intelligence analysis on Iraqi attempts at weapons procurement and organised interdiction worldwide.

In this period I mostly lived in my underground bunker, quite literally, and didn't get back to the FCO much to keep an eye on the rest of my section. On one occasion when I did, I was told something remarkable by a colleague in Aviation section.

At this time we suddenly switched from blaming Iran and Syria for the Lockerbie bombing to blaming Libya. This was part of a diplomatic drive to isolate Iraq from its neighbours in the run-up to the invasion. Aviation section were seeing all the intelligence on Lockerbie, for obvious reasons. A colleague there told me, in a deeply worried way, that he/she had the most extraordinary intelligence report which showed conclusively that it was really Syria, not Libya, that bombed the Pan Am jet, and that the switch was pure expediency.

I asked if I could see the report, and my colleague declined, saying this was too sensitive and dangerous; the report was marked for named eyes only. That in itself was extremely unusual - normally we would pass intelligence reports freely to each other, signing the register for them.

Craig has some good commenters:

There are some such 'Affairs' that quite simply override any considerations of truth, honesty and justice for a mere individual. Seems to me that ME policy, ruled by the absolute Western Alliance imperative of maintaining a measure of control over what remains of the planets oil endowment, is the daddy of them all.

I do not know where the truth lies but the shannigans surrounding that Lockerbie conviction certainly render it suspect. It is refreshing that a tainted Scottish legal system has conceded as much and that the evidence will be re-aired; but I won't hold my breath on a different outcome if it requires light to be shed on those dark recesses. My guess is that TPTB will move heaven and earth to have that conviction upheld. In their world certain ends justify any means; the truth is what you (or rather 'they') make it and the public are simply lied to. It is one of the reasons why, at Privy Council level, the term 'Honest Politician' is an oxymoron.

When I saw the news item about the Lockerbie appeal my first thought was: I expect they will take the opportunity to pin it on Iran now, since there is obviously a major campaign to throw everything that has even half a chance of leaving a mark, let alone sticking, at Iran as part of the standard pre-attack demonisation.

Syria, I would have thought, is less likely to be officially implicated, because so far as I can tell, it doesn't seem any longer to be directly in the cross-hairs. I may be wrong on that, obviously, and certainly Syria is still a major target for those who most strongly influence US foreign policy. If they can't find any way to stick it on Iran, they will be happy to throw it at Syria.

It was touch and go a couple of years ago whether Syria or Iran would get hit first, imo. Most probably it is only the surprisingly strong resistance of Iraq to pacification that has saved both Syria and Iran from attack so far....

Personally, I'm sceptical enough about our capacity to convict the right person in the majority of ordinary criminal trials - anything that involves "security" is more likely a wrongful detention or conviction than not, imo, given the kind of "evidence" that gets used and the instinctive deference to authority of ordinary people (jurors, judges) in such situations.

This is something that people need to understand and bear in mind in debates on the death penalty, as well as government powers of detention. The state is both malign and incompetent, in general.

Also worth bearing in mind that the vast majority of those suffering Abu Ghraib-like treatment in Iraq and around the US' global archipelago of detention sites are just ordinary people unlucky enough to be picked up by the US state machinery, and not "terrorists" at all - at least, before they go in.

Only a fool would believe the unsupported word of the proven liars in the US and UK governments on anything regarding the ME, and most especially when it's bad-mouthing an "axis of evil" member.

I keep an open mind on the Lockerbie perpetrator's identity.

The only thing that is reasonably safe to assume at the moment, though, is that this is being reopened now in order to facilitate a desired attack on Iran by contributing to the ongoing demonisation campaign.