10 May 2003

Tim Fischer rides again?
Most comment seems to think we will shortly have a new governor-general and there's a boom in support for Tim Fischer. I think he would be an excellent choice, but I doubt Howard will choose him.

I want a governor-general who says things like this.

Just before the Iraq war, I shared a platform with Fischer at a conference on security. He began with the startling comment: "If Lawrence had been allowed to draw, we would not today be facing war."

Lots more impressive than what we get now.
Faith and freedom
Hizb al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya, the other main Iraqi Shia movement, has always operated independently of Iran, has a modern organisation and a strong lay membership. In the past, Da'wa has asserted that if it is elected, it will not impose Islamic law against the will of the people, and that it wants a liberal democracy, a multiparty system, modern education, free elections and a free press. Like any religious tradition, Shi'ism has had its share of belligerent, narrow-minded hardliners, but from the very beginning, leading Shia thinkers promoted ideals that are familiar to us in the west, not least that criticism of their own society is the basis of the democratic ethos. After decades of Saddam, western-style secularism may not appeal to many Iraqis, and Shia leaders, who have so bravely opposed the Ba'ath regime, are likely to be more respected than an Iraqi exile parachuted in by the Americans. If Iraqis choose a Shia government in free and fair elections, we should at least give it the benefit of the doubt.

Karen Armstrong has written a number of books on Islam. The whole article is worth reading. Sadly it still does not mean the political geniuses in the Bush administration will not find a way to drive the Iraqi Shi'a into Iran's arms.
The allies' broken promises
Tony Blair: 'We don't touch it, and the US doesn't touch it' MTV, 7 March

The reality: Yesterday's draft UN resolution gives total control of Iraq's oil revenues to the US and UK until an Iraqi government is established

The UN
George Bush: 'The UN will have a vital role to play' Belfast, 8 April

The reality: The UN is reduced to an advisory function on the ground in Iraq. All operational decisions will be taken by UK and US officials

Jack Straw: 'Should the UN have a vital role to play in respect of weapons inspections? The answer to that is yes.' Interview, 25 April

The reality: No role for the UN inspectors 'for the foreseeable future'

Tony Blair: 'The UN should have a key role in administering the delivery of humanitarian aid' House of Commons, 18 March

The reality: US and UK to oversee aid effort with UN reduced to co-ordinating role

Tony Blair: 'Military action is to uphold the authority of the UN and to make sure Saddam is disarmed' MTV, 7 March

The reality: A US and UK 'occupying power' will rule Iraq

I seem to remember a promise about finding WMD as well but it could just be my faulty recollection.

For what it's worth the UN draft resolution reads:
Reaffirming the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq;

Reaffirming the importance of disarmament of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles in accordance with its previous relevant resolutions;

Stressing the right of the Iraqi people to freely determine their own political future, welcoming the commitment of concerned parties to support the creation of an environment in which they may do so as soon as possible, and expressing resolve that the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly;

Encouraging efforts by the people of Iraq to take the first step toward forming a representative government based on the rule of law that affords equal rights and justice to tall Iraqi citizens without regard to ethnicity, religion, or gender;

Welcoming the April 15 Nasiriyah statement and the April 28 Baghdad statement;

Resolved that the UN should play a vital role in providing humanitarian relief, in supporting the reconstruction of Iraq, and in helping in the formation of an Iraqi interim authority;

Noting the statement by the Group of Seven Industrialized Nations in which the members recognized the need for a multilateral effort to help rebuild and develop Iraq and for the need for assistance from the IMF and the World Bank in these efforts;

Welcoming the resumption of humanitarian assistance and the continuing efforts of the Secretary-General and the specialized agencies to provide food and medicine to the people of Iraq;

Welcoming the appointment by the Secretary General of his Special Adviser on Iraq;

Reaffirming the need for accountability for crimes and atrocities committed by the previous Iraqi regime;

Stressing the need for respect for the archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious heritage of Iraq, and for the continued protection of archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious sites, museums, libraries and monuments;

Noting the letters of (1/8)DATE(3/8) from the Permanent Representative of the United States of America and the United Kingdom to the President of the Security Council and recognizing the specific authorities, responsibilities, and obligations under applicable international law of these states as occupying powers and the responsibilities of others working now or in the future with them under unified command (the "Authority");

Concerned that many Kuwaitis and Third-State Nationals are still not accounted for since 2 August 1990; Determining that the situation in Iraq, although improved, continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security;

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations;

1. Appeals to Member States and interested organizations to assist the people of Iraq in their efforts to reform and rebuild their society and return to the international community as a member in good standing;

2. Calls upon all Member States to respond immediately to the humanitarian appeals of the United Nations and other international organizations for Iraq and to help meet the humanitarian needs of the necessary for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq's economic infrastructure;

3. Calls upon all Member States to deny safe haven to those members of the previous Iraqi regime responsible for crimes and atrocities;

4. Encourages efforts to locate, identify and repatriate all Kuwaitis and third-State nationals or their remains present in Iraq on or after 2 August 1990, which the previous Iraqi regime failed to carry out;

5. Decides that all Member States shall take appropriate steps to facilitate the safe return to Iraqi institutions of Iraqi cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from the Iraq National Museum, the National library and other locations in Iraq since the adoption of resolution 661 (1990), including by establishing a prohibition on trade in or transfer of such items and items with respect to which reasonable suspicion exists that they have been illegally removed;

6. Calls upon the Authority to promote the welfare of the Iraqi people through the effective administration of the territory, including in particular working towards the restoration of conditions of security and stability and the creation of conditions in which the Iraqi people may freely determine their own political future;

7. Calls upon all concerned to comply fully with their obligations under international law including in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907;

8. Requests the Secretary General to appoint a Special Coordinator for Iraq whose responsibilities will involve coordinating the U.N.'s activities in post-conflict processes in Iraq, coordinating among U.N. and international agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction activities in Iraq, coordinating with the Authority, and assisting the people of Iraq through:

(a) support for and coordination of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance by U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations; (b) support for the orderly and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons; (c) working with the Authority and the people of Iraq with respect to the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance; (d) facilitating the reconstruction of key infrastructure, in cooperation with other international organizations; (e) promoting economic reconstruction and the conditions for sustainable development, including through coordination with national and regional organizations, as appropriate, civil society, donors and the international financial institutions; (f) encouraging international efforts to contribute to basic civilian administration functions; (g) promoting human rights; (h) encouraging international efforts to rebuild the capacity of the Iraqi civilian police force; (i) supporting international efforts to promote legal and judicial reform;

9. Calls upon Member States and international and regional organizations to contribute to the implementation of this resolution;

10. Supports the formation, by the people of Iraq with the help of the Authority and working with the Special Coordinator, of an Iraqi interim authority as a transitional administration run by Iraqis until a permanent government is established by the people of Iraq;

11. Decides that, with the exception of prohibitions related to the sale or supply to Iraq of arms and related materiel other than those arms and related material required by the Coalition to serve the purposes of this and other related resolutions, all prohibitions related to trade with Iraq and the provision of financial or economic resources to Iraq established by Resolution 661 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions, including Resolution 778, shall no longer apply;

12. Notes the establishment of an Iraqi Assistance Fund, with an international advisory board including duly qualified representatives of the Secretary General, the I.M.F., {appropriate regional institution(s)} and the World Bank, to be held by the Central Bank of Iraq, and to be audited by independent public accountants chosen by the international advisory board;

13. Decides further that the funds in the Iraqi Assistance Fund shall be disbursed at the direction of the Authority, in consultation with the Iraqi interim authority, for the purposes set out in paragraph 14 below;

14. Underlines that the Iraqi Assistance Fund should be used to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, for the economic reconstruction and repair of Iraq's infrastructure, for the continued disarmament of Iraq, and for the costs of indigenous civilian administration, and for other purposes benefiting the people of Iraq;

15. Decides that the Iraqi Assistance Fund shall enjoy the privileges and immunities of the United Nations;

16. Welcomes the readiness of international financial institutions to assist the people of Iraq in the reconstruction and development of their economy and to facilitate assistance by the broader donor community;

17. Requests the Secretary General, in consultation with the Authority, to continue the exercise of his responsibilities under Security Council resolution 1472 and 1476, for a period of four months following the adoption of this resolution, as necessary to ensure the delivery of priority civilian goods under contracts approved by the 661 Committee pursuant to paragraphs 8 (a) and (b) of resolution 986 (1995), to the extent not modified or terminated, or as necessary to fulfill other commitments made pursuant to those resolutions;

18. Decides that all funds remaining in the escrow account established pursuant to resolution 986 (1995) that have not been allocated as of the date of the adoption of this resolution to finance the export of goods to Iraq under paragraph 8(a) or (b) of that resolution, and that have not been committed by the Secretary General pursuant to his authorities under Security Council resolution 1472, shall be transferred promptly to the Iraqi Assistance Fund in order to provide for the urgent needs of the Iraqi people;

19. Decides that all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas from Iraq following the date of the adoption of this resolution shall be made consistent with prevailing international market practices, to be audited by independent public accountants reporting to the international advisory board referred to in paragraph 12 above, and decides further that, except as provided in paragraph 20 below, all proceeds from such sales shall be deposited into the Iraqi Assistance Fund, until such time as a new Iraqi government is properly constituted and capable of discharging its responsibilities;

20. Decides further that (1/8)X(3/8) percent of the proceeds referred to in paragraph 19 above shall be deposited into the Compensation Fund established in accordance with resolution 687 (1991) and subsequent relevant resolutions;

21. Further decides that petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas originated in Iraq, and proceeds of sales thereof, shall be immune from judicial, administrative, arbitration or any other proceedings (including any prejudgment or postjudgment attachment, garnishment, or execution or other action to satisfy a judgment) arising in relation to claims, of whatever kind and whenever accrued, against Iraq or any instrumentality or agents thereof (or the Authority, or its participating states or their instrumentalities or agents), and that all Member States shall take any steps under their respective domestic legal systems necessary to give full effect to this paragraph;

22. Decides that all Member States in which there are: (1) funds or other financial assets or economic resources of the Government of Iraq or its state bodies, corporations, or agencies, located outside Iraq as of the date of this resolution, or. (2) funds or other financial assets or economic resources that have been removed from Iraq, or acquired, by Saddam Hussein or other senior officials of the former Iraqi regime and their immediate family members, including entities owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by them or by persons acting on their behalf or at their direction, shall freeze without delay and immediately cause the transfer of those funds or other financial assets or economic resources to the Iraqi Assistance Fund; and further decides that all such funds or other financial assets or economic resources shall enjoy the same immunities and protections as provided under paragraph 21;

23. Endorses the exercise of the responsibilities stated in this resolution by the Authority for an initial period of 12 months from the date of the adoption of this resolution, to continue thereafter as necessary unless the Security Council decides otherwise;

24. Requests the Special Coordinator to report to the Council at regular intervals on his work with respect to the implementation of this resolution, the first report to be submitted within (1/8)(3/8) days of the adoption of this resolution.

The liberating occupying powers are to be congratulated for affirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. No doubt a number of dictionaries are being rewritten as we speak to explain that the phrase 'sovereignty and territorial integrity' includes the right to be subjected to an unlawful invasion justified entirely by lies.
on sacking the governor-general
I'm bemused by the idea that Peter Hollingworth cannot or should not be dismissed. I'm not a lawyer so I invite correction if I'm wrong at law, but really it seems to me the problem is political rather than legal.

The Constitution's only reference to appointment and dismissal provides:

2. A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty's representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen's pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.

The Queen acts on the advice of the prime minister of Australia on this as on any other matter in relation to Australia. Similar language appears with respect to the ministers (including the prime minister) at Sections 62 and 64.

Talk of legal grounds for dismissal actually turns quite quickly into statements like Ken Parish's:

Creating a precedent for dismissal of a Governor-General for conduct (short of proven moral turpitude) committed otherwise than in office would be best avoided,

I know it's not Ken's positions but a lot of commentary is getting close to the deeply weird position that the governor-general should not be dismissed because the dismissal would confirm the arbitrary powers we already know the prime minister holds. The solution is first to terminate this governor-general so we can find someone capable of representing Australia and second reviewing the whole shoddy system by constitutional amendment. Somehow I suspect the 'ain't broke, don't fix it' vote might be significantly lower at the next referendum.

9 May 2003

A role fit for Hollingworth
The Governor-General provides living proof that the myths that impeded the "discovery" and recognition of child sexual abuse still hold sway in Australia. Hollingworth made use of the first - that children are seductive - not just on ABC TV's Australian Story where he accused a then 14-year-old girl of leading the priest on, but in his statement (February 20, 2002) where he said that he did not condone a bishop's sex with a young girl "regardless of whether or not the girl was a willing participant".

The second myth used to deny the extent of child sexual abuse - that children fantasise - is beautifully ironic. For it is not the children's memories that have been found to be faulty in the Diocese of Brisbane report, but Hollingworth's: "The board finds that Dr Hollingworth's recollections are faulty, and that he had apparently reconstructed what he believed he was told, rather than recalled what in fact was said."

The third myth - that intervention inevitably causes more harm - is also apparent in Hollingworth's responses. In one letter to a child molester, he even claims it is better to leave the perpetrator in a parish because "your departure at this stage could cause unintended consequences that would make things worse for you and the church".

On a final note I am one of 20 million owners of the official website of the Governor-General of Australia. I do not want to read there a string of self-serving and misleading statements discussing this governor-general's various missteps in answering allegations of giving aid and comfort to child abusers. They are no part of his office and I would like the holder of that office to get his shit off my property.
It's time to go
Ken Parish has delivered a devastating summation of the governor-general's situation. He is also dead right, Peter Hollingworth is now incapable of executing his office. The one bright light in this repellent situation is that it may force a review of how we appoint and dismiss our chief of state.

8 May 2003

Gone to the flogs
You have to read SPEAKING FREELY: Technological illiterates and WMD. If you read nothing else in the next blogcycle, read this.

When some bubble-headed TV newsreader admits on camera that he hasn't "figured out how to set my VCR", the FTI-meter goes to full-tilt. There is almost no way to measure the perceptual difference between the people who invented television and someone who would make such a remark. Ironically, they are both in the same business (TV) so we have the situation where beautiful techno-illiterates appear in everyone's life - a feat made possible by some of the finest techno-geniuses of history.


Welch became Wall Street's man because he was able to return, with mathematical regularity, increases in "shareholder value". His method, which earned him the nickname of "Neutron Jack", was to close down plants in the US that usually represented a couple generations of technological genius, and ship the tools to some Third World location where labor was cheap. He was called "Neutron Jack" because like the proposed Neutron bomb, it destroyed the people but left the buildings standing. For executing this plan, he was rewarded with wealth beyond wretched excess.


There seems to be a gap in consciousness between buying, maintaining and ultimately destroying technology and building the stuff. In the army, talking tough will get you into the very inner rings of power; talking about the nearly infinite ways that technology can be reduced to uselessness will get you stationed in Greenland.

And so a fashionably technologically illiterate groupthink replaces reason in the corridors of power. Questioning the existence of Iraqi WMD at the Pentagon in mid-March 2003 was a good way to get yourself called "French", even though the whole idea of WMD production by Iraq had become technologically preposterous.

Apart from excellent analysis the author rises to a pleasing level of snark as well. His ebook Elegant technology is next on my list, right after I finish the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I'll never go through a Rumsfled press conference without thinking 'telephone sanitiser' again.
cholera outbreak in southern Iraq
let us imagine that once upon a time in Iraq a government imposed by force of arms so neglected the country's infrastructure that the water supply deteriorated and there was an outbreak of cholera. I wonder what the Bush administration would have to say about that? Of course this is only a fairy story, right?

From Bloomberg

London, May 8 (Bloomberg) -- Southern Iraq is experiencing an outbreak of cholera caused by untreated water, the World Health Organization said as the U.S. lifted some sanctions to allow delivery of aid to help the country rebuild.

Seventeen cases were confirmed in the southern city of Basra, WHO said. The number of people infected may be 10 times higher, Denis Coulombier, a health official in Iraq's second-largest city, told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Hospitals are able to ``treat the symptoms but not the source of the problem, which is clearly linked to the water supply situation in Basra,'' a WHO statement said. ``Sewage is not being disposed of, garbage collection is happening intermittently or not at all, and people are using water from the polluted Shatt Al-Arab river.''

Iraq's local administrations ceased to function when Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed last month after a three-week war led by U.S. forces. The allies are helping Iraqis restore power, water and health services. U.S. forces also are searching for any weapons of mass destruction, and suspect a mobile laboratory found in the north was used to produce biological agents.

More from the Guardian:

Despite allied forces having had control of the area for around a month, there is still a shortage of vital drugs and intravenous fluids to treat victims.

"The real concern is that the situation in Basra, with a real lack of safe water for the population and a lack of security at the moment, could lead to a rapid spread of something like cholera," Mr Simpson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"With a water supply which simply isn't functioning and isn't providing clean, safe water to most of the population, people are getting their water from completely unsafe sources.

"With a lack of security, people are not able to come to hospitals - either patients or hospital workers - and are not able to get out on to the streets to provide the kind of public information work that is vital to prevent something like cholera from spreading.

From the World Health Organisation

Suspected Cholera outbreak
A team from the World Health Organization, which now has a permanent presence in Basra, visited Al Tahrir Teaching Hospital together with local health experts in order to assess the health situation in Basra. Doctors in the hospital reported a significant increase in the number of cases of diarrhoeal diseases, gastroenteritis and dehydration. Seven cases of clinically confirmed cholera were reported, mainly among very young children (between 13 months and 4 years old). They were from the north of Basra, near to the Airport. The children were rehydrated and subsequently returned home. The doctors said there are currently more than 30 admissions per day for diarrhoeal disease. They expressed concern that it is not possible to perform medical tests at the hospital because the central laboratory is not functioning and some vital reagents are missing or have been stolen. The WHO team took samples to Kuwait the same day to be analysed at the National Public laboratory in Kuwait to confirm the presence of cholera. The results are expected in the coming few days.

The same situation was confirmed at the Basra Children's Hospital. Doctors said that out of 200 outpatients a day, 90% are for diarrhoea; others are diagnosed with hepatitis, Acute Respiratory Infections, malnutrition, shigella and typhoid. Again, there are no facilities to conduct tests to confirm the presence of cholera or other infectious agents. However, there is no doubt among the doctors and the visiting team that this is cholera. "In the absence of laboratory confirmation, we can only rely on our experience and knowledge of our patients to be able to recognise these diseases. We can clinically confirm 4 cases of cholera this week," one one of the managers said.

Hospital workers point out that they could only treat the symptoms but not the source of the problem, which is clearly linked to the water supply situation in Basra. Sewage is not being disposed of, garbage collection is happening intermittently or not at all and people are using water from the polluted Chatt Al Arab river.

Another key problem is that surveillance control activities have declined or disappeared since the beginning of the war, with an almost total lack of surveillance and control of communicable diseases. In Basra, it is clear that this combination is contributing to an increasing number of cases of diarrhoeal disease and there is concern that an outbreak of cholera could cause severe problems. The doctors reported also cases of food poisoning, mainly arising from eating ice cream. The water is not clean and ice cream is being made in poor sanitary conditions.
Googling the governor-general
I searched under the terms: hollingworth rape australia governor-general. The search result is deeply embarrassing.

That does not mean that Archbishop Hollingworth does not have the right to a fair trial or that he is not innocent until proven guilty. It does not mean that he was wrong to seek a suppression order from the Victorian supreme court. In my opinion it does mean that he should consider putting the country's interests before his own.
ACT moves to allow gay couples to adopt
Another Australian government is moving to enable gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.

The ACT has proposed law reforms to remove discrimination in the Adoption Act.

The Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has announced the ACT could be the second jurisdiction in Australia to make a number of legislative changes giving same sex couples equal adoption rights.

"The adoption law is quite explicit, it says that only a heterosexual couple may adopt children," he said.

"That's discrimination."

Members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community says the reforms will promote the interests of children.

Spokeswoman Lindy Edwards.

"This legislation is not about creating gay families," said community spokeswoman Lindy Edwards.

"It's about giving the thousands of gay famiilies that do exist the tools to fully meet their responsibilities to their children.

"For example if the child gets sick, despite being a primary carer the non-biological parent can't authorise medical treatment. It also means that the child isn't recognised as financially dependent on that non-biological parent."

But Dean Logan from the Australian Christian Lobby says the Government appears to have overlooked community opposition to the proposal.

"This affects our entire social fabric. At the Anzac day dawn service, Australians need to question is this what our diggers went to fight for? Is this where Australia's going? Is this what we want?"

Western Australia was the first jurisdiction to give same sex couples the right to adopt children.

Also about bloody time. Some diggers were certainly gay and that should not be denied in a pathetic attempt to raise opposition to this bill.
UN reform
Matthew Iglesias and others have raised UN reform in terms of remaking the Security Council to reflect the real world. Since Charter amendments require a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly including all of the Security Council's permanent members I somehow doubt that either France or Britain are about to throw themselves on their swords. I doubt that any of the Big 5 are prepared to have the veto restricted to Chapter VII matters either.

Of course, since many of these calls are part of the neocon Francophobe hysteria I guess the Bush administration could break the road block by announcing that it is opposed to the veto and will surrender its own but I would more than mildly surprised if they did. Along with one or two others.

Reforming the UN Commission on Human Rights is an easier project. The push comes from 2 or 3 directions. The Howard government promotes 'democratic exceptionalism' - a new form of colonialism in which the UN human rights machinery ignores the Anglosphere and becomes the scourge of tyrants. If they're not white. The second direction comes from the US and promotes the United States (but no-one else) as exceptions to the system. The third push comes from the human rights community itself.

NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch are calling for the exclusion from the commission of any state which doesn't meet basic requirements.

Amnesty proposes a state would have to:

Extend a standing invitation to the special procedures of the Commission and to co-operate with their requests to undertake visits,
Ensure full and prompt implementation of the recommendations of the special procedures,
Ratify key international human rights treaties and their optional protocols, and provide for communications procedures and on-site investigation,
Ensure full and prompt implementation of the recommendations of the treaty monitoring bodies,
Ensure timely submission of periodic reports to treaty monitoring bodies.

Neither Australia nor the US would be enthusiastic about this but neither government is enthusiastic about Libya chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights. If either state is genuine about the universality of human rights they might consider putting themselves at the head of the NGO campaign. Sadly, I'm not quite ready to hold my breath waiting.

7 May 2003

US Senator Byrd says it all

What I heard the President say also disturbed me. It may make for grand theater to describe Saddam Hussein as an ally of al Qaeda or to characterize the fall of Baghdad as a victory in the war on terror, but stirring rhetoric does not necessarily reflect sobering reality. Not one of the 19 September 11th hijackers was an Iraqi. In fact, there is not a shred of evidence to link the September 11 attack on the United States to Iraq. There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was an evil despot who brought great suffering to the Iraqi people, and there is no doubt in my mind that he encouraged and rewarded acts of terrorism against Israel. But his crimes are not those of Osama bin Laden, and bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not bring justice to the victims of 9-11. The United States has made great progress in its efforts to disrupt and destroy the al Qaeda terror network. We can take solace and satisfaction in that fact. We should not risk tarnishing those very real accomplishments by trumpeting victory in Iraq as a victory over Osama bin Laden.

We are reminded in the gospel of Saint Luke, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Surely the same can be said of any American president. We expect, nay demand, that our leaders be scrupulous in the truth and faithful to the facts. We do not seek theatrics or hyperbole. We do not require the stage management of our victories. The men and women of the United States military are to be saluted for their valor and sacrifice in Iraq. Their heroics and quiet resolve speak for themselves. The prowess and professionalism of America's military forces do not need to be embellished by the gaudy excesses of a political campaign.

War is not theater, and victory is not a campaign slogan. I join with the President and all Americans in expressing heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their service to our country, and for the sacrifices that they have made on our behalf. But on this point I differ with the President: I believe that our military forces deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and not used as stage props to embellish a presidential speech.

Not really much more anyone can say is there? Incidentally the camera angles had to picked carefully as otherwise the California coast would have been visible and the presidential Top Gun impersonation would have been revealed for the sham it was.
I think I'm going have a fit
From the UK Telegraph thanks to Gianna:

The term "brainstorming" has become the latest target of political correctness, according to a charity.

Trainee teachers are being told to avoid the word for fear of offending pupils with epilepsy. Instead they are being advised to use "word storm" or "thought shower".

However, charities working with epilepsy say "brainstorming" is not offensive. "We had several inquiries from teachers about it so we did a survey of our residential home," said Gemma Baxter from the National Society for Epilepsy.

I wake up now and then feeling like I've run a marathon. If I'm lucky it hasn't happened when I'm on my own. I used to be scared witless my kid would see me in the middle of a seizure. The anticonvulsants don't work well for me at all and I've always hated the side effects. When I started blogging this I just thought it was funny. As I finish I am angrier about epilepsy than I think I have ever been before.
truth or scare
From the Nation:

My fellow Americans, there may be threatening amounts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There may not be. We're not sure. And if they are there, it may take weeks after military victory before we can launch a major effort to find and secure them. By then, they could be gone--that is, if they were there in the first place--perhaps in the hands of people who mean us harm. And after we defeat Iraq's brutal regime, the people of Iraq will welcome US troops as liberators. Then again, within days, many of them could be shouting, "Yankee, go home" and calling for a new government dominated by fundamentalist religious leaders. We don't know. Nor do we really know the extent of any operational links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda--if such things exist. Still, I believe the potential risk posed by Saddam Hussein is so great that we cannot let what we do not know to stand in the way of decisive action. We cannot afford to guess wrong. With that in mind, I have ordered...

With Baghdad conquered, the fog of prewar has started to clear. And it now seems that had the Bush Administration been honest with the American public (and the world), its on-to-war pronouncements would have resembled the imaginary sequence above. Instead, Bush and his national security team--including ex officio members deployed in think tank bunkers and op-ed command centers--declared, without question or pause, that Iraq had dangerous levels of weapons of mass destruction and that it was "urgent," as Bush said, to find and destroy these weapons. They also talked about birthing a democratic government in Iraq without acknowledging obstacles and potential traps. But, it turns out, the Administration was not on the level. Moreover, it was woefully unready to deal with the consequences of military victory.

Though Bush and other war cheerleaders had spoken of liberating Iraq, their main argument concerned the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. The reason he was such an immediate danger, they said, was that he had these awful weapons and could, as Bush breathlessly noted, slip them to anti-American terrorists at any moment. Yet once US troops were in Iraq, the Bush Administration and the Pentagon adopted a rather lackadaisical approach to locating and securing such weapons. Weeks after the April 9 fall of Baghdad, the Pentagon was still in the process of assembling a survey team of 1,000 experts to search for chemical and biological weapons and signs of a nuclear weapons program. Why had this force not been ready to roll at the war's start?

Now if we reworked this just a tad...

So I say to the Australian people that maintaining the US alliance at all costs is the supreme purpose of my government's foreign policy. There may or may not be weapons of mass destruction buried under a signpost on the road to Baghdad but if I call George and ask for evidence he'll get all bitter and twisted and we mustn't have that. Hell, for all the intelligence reports I read they may not even have signposts on the road to Baghdad but we have to keep our great and powerful friend happy.

At least John Howard is intellectually (if not factually) consistent.
Howard catches up with Keating
From the Prime Minister's New York press conference:


Mark Turner from the Financial Times. In the run up to the debate over Iraq there has been a lot made of a trans-Atlantic split, a sort of divergence of view or not between the Europe and the US. I'm wondering from Australia's perspective, whether you find that there is a danger at the moment that countries like your own are going to have to make some fundamental strategic decision whether to ally with the US or with Europe, or perhaps go with a sort of Anglo-Saxon bloc as some have suggested?


Well Australia has linkages and alliances with many countries. We have a very close relationship with the United States, and that has certainly been reinforced and strengthened and further invigorated in recent months. And we also of course have very important and enduring linkages with the nations of Asia, and I certainly don't see Australia becoming part of some Anglosphere. I see Australia as a country that will have very close and always have very close relations with the nations of Europe and particularly, but not only, the United Kingdom and Ireland of course have shared history, but also many other nations in Europe. But very importantly we have enormously important relationships with countries of Asia. Our best customer remains Japan. Of all the countries we trade with, over the past five years there has probably been a greater quantum change in our trade with China than any other nation. And of course we have very close and important linkages with Indonesia. I have never seen Australian foreign policy in terms of making what you call fundamental decisions, choosing. You should never get yourself forced into choosing between your history and your geography. Australia in a way occupies quite a unique intersection of culture, history and geography. We are a nation of western European roots. We have a very strong linkage and association with the United States, but we also have very important linkages with and a very important future invested in with the countries of our region. So I am not into putting Australia into particular spheres - Anglo or otherwise - nor am I into making a choice. As to trans-Atlantic relationships, well that really is a matter for the Atlantic powers, of which Australia is not one. I would make one simple observation, and that is that I think there has been a little too much of a tendency to oversimplify the divisions that have occurred in Europe on the issue of Iraq. I'll leave it to the Europeans to sort that out. I haven't come here to offer gratuitous advice to the nations of Europe.

The link will be posted as soon as it goes live. Seriously, this is a giant step forward for the prime minister, as is his attitude that our commitments in East Timor and elsewhere in the region preclude further military adventuring as the Gurkhas of the American empire.
Three fictional heroes

Link from Lying Media Bastards thanks to This is not a blog. Read it and weep.

6 May 2003

NSW set to lower gay age of consent
New South Wales appears set to end discrimination in the age of consent between heterosexuals and homosexuals.

The state government is planning to introduce a bill to lower the gay age of consent to 16.

Gay rights groups have long fought to have the age of consent for gay men loweredfrom 18 to 16, and it is now possible they will get their wish with the Attorney-General Bob Debus announcing a conscience vote on the issue for Labor MPs.

Mr Debus says the bill will include safeguards, including the toughening of penalties for offences on children under 16, and the removal of the defence of not knowing a child was underage.

About bloody time.
'Al-Nidaa on the 'Shi'a threat to Iraq'

"In conclusion, the threat of the Shi'a to the nation is equal to the threat posed by the Jews and the Christians. They harbor the same ill-will against the nation, which needs to protect itself from them and from being deceived by them? They pose a danger not only to Iraq, but to the whole region. If the Shi'a have influence over Iraq, or if they obtain some kind of autonomy in southern Iraq, they will be so much closer to extending their influence. After all, they exist in considerable numbers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain. If those Shi'a get organized and if their initiatives get support from countries that sponsor them - Iran, Syria, and Lebanon - it will mean that they have reached advanced stages in their 50-year plan?"

"The Muslims should be careful, because the Shi'a do not hesitate to cooperate with the Crusaders and the Jewish enemies [of] the Sunna. The Shi'a believe that the threat of the Sunna and their heresy is greater than the threat posed by the Jews and the Christians. Whoever follows history knows that the Shi'a assisted the enemies of the nation who stabbed her in the back. It suffices that the Shi'a defiled the sanctity of Allah's house and stole the Black Stone [the Ka'ba] for twenty years, [2] before it was brought back to its place. Those who are familiar with the beliefs of the Shi'a can hardly fathom the depth of their evil and hatred. Beware [of] them, Oh Muslims."

"We also caution against those who advocate befriending the Shi'a. Such [an] approach can only cause further harm to the nation. To get close to the Shi'a is more dangerous than getting close to the Jews, because the animosity of the Jews is well known, while the Shi'a pretend [to be friendly] and deceive the nation?""How can we approach those who believe that we should curse the followers of the Prophet Muhammad and accuse them of heresy? They, who curse the Prophet's wives and accuse [the Prophet's wife] 'Aisha of prostitution?... If you advocate getting closer to people with such beliefs, then getting closer to Christians is not as bad? [N]ot everyone who maintains that he is Muslim is indeed a Muslim, if his deeds completely nullify Islam ?"

I thought this worth posting because it exemplifies the jihadi worldview and demonstrates how Western assumptions about Islamic fundamentalism are often wildly inaccurate. Iraqi Shi'a are not necessarily Iranian Shi'a. There are tensions between the ayatollahs in the two countries and the automatic equation of Shi'a and fundamentalism is just plain wrong.

The theft of the Black Stone happened in 930 CE. It was actually carried out by the Shi'ite Isma'ili sect known as the Qarmatis. The Isma'ili are Seveners. Almost all surviving Shi'a are Twelvers but evidently that matters little to the author of the piece reported by MEMRI. The Isma'ili's most famous adherents were the Fatimid caliphate which ruled from Cairo and the Assassin sect based at Alamut.

Seems a long time to be holding a grudge. Also seems to drive a truck through the alleged al-Qa'ida/Saddam linkage.
Hollingworth report
The document can be downloaded here. Link thanks to Gareth Parker at My Two Cents.

The report is interesting although I disagree radically with Gareth's view that no-one who has not read it should comment. It's a civic question to be decided by citizens, not a technical question to be argued only by those with certain qualifications. The first role of the governor-general is to represent the Australian people. Archbishop Hollingworth is unable to do that because of this scandal.

more later
I'm still reading and I hope to post my thoughts some time soon.
The people's will: G-G must resign

More than three-quarters of the Australian electorate wants the Governor-General to quit amid growing pressure for his resignation from Federal Government members.

A Herald-AC Nielsen poll at the weekend found that 76 per cent of people believed Dr Peter Hollingworth should give up his $310,000-a-year job. Just 18 per cent believed he should tough out the scandal over his role in protecting a pedophile.

Even after the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, only 40 per cent of voters wanted Sir John Kerr sacked as Governor-General.

The poll of 1400 people of voting age asked if Dr Hollingworth should resign, given the findings by an Anglican church inquiry that as archbishop of Brisbane, he allowed a priest guilty of child sex abuse to continue working.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, who chose Dr Hollingworth for the job, yesterday continued to stand by him, saying there were no grounds to dismiss him, and refusing to be drawn on whether he should resign.

But for the second successive day, the Treasurer, Peter Costello, put public pressure on Dr Hollingworth to leave voluntarily. Both he and the deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, have called for him to consider his position.

Late yesterday a spokesman for the Governor-General reconfirmed his determination to stay as fresh allegations emerged in Brisbane of Dr Hollingworth having ignored claims of the rape of a nine-year old boy by a church school teacher.

Mr Costello, while supporting Mr Howard's position that there were no grounds for sacking the Governor-General, noted that Dr Hollingworth "can at any stage go to the Prime Minister" and quit.

As well, the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joe Hockey, delivered the harshest assessment yet by a member of the Government, saying the evidence against Dr Hollingworth was "damning" and his behaviour indefensible.

"I can't defend Dr Peter Hollingworth for what he did as archbishop of Brisbane in that circumstance, and I think most people would find it difficult to do so," Mr Hockey said.

I suppose I should declare my hand and say I voted against the republic because I think an appointed presidency is a bad idea. All the same I cannot imagine that even the Howard republic could have produced the idiotic situation where the government is devoting time defending the likes of Hollingworth.

The governor-general must be above suspicion. This governor-general is not. John Howard needs to stop inventing constitutional conventions that you only need to be above suspicion while in office. The governor-general is a personal appointment of the prime minister. John Howard should show us some of that vaunted ticker he's so proud of.

And since he has so spectacularly messed up one appointment he should consult more widely when he appoints Holinngsworth's successor.

5 May 2003

Sydney is safe for another day
The ADF is setting up a new Special Operations Command. The press release instructs:

Media are asked to assemble at the rear gates of Holsworthy Barracks (Moorebank Avenue) no later than 1.20 pm. Further details and attendance confirmations should be requested through Tara Daley on (02) 9359 2785 or 0411 203 579. An early indication of attendance is appreciated.

An information kit including vision and stills of both units will be available to media on the day. This kit will include vision of SOCOMD's counter-terrorism capabilities that will not be demonstrated on the day.

I am deeply relieved they will not have to demonstrate counter-terrorism capabilities. I don't live far from Holsworthy Barracks.
up, up and away
Wow. George Bush described John Howard as a man of steel. We just have to hope there will be no prime ministerial appearances in tights and a cape. But I digress.
I've been in Dubbo for a week. The zoo was great. The observatory was impressive. I was intrigued by the business sign that read: 'Today Dubbo, tomorrow the world.' The country was a lot greener than when I passed through there in December. The State Rail Authority's XPT really needs to get the electronic lock on the lavatory in Car B repaired.