31 May 2003

audio link to the Deane speech

Former Governor-General Sir William Deane has launched a scathing attack on the Federal Government in a speech at the University of Queensland.

Sir William was speaking after receiving an honorary doctorate at UQ's Faculty of Business, Economics and Law.

He criticised the Government over the "children overboard" affair and the holding of minors at the Woomera detention centre. He said future leaders should avoid seeking advantage by "inflaming ugly prejudice and intolerance".

Sir William also criticised the Government for its approach towards the two Australian men being held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"The fundamental responsibility of a democratic government to seek to safeguard the human rights of all its citizens, including the unpopular and the alleged wrongdoer, in the case of two Australians indefinitely caged without legal charge or process," he said.

Sir William, who was Australia?s 22nd Governor-General from 1996 to 2001, was presented with a Doctor of Laws honoris causa in recognition of his distinguished career and his outstanding contribution to Australia in his role as Governor-General.

Prime Minister John Howard rejected any suggestion that the Government inflames prejudice.

About the only thing to be said in defence of the policy of despair is that Labor is also in this muck up to the armpits. Let us not forget that Labor supported the Border Protection Act 2001 which violates both Australia's obligations at international law and our commitment to human rights.

One reason I believe we need an enforceable bill of rights is that somehow Parliament keeps forgetting that there are absolute standards which should not be breached.
Krugman on waggy dog stories
It's now also clear that George W. Bush had no intention of reaching a diplomatic solution. According to The Financial Times, White House sources confirm that the decision to go to war was reached in December: "A tin-pot dictator was mocking the president. It provoked a sense of anger inside the White House," a source told the newspaper.

Administration officials are now playing down the whole W.M.D. issue. Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, recently told Vanity Fair that the decision to emphasize W.M.D.'s had been taken for "bureaucratic reasons . . . because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." But it was the W.M.D. issue that stampeded the Senate into giving Mr. Bush carte blanche to wage war.

For the time being, the public doesn't seem to care ? or even want to know. A new poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes finds that 41 percent of Americans either believe that W.M.D.'s have been found, or aren't sure. The program's director suggests that "some Americans may be avoiding having an experience of cognitive dissonance." And three-quarters of the public thinks that President Bush showed strong leadership on Iraq.

So what's the problem? Wars fought to deal with imaginary threats have real consequences. Just as war critics feared, Al Qaeda has been strengthened by the war. Iraq is in chaos, with a rising death toll among American soldiers: "We have reports of skirmishes throughout the central region," a Pentagon official told The Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, the administration has just derived considerable political advantage from a war waged on false premises. At best, that sets a very bad precedent. At worst. . . . "You want to win this election, you better change the subject. You wanna change this subject, you better have a war," explains Robert DeNiro's political operative in "Wag the Dog." "It's show business."

A final note: Showtime is filming a docudrama about Sept. 11. The producer is a White House insider, working in close consultation with Karl Rove. The script shows Mr. Bush as decisive and eloquent. "In this movie," The Globe and Mail reports, "Mr. Bush delivers long, stirring speeches that immediately become policy." And we can be sure that the script doesn't mention the bogus story about a threat to Air Force One that the White House floated to explain Mr. Bush's movements on the day of the attack. Hey, it's show business.

30 May 2003

snark of the week
From Burningbird
Being an American does not mean I live in fast food outlets, drink only Starbuck's coffee, watch only "Real TV", have an American flag tattooed on my butt, listen to breasty-boppers, think that spam in a can is real gourmet food, get my news from Fox, drive an SUV bigger than the QE2, only watch Spielberg movies, only read comic books, and only believe God is looking out for us because we are the Chosen People. So next time you throw Bush in my face as a defining argument, for no other reason then I am an American and have to live with him as President, know that I'll take your email address and register it at every major porn web site that I can find.

And then I'll submit it to every conservative American political organization within these 50 U-ni-ted States.

Can I get an "Amen" brothers and sisters?


Link courtesy of ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose

Someplace else they have a different understanding
And someplace else they watch the lava meet the sea
And in some far strange place they talk in ways I've never known
But my place, I don?t know where that might be

Someplace else the grass is looking cleaner
And they drink and they dance, 'cause every day is Mardi Gras
And they make love and they live life and they're jumping,
They're singing in ways I've never known
But my place, well it's laughing back at me

Somewhere else they know they're got the true religion
And in some small strange place they've got stories old and wise
And their land it is strong, it's fresh and alive
And the wind off the ocean belts down on the shore
But my place, well it's not my place at all

And someplace else, it's over the sea,
and it's up past the mountains,
it's something to see.

From Circus by Not Drowning Waving
August 2004?
Back in January a friend of mine from the US emailed that he believed the Iraq crisis would be kept alive until the next presidential election. I remember thinking when the tanks rolled that at least the Bush administration was not guilty of that level of breathtaking cynicism.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

There is an unpleasant sense of d�j� vu in Tehran. In 2001, Iran helped the US oust the Taliban in Afghanistan. But not long thereafter, it was lumped into President Bush's "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea for allegedly pursuing nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism.

Tehran then remained neutral in the Iraq war, but welcomed Saddam Hussein's overthrow and sealed its border to prevent the escape of senior Iraqi officials.

Even so, increasingly hostile rhetoric emerged from Washington, with the Pentagon talking of covert efforts to "destabilize" the Islamic Republic in the hope of igniting a popular uprising.

It is, according to European diplomats and Iranian analysts, a "very crude" approach that could backfire by encouraging rival factions in Iran to close ranks against an external threat, effectively bolstering the very hard-liners in Tehran Washington hopes to undermine.

You cannot detect the Bush administration's policy by watching their lips. You can watch what they do. I am fast approaching a point where I believe that strengthening the Iranian hard-liners (as their current policy will surely do) is no accident. It took 14 months from the axis of evil speech to the invasion of Iraq. A similar timetable would mean they roll out their new product in August 2004.

My cynical friend from Arizona may have been right.
What a tangled web we weave
Read the quotes. Consider the latest drivel from Rumsfeld. If, as Rumsfeld now claims, the WMDs were destroyed before the war then Iraq had obeyed Resolution 1441 which we ostensibly fought to enforce. Even when these people invent a new lie to cover an old lie they cannot get it right. And in any case, once they had conquered Iraq, did these people show any sign of a real fear of WMDs? If they really thought this vast arsenal existed why did they leave nuclear installations untouched and unguarded for weeks?

Link courtesy of This is not a blog.
crosstime blogs
I am reading the excellent blogs by Julius Caesar and Samuel Pepys. I'd always had my suspicions about Caesar. His prose always struck me as too good not to have been written on a word processor. I'm not entirely sure why Caesar is using an inferior translator who thinks the genitive case of Caesar is Caesari not Caesaris. So there.

29 May 2003

Saudi Arabia, Morocco Arrest Attack 'Masterminds'
Wednesday said they had arrested the alleged masterminds of bombings earlier this month that killed 77 people and sparked fresh fears al Qaeda had regrouped for more attacks.

Saudi Arabia said five people wanted in the May 12 bombings of three expatriate housing compounds in Riyadh were arrested in the Muslim holy city of Medina.

"We believe that one of them is a main mastermind of the blasts," a Saudi source told Reuters without giving further details.

The daily Okaz reported the five were arrested at an Internet cafe and the alleged mastermind was a Saudi who was among 19 men wanted by authorities on terrorism charges after a shoot-out with police in the capital this month.

After the Bali bombing (despite the prime minister's brief effort to revive the Howard doctrine of Australia as deputy sheriff) the Indonesian and Australian police launched a conventional criminal investigation. The alleged bombers are now on trial. Apparently the Moroccan and Saudi police are having similar success.

A War on Terror allows lots of photo ops and lots of chances to demonise political opponents. Somehow I get the feeling that conventional police work would give a lot less legroom for political manipulation. Admitting that 11 September was a police, security and intelligence failure would also point the spotlight right back at those responsible for predicting and preventing terrorist attacks.

The Amnesty annual report argues that the War on Terror, by making national security the sole test of any governmental action, has significantly reduced human rights.

Human rights activists continue to face new challenges. The war on Iraq has dominated the international agenda, diverting attention from other vital human rights issues. "Forgotten" conflicts have taken a heavy toll on human rights and human lives ? in C�te d'Ivoire, Colombia, Burundi, Chechnya and Nepal.

"Iraq and Israel and the Occupied Territories are in the news ? Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not, despite the imminent threat of genocide, said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General. "Drawing attention to 'hidden' crises, protecting the rights of the 'forgotten victims' is the biggest challenge we face today."

Governments have spent billions to strengthen national security and the "war on terror". Yet for millions of people, the real sources of insecurity are corruption, repression, discrimination, extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

I wonder why we're conducting a big-W War and not a conventional criminal investigation?
Amnesty International Annual Report
The treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees, and other immigration and border control issues, generated vigorous public debate on human rights. Government statements linked asylum-seekers with criminals, economic opportunists and "terrorists". Former Chief Justice Gerard Brennan commented: "The wretched isolation of the asylum-seekers in Woomera, in Nauru and in Manus Island, has left this country divided, many Australians accepting the necessity for inhuman treatment as the price to be paid for maintaining our immigration policies and our boundaries."

The Australian navy and coast watch continued operations off the coast to monitor and intercept vessels carrying asylum-seekers. A Senate inquiry found evidence, contrary to government claims, that in 2001 an overcrowded boat carrying Middle Eastern asylum-seekers had sunk inside waters patrolled by Australian military and coast watch forces, killing 353 people.

I've made it clear that I think we could maintain our policies and protect our borders without abandoning the national commitment to human rights. Expect lots of exceptionalist spin from the government.

Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have called for a rapid reaction force to be sent to the DR Congo.

The United Nations Observation Mission in Congo (MONUC) with some 700 troops in Bunia has been completely overwhelmed and has been unable to adequately protect civilians and help restore calm to this volatile region. On 12 May, the Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Guehenno warned that "without decisive action there could be a bloodbath in the region." The troop reinforcements from Bangladesh are not due to arrive for a couple of months, which means that MONUC will be unable to respond adequately to events in the short term.

We are aware that intensive efforts are underway internationally to mobilize a rapid reaction force. The UN Security Council is currently discussing the characteristics and mandate of a possible force to be sent by one or more UN member states to the DRC to help calm the fighting and to protect civilians, as requested by the UN Secretary-General. Given the urgency of the situation, we urge you to ensure a rapid reaction force is deployed immediately in Bunia, pending an agreement by the Security Council on the expansion and strengthening of MONUC's mandate, and the respective deployment of its reinforced troops.

It is of utmost importance that any military action should be undertaken with full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law. The rapid reaction force should have a robust mandate to: 1) ensure the maintenance of law and order to protect civilians in Bunia, and to try to locate and protect those civilians who have fled outside the town, progressively establishing a presence beyond Bunia to ensure civilians are protected throughout the region; and 2) to help ensure that humanitarian assistance can reach civilian populations in need.

Australia's breaches, as reported by Four Corners, are grave. The government's exceptionalist claims should not stop us opposing those breaches in our country. That should never stop us paying attention to graver crises in human rights elsewhere in the world.

28 May 2003

weapons of mass deduction
From The Australian:

US bills Australia for Iraq bombs
AUSTRALIA is to be billed several million dollars by the United States for bombs dropped on Iraq.

Weeks after George W. Bush's public thank you to John Howard, the bills are due to arrive ? including the cost of US food eaten by some Diggers.

Australia joined the President's "coalition of the willing" when the US was desperate for international support.

The Australian Defence Force is now being asked to share the costs for its part in toppling Saddam Hussein under the "user-pays" principle of modern warfare.

Australian jet fighters fired a number of US laser-guided bombs ? each worth a five-figure sum.

The F/A-18 Hornets flew 350 combat missions, dropping 122 precision-guided weapons.

I suggest we pay up quickly. A little matter like an alliance obviously makes no difference when it comes to cash. Besides, after Iraq, we don't want to find out what Pentagon debt recovery procedures are like.
Bourbon Republicans
Greg Craven opines today in the Australian Financial Review (subscription only) that various options such as a president elected by the parliament or the people will not happen because no prime minister would ever agree. He gives a replay of the customary ARM arguments from the 1998 convention.

My favourite moment at the convention was ARM Delegate Mary Delahunty leaping to her feet at the convention and imploring the direct election push as follows:

Convince me that a public contest for the votes and affection of the Australian people will not produce a president owing debts. Convince me that it is not only political parties or big corporations with the resources to mount a national campaign for president. Convince me that a jurist with the soul of a poet, a writer with the insights of an angel or just a citizen of independence and skill could compete in the public contest against the might of a media mogul or the tyranny of celebrity.

Delegate Delahunty was standing at the time in front of the ARM front bench, a front bench that starred the richest woman in the country, the anchor of Who wants to be a millionaire?, a lipstick magnate, a former premier of NSW, the wife of a former prime minister, a leading Australian comedian, and a variety of other ARM, well, um, celebrities. But I digress.

The prime minister is an important player in debating the republic but really a fairly minor player beside the main one. The Australian people want an elected non-executive president. What a prime minister is about to agree to is insignificant compared with what the Australian people are willing to vote for. The ARM model died the night of the referendum. The Bourbon republicans should remember that. Right now articles like Greg Craven's tell us only that the Bourbon republicans have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing about a model which the nation as a whole and every state and territory except the ACT rejected.
The governor-general is going, come on the republic
The Sydney Morning Herald has a graphic of selected heads of states, how they're appointed and what they do. Now, I know it's a bit radical for the twenty-first century but I think the people should elect the head of state. The model where the governor-general is elected by an electorate of one is broken, let's fix it.

Before finally deciding this is what I believe I did extensive googling to try and track down how often the elected non-executive president overthrows the prime minister in Iceland and Ireland but damned if the evil swine haven't managed to keep all record of the constant streams of presidential coup and counter-coup in Iceland and Ireland off the Internet.
World's (alleged) largest flower opens in Bonn

Thousands gather to see and smell blue whale of botany.

23 May 2003

The world's biggest-ever bloom opened in Germany yesterday. At more than 2.7 metres tall, the Titan Arum flowering in the University of Bonn Botanical Garden beats the previous record - set 70 years ago - by 7 centimetres.

Now the Gymea Lily across the street from my house must be at least 4 metres if not 5. And it doesn't smell like a cadaver. I think I'm descending into botanical chauvinism.

27 May 2003

here we go again
From the Asia Times:

Pentagon hawks, particularly Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, who have long been closely associated with neo-conservatives outside the administration centered at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), reportedly favor using the heavily armed, Iraq-based Iranian rebel group, the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization, which surrendered to US forces in April, as the core of a possible opposition military force.

They are also pursuing links with the Iranian exile community centered in southern California, which has rallied increasingly around Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah of Iran who was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

According to a recent story in the US Jewish newspaper The Forward, Pahlavi has cultivated senior officials in Israel's Likud government with which the neo-conservatives in Washington - both in the administration and outside it - are closely allied.

Besides charges - considered questionable by the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - that Iran may be sheltering al-Qaeda operatives allegedly involved in the May 12 attacks in Riyadh - the administration has voiced several major concerns about the country's recent behavior.

Let's just hope that the Pentagon remembers planning to take out the garbage this time. Let's also hope that the Pentagon remembers Jefferson's words calling for 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind'.
Sharon on the road
From the Guardian:

But Mr Sharon has offered mixed signals on his commitment to the peace process, which is at present guided by the US-backed road map to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state.

He yesterday told one of his party's parliamentarians that the government would continue to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, even though the first stages of the road map require it to dismantle smaller illegal outposts and to freeze expansion of larger settlements.

"[The road map] certainly allows the unlimited building for your children and grandchildren, and I hope even for your great-grandchildren," he said.

From the Roadmap:

GOI immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).

I'm not sure how freezing all natural growth of settlements is consistent with building for your grandchildren.

It's also necessary to remember the history of the Roadmap. It began as a promise from Bush to Blair. The announcement was postponed again and again, from Arafat agreeing to naming a prime minister, to one being appointed, then being confirmed by the Palestinian parliament and so forth. If Bush is serious he needs to impose the sorts of stringent demands on the Israeli side that he has already imposed on the Palestinians. Step 1 would be asking Sharon to do what the Roadmap demands in relation to the settlements. Ultimately the Israelis have to choose between peace and settlements.
Inquiry into future water supplies for Australia's rural industries and communities

On 26 June 2002, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry asked the Committee to inquire into future water supplies for Australia's rural industries and communities. The Committee invites interested persons and organisations to make submissions addressing the terms of reference. The advertised closing date for the receipt of submissions was 30 August 2002 but the committee will accept late submissions.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee is running an inquiry into water policy. Bloggers should recognise at least one of the submitters, all 2754 kilobytes of him.
Road map 'a long way to nowhere
Palestinians are sceptical of the US and Israel's declared desire for Middle East peace, writes Chris McGreal.

Palestinians are not convinced that George Bush is committed to his own plan for peace, despite the days of choreographed diplomacy that culminated in the vote by Ariel Sharon's cabinet to accept the US-led "road map" to end the Middle East conflict.

The Palestinians are privately more certain than ever that Mr Sharon is also not committed to the plan, but know that the only person who can force his hand is Mr Bush.

In the loosely worded deal hammered out in Washington at the end of last week, the White House promised to "address" Israeli objections to the road map, and Mr Sharon delivered his cabinet's lukewarm "acceptance" of the process without any commitment to its goal of a viable, independent Palestinian state.

The sad truth is that the Israeli and Palestinian governments are unequal partners. The pattern after Oslo was for Israel to impose further conditions unilaterally while simultaneously degrading Palestinian capacity to carry out any conditions. There is nothing so far to indicate that Sharon plans anything different this time or that Bush has any understanding of the reasons previous efforts have failed.

26 May 2003

Request to a year

If the year is meditating a suitable gift,
I should like it to be the attitude
of my great- great- grandmother,
legendary devotee of the arts,

who having eight children
and little opportunity for painting pictures,
sat one day on a high rock
beside a river in Switzerland

and from a difficult distance viewed
her second son, balanced on a small ice flow,drift down the current toward a waterfall
that struck rock bottom eighty feet below,

while her second daughter, impeded,
no doubt, by the petticoats of the day,
stretched out a last-hope alpenstock
(which luckily later caught him on his way).

Nothing, it was evident, could be done;
And with the artist's isolating eye
My great-great-grandmother hastily sketched the scene.
The sketch survives to prove the story by.

Year, if you have no Mother's day present planned,
Reach back and bring me the firmness of her hand.

Judith Wright
Utter Nonsense
There are a couple of memes circulating in the blog world that are utter nonsense: that "the left" coddles dictators and that human rights NGO's show bias about the issues on which they choose to work. I'll address the second one today and the first tomorrow.

A must-read, really.
How the rest of the world sees us
lately I've been paying with Google News Australia. The resignation is their lead story at the moment. I was intrigued and clicked through to their listing of all Hollingworth stories.

The New York Times story is fairly representative.
Queen's Envoy Exits Australian Office Amid Abuse Claims

CANBERRA, Australia, May 25 ? Governor General Peter Hollingworth, who represents Queen Elizabeth II in Australia, resigned today amid allegations over cases of sexual abuse.

Dr. Hollingworth, 68, a former Anglican archbishop of Brisbane, announced his decision after talks today with Prime Minister John Howard, who in 2001 personally recommended that the queen appoint Mr. Hollingworth to the post.

He resigned despite the withdrawal two days ago of a lawsuit filed by a nurse who claimed Dr. Hollingworth had raped her at a church youth camp 40 years ago. The nurse died in April, and the case was dismissed after her family withdrew an application to pursue the claim.

Dr. Hollingworth's resignation as the nominal head of state is not considered a constitutional crisis, but it provides new political ammunition for those seeking to sever Australia's ties to the British monarchy.

Dr. Hollingworth said today that he could not allow the controversy surrounding his office to continue, adding that it was with "deep regret" and "after much thought" that he had advised Mr. Howard that he would step down.

In a statement, Dr. Hollingworth said, "Despite the misplaced and unwarranted allegations made against me, it is clear that continuing public controversy has the potential to undermine and diminish my capacity to uphold the importance, dignity and integrity of the office of governor general."

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said that the queen was aware of the decision and that she would "await the Australian prime minister's recommendations" on a replacement, Reuters reported.

The NYT has done a better job of describing our baroque constitution than most. One phrase turns up again and again on the Google listing. They call Elizabeth II the 'British Queen' or 'UK Queen'. If you Google for "Queen of Australia' you go into a string of monarchist websites and ancient news about the republic referendum. The Queen of Australia (like the divine genius inspiring prime ministerial advice on the governor-general) is a myth we should outgrow.

25 May 2003

Hollingworth steps down
It is with deep regret and after much thought that I have today advised the Prime Minister that I wish to resign from the office of Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

I have asked him to put the necessary arrangements in place to advise Her Majesty the Queen.

Despite the misplaced and unwarranted allegations made against me as governor-general, it is clear that continuing public controversy has the potential to undermine and diminish my capacity to uphold the importance, dignity and integrity of this high office that I have been privileged and proud to occupy.

I cannot allow that to occur.

I have asked the prime minister to call on me tomorrow so that we might discuss transitional arrangements.

I propose to make a more detailed statement to the Australian people later this week.

This model is broken. The Hollingworth appointment has been a disaster. Time for the prime minister to consider whether he can trust himself to do better the second time around. Perhaps appointing the head of state on the decision of the prime minister acting alone needs to be reviewed.
RSS and media
An extraordinary number of Ozploggers show a close familiarity with the Christian Science Monitor. Now you'd expect news sources like Sydney Morning Herald, the Neoconian Australian. You'd expect the BBC and the Guardian.

But the Christian Science Monitor? How many Christian Scientists do we have on this continent? Could the CSM's incredibly useful RSS syndication have anything to do with the rate at which they get quoted? And isn't it time the ABC and other Australian news sources established their own?