14 June 2003

snark of the week
From the Sydney Morning Herald
The insults have been visceral. "Many in the Labor Party await with bated breath for Mark Latham to do more damage to the Liberal Party than he does to the Labor Party and taxi drivers with his pronouncements," said Beazley in Perth on Thursday, a sly reference to the feisty Member for Werriwa's notorious punch-up with a wayward cabby.

I put that back to Latham on my radio show. "The taxi driver was stealing my property and Kim Beazley's trying to steal the Labor leadership off Simon Crean. I'm happy to tackle them both," he shot back. Solidarity forever, comrades.

I guess it's been a really snarky week or...

A snark is a long time in politics.
NGOwatch on Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch, in a report promoting sexual confusion among students in public schools, recommends groups that promote same-sex marriage, and have been associated with NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association).

Click here here to read more on the Human Rights Watch website.

Human Rights Watch promotes "sexual orientation" rights. "Sexual orientation" encompasses numerous behaviors, including illegal activity.

See Appendix here for a list of sexual orientations from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.

Human Rights Watch denounces abstinence programs.

Click here here to read more on the Human Rights Watch website.

Human Rights Watch advocates for gays in the military.

Click here here to read more on the Human Rights Watch website.

Human Rights Watch demands release of some detainees at Camp X-Rayin Guant�namo Bay.

Click here here to read more on the Human Rights Watch website.

Note the alleged link to the DSM actually goes to another rightwing thinktank's critique of the DSM.
yet more regime change
The Asia Times reports:

The AEI and another right-wing group, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, have announced that they are launching a new website (www.NGOWatch.org) to expose the funding, operations and agendas of international NGOs, and particularly their alleged efforts to constrain US freedom of action in international affairs and influence the behavior of corporations abroad.

The organizations are especially alarmed by what they see as the naivete of the Bush administration and corporations that provide NGOs with funding and other support. "In many cases, naive corporate reformers, within corporations and in government, are welcoming them," complained John Entine, an AEI fellow.

To mark the site's launch, AEI, which is funded mainly by major corporations and right-wing foundations, also held an all-day conference called "NGOs: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few" that featured a series of presentations depicting NGOs as a growing and largely unaccountable threat to the Bush administration's foreign-policy goals and free-market capitalism around the world. The conference was co-sponsored by a right-wing Australian think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

I am calling on all like-minded bloggers to attend a conference called 'Ultraright US Thinktanks: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few'.
US meets Taliban
The Asia Times reports:

According to a Pakistani jihadi leader who played a role in setting up the communication, the meeting took place recently between representatives of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Taliban leaders at the Pakistan Air Force base of Samungli, near Quetta.

The source told Asia Times Online that four conditions were put to the Taliban before any form of reconciliation can take place that could potentially lead to them having a role in the Kabul government, whose present authority is in essence limited to the capital:

Mullah Omar must be removed as supreme leader of the Taliban.
All Pakistani, Arab and other foreign fighters currently engaged in operations against international troops in Afghanistan must be thrown out of the country.
Any US or allied soldiers held captive must be released.
Afghans currently living abroad, notably in the United States and England, must be given a part in the government - through being allowed to contest elections - even though many do not even speak their mother tongue, such as Dari or Pashtu.

If true, this is insane. Perhaps regime change in 2 countries at the same time is not as easy as Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz claim after all?

I've been some imagining. Of course I'm a hopeless idealist but what if the great powers had restricted their interventions in the Middle East to cases of international humanitarian intervention? What if Mossadegh had not not been deposed by the CIA? What if the US had not armed Saddam with chemical weapons in order to fight Iran? What if the Soviet Union had not imposed its own guy in Afghanistan?

Given the unhappy record of previous interventions why should we expect Iraq to be any better? What have the war party learned from previous interventions that they are applying in this intervention? So far the only possible answer to the last two questions is nothing and nothing.

The Road to Surfdom and Pandagon blog the same story.
UN push for Mid-East peace

Mr Annan said the introduction of US officials next week to monitor the road map was "a beginning, and it may be enough if the parties are able to break the cycle of violence".

"In the interim, I would like to see an armed peacekeeping force act as a buffer between the Israelis and Palestinians," he said in New York.

Mr Annan disputed the decision by the US and Israel to try to sideline Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat from the peace process, saying he had "not been entirely negative".

The Roadmap is going nowhere. Israel's effort to ensure its own security does no more than incite Palestinian retaliation. The Palestinian government does not have the capacity to provide security. A third party needs to do it.

And (just quietly) wasn't the occupation of Iraq going to guarantee a Middle East peace settlement?
constitutional tunnel vision
We all know the Howard model (if it even makes it to a referendum) will get rejected by the people. The speculation on why Howard is pushing it is fun. Speculating on why labor would support it is sad.

What's sadder is the vacuum the debate is happening in. The states have constitutions. New South Wales sends deadlocked bills to a referendum and empowers the legislative assembly to pass supply without consent of the legislative council. Victoria (roughly) follows the Howard model. Victoria treats supply bills the same way as NSW.

Victoria has also enacted a highly declaratory rule:

Section 16A. The principle of Government mandate
(1) It is the intention of the Parliament that regard should be given to the following principle--

The Council as a House of Review will exercise its powers in recognition of the right and obligation of the current Government to implement--

(a) the Government's specific mandate--the policies, promises and initiatives which were publicly released by or on behalf of the Government during the last election campaign; and
(b) the Government's general mandate--to govern for and on behalf of the people of Victoria.
(2) The principle in sub-section (1) is not to be construed as limiting the powers of the Council, the Assembly or the Parliament.".

Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory have taken the more drastic option of not having a second chamber. Why does federal constitutional debate always happen in a vacuum?
Great moments in science

Well, it's something I always wanted to know.

13 June 2003

Time drags for stoned rats
Cannabis makes rats lose track of time, robbing them of the ability to discriminate between short and long periods.

This may help explain why human users may be less adept at tasks that require sustained concentration.

For some reason it took me forever to blog this story.
snark of the week
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
But it [the Australian government] refused to acknowledge the inevitability of organised carnage, going so far as to mislead the US about Indonesia's intentions. During the Tampa affair, a momentary failure of communication from the military to the Government laid the basis for a sustained and grotesque political abuse of raw intelligence in the children overboard scandal.

The increasing frequency of leaks and unauthorised briefings from the Washington and London intelligence communities are sure signs they know they're being set up. After all, these guys wrote the manual on dirty tricks. That's why the British papers are suddenly full of unnamed MI6 poobahs complaining about interference by Tony Blair's office. And why a lot of CIA guys have been bitching to The Washington Post about the number of times Vice-President Dick Cheney would loom over their shoulders, cracking his knuckles and choking everybody with warm clouds of Old Spice while he rumbled about how much he was looking forward to kicking Saddam's butt.

Wouldn't you massage the raw intel, just a smidge, just to stop the VP massaging your carotid artery with his knuckledusters?

Bear it in mind the next time someone tries to sell you a blurry picture of a secret missile base, or to convince you of a secret plot to smuggle terrorists into the country via leaky fishy boats. Because, you know, international terrorists just love to travel by leaky fishy boat and they always announce their arrival by twirling a few kids in the air over their heads, before tossing them to the fishes.

The intel says so.

The inevitable carnage in Aceh also seems not to be happening or not to require any Australian action.

12 June 2003

Kim goes West
I'm amazed. When the Beasley challenge to labor leader Simon Crean was announced I assumed it would be a cakewalk. A week later I'm shaking my head. Having lost 2 federal elections in a row Kim Beasley chose to run on the one single platform guaranteed to lose him the leadership.

Running on your own charisma would seem poor tactics when you've lost 2 elections. When the said charisma campaign is precisely the way you lost the said elections it seems amazingly poor tactics indeed. When your program was to stand for nothing and compromise on everything it takes amazingly bad political judgment to run for leader on a program of standing for nothing and compromising on everything.

Crean has campaigned on policy and he's done it bravely and effectively. If the labor caucus have a brain between them between them they'll stick with Crean. And that is not something I could have imagined saying a week ago.

From the ABC:
Hamas vowed revenge for Israel's helicopter gunship attack of just over 24 hours ago and it has delivered in swift and brutal terms. The militant Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for a bombing on a crowded Jerusalem bus during peak hour, which has killed at least 17 people and wounded more than 60.

Within an hour, Israel hit back with a missile attack on a car in Gaza City, which killed seven people including two senior Hamas members and wounded dozens of bystanders. Then a short time later Israeli helicopter gunships fired more missiles in Gaza killing at least two more Palestinians.

It's one of the worst eruptions of violence in this three-year Intifada and it comes exactly one week after the peace summit in Aqaba in which the Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to work toward a peace settlement.

The United States President has again condemned the violence and while the Israeli Government has defended its assassination attacks, both the Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and Yasser Arafat are now calling on all Palestinian factions to stop their attacks against Israel.

When the Roadmap was first published and agreed to by the parties I expressed scepticism here and there. I was partly wrong, Sharon has gone much further than I expected, but the Roadmap leads nowhere as long as the Palestinian side does not control its extremes and the Israeli side maintains the assassinations policy and the settlements.

It seems to me that the Palestinian authority does not have (if it ever had) the capacity to control Hamas and the others. Perhaps destroying the Palestinian authority's security infrastructure was not Israel's brightest policy initiative. How that capacity can be increased enough to satisfy Israel's demand for security is really the only question and the Roadmap does not address that effectively. Transatlantic phone calls will not suffice. International boots on the ground might and those who supported the Iraq invasion on failed state grounds should ask themselves about the situation in the Occupied Territories.

How not to manage a colony
The pro-war people never really bothered to understand the anti-war argument, lost in their fantasies of Churchill and Munich, 1938. A less apt analogy could not have been drawn. What many anti-war people argued was not that the US would lose the Main Force war against Iraqi units, but would find the second war, the guerrilla war, impossible to win. That Iraq would seem to provide a victory, but that Iraqi history indicated that an armed opposition was likely to explode at some point. The reason you didn't want to tip over Saddam, is that you didn't want to see what he was sitting on.

Well, now we do, and we're bungling it. What reason have we given an Iraqi to be loyal to us? At the end of the day, why should Iraqis endorse any of our plans for their country? The Iraqi people may well decide that the best role for the US is in leaving their country. That hasn't happened yet. But, at the end of the day, are we going to provide a reason for Iraqi cooperation without a tank on every corner to ensure it?

While DailyKOS is always worth reading, this piece is outstanding.
Rumsfeld rediscovers state sovereignty!
Speaking in Germany:

Rumsfeld said that the world must strengthen organizations that allow nations to cooperate against a threat, "we must take care to not damage the core principle that undergirds the international system - the principle of state sovereignty," he said.

The secretary said he sees respect for the principle of sovereignty eroding. "We see it ? in my view ? in the International Criminal Courts claim of authority to try the citizens of countries that have not consented to ICC jurisdiction," he said. "We see it in the new Belgian law purporting to give Belgian courts 'universal jurisdiction' over alleged war crimes anywhere in the world."

I am now doing intensive research to discover which nations the International Criminal Court has invaded and occupied without the authority of the United Nations.
Howard speeches on WMDs
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Four months ago, on February 4, John Howard made a ministerial statement to Parliament lasting an hour. He began: "My purpose today is to explain why Iraq's defiance of the UN and its possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of a nuclear capability poses a real threat to the stability and security of our world ..."

On March 12, Howard announced, in a national television address: "The Government has decided to commit forces to action to disarm Iraq. We are determined to join other countries to deprive Iraq of its chemical and biological weapons capable of causing death and destruction on a mammoth scale ..."

On March 20, the day of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Howard told Parliament: "We have made a very strong commitment to disarming Iraq. We have done [so] because we believe it is in Australia's long-term national interest. We do worry about the ultimate and fateful coming together of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism."

On April 10, the day Baghdad fell, Howard told reporters: "I've said all along we wouldn't expect to get hard evidence of chemical and biological weapons until well after hostilities ceased. They've been obviously passed around and hidden."

Howard told Parliament on May 14: "Australia did the right thing. We brought freedom and liberty to an oppressed people. That is something about which we should always be properly and eternally proud." And Iraq's supposed chemical and biological weapon stockpiles? Howard, amid a brief reference well down in a 40-minute speech: "The hunt for these weapons will not be easy ..."

After a six-week recess Parliament resumed on May 13 for the budget. Iraq remained all-but ignored. Three weeks of sittings were dominated by the Hollingworth serial and Labor's leadership pantomime. Labor's Harry Jenkins (Vic) told the House a week ago: "There has been an eerie silence on Iraq since this Parliament reconvened - only two speeches [by Howard and Simon Crean]. If you compare this to the lengthy debates [before the invasion] you will see how ironic the silence is."

Labor's Kevin Rudd asked the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, the next day about US and British intelligence failures in the assessment of stockpiled Iraqi chemical and biological weapons, now a major issue in London and Washington. Downer replied, stoically: "[Australian intelligence assessments] remain confident in the judgement that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction materials and capability in the lead-up to the war. Over time - we have to be patient - we will get a comprehensive picture of Saddam Hussein's weapons program."

I am glad the federal opposition could find time to put down one (count it) one question on the issue of WMDs.
Howard on WMDs
From Howard's appearance on the ABC last night:
TONY JONES: This leads us, though, anyway to the rationale for the war on Iraq, for joining it in the first place.

Does it matter if no weapons of mass destruction are found in the end?

JOHN HOWARD: I wouldn't say it doesn't matter.

I wouldn't say that at all.

It's too early to make a judgment.

People should be more patient.

TONY JONES: They should be, but people are asking questions now as to where these weapons are.

If none are found, what are the implications?

JOHN HOWARD: I think, Tony, that question should be asked, and I'd be very happy to answer it if after the elapse of a reasonable amount of time such a conclusion is reached.

But it's too early, there are too many sensitive sites, the international team of 1,300 or 1,400 is only now being assembled.

It is altogether too early for people to say, "There definitely haven't been and won't be any evidence found "that Iraq had a WMD capacity before the war started."

Those are issues that obviously I'll be asked about.

If those things happen, then I'll be --

TONY JONES: When will be the appropriate length of time?

When will we know one way or another?

JOHN HOWARD: Certainly some time from now.

I'm just a poor simple blogger but I could swear I heard John Howard tell parliament that WMDs were a matter of certainty. If we now have to wait 'some time from now' to know about WMDs why the hell did we just fight a war over them?
Accepting responsibility
After the Bay of Pigs disaster when the CIA tried to invade Cuba and failed, President John F. Kennedy took personal responsibility and ordered an independent investigation.

In fact, the incompetent invasion had been planned during the Eisenhower administration, so JFK easily could have blamed the mess on his predecessor.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, Franklin Roosevelt established an investigative commission chaired by Justice Owen D. Roberts, a Republican Supreme Court member who had been the prosecutor for the notorious Teapot Dome scandal.

The War on Terror is not a war. It's a rhetorical device. If a nation at war can survive an independent inquiry into Pearl Harbour in the face of World War II it can probably survive an inquiry into 11 September or the missing WMDs. All 3 coalition nations now face mounting pressure for inquiries.

John Howard raised the beginning of a defence last night - we believed what we were told. George Bush and Tony Blair do not have a similar defence available. It's high time all 3 leaders started accepting responsibility.

10 June 2003

neoliberalism and the executive
The Senate debate is rolling out along not unpredictable lines. The proposal is electorally dead so naturally labor is thinking of supporting it. I think it's interesting that neoliberal governments seem to believe in the centralisation of power in the executive at all costs.

Conservatives advocate checks and balances. Neither Howard nor Bush have ever seen checks and balances as anything but a road bump on the path to the enactment of their program. Certainly they do not recognise that scrutiny and deliberation are likely to improve any proposal.

The classic was the security laws we had to have after 11 September which were then left unused for months.

9 June 2003

Tinker, tailor, spinner, spy
The irony is that the Prime Minister's reluctance to have the truth of all this investigated by an independent inquiry presided over by a judge stretches him on the same sort of rack that he used against Saddam Hussein. In the prologue to the conflict, Ministers asserted, and none more evangelically than Mr Blair himself, that if the Iraqi dictator had nothing to hide, then he would be fully co-operative with the arms inspectors.

That argument is now turned against Mr Blair. If he has genuinely nothing to fear from the truth, then he should be prepared to establish a comprehensive, independent inquiry.

I am surprised by this development. The antiwar majorities disappeared from the polls in Britain and Australia almost as soon as war began. If those majorities now decide that war was based on a lie, that's grim, sad news for Blair and Howard. Howard is already falling back on the predictable defence that he accepted intelligence given to him by the US and UK governments. I am not sure if that argument will run in Australia. It certainly has no traction in Britain.

My guess is that there will be an inquiry and that its findings will have massive impact in Canberra and Washington as well as London. To survive, Blair needs a good explanation for the total absence of a vast arsenal ready to fire in 45 minutes. A couple of contested trailers of mass destruction are no longer enough.
special Queen's Birthday snark of the week
From the London Times:
We cling to the monarchy as an anchor to the past and to the country that we once were as if that was a positive statement in its favour. Yet it is precisely because it is such an anchor that we need to throw it overboard and set ourselves free. Until we rid ourselves of the feudal mania which fixates on the banal preoccupations of an ordinary 18-year-old boy, who happens to have been born into the Royal Family, we will forever remain the class-ridden, class-anchored, class-obsessed society we have too long been.

In all truth I doubt abolishing the monarchy would achieve much of the author's object. The media would just grow a cinematic mania for Hollywood types.
I did not have sexual relations with that intelligence
All right, no-one's actually said it yet, but I'm sure it's coming.
Is Blair lying?
What both men forget, or ignore, is that we live in an age of asymmetric media. The BBC reaches the most educated Americans, the full range of British newspapers from the Sun to the Guardian are now daily reading for Americans. Americans can gain the same understanding of British politics available to Britons and vice versa. The internet has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. So Blair's Question Time is news in the US as it happens. A US Congressional Committee's actions are reported in real time to the UK. Allegations in British newspapers are no longer reported second hand, but read and discussed daily. It takes no more effort to quote from the Guardian than the New York Times and live broadcasts of BBC4 are a browser away.

If the prewar WMD intelligence is shown to have been negligent or dishonest, asymmetric media will cause a few earthquakes in Canberra as well. It's well-known that both US and UK intelligence are leaking an avalanche at the expense of Bush and Blair. The one factor that the DailyKOS does not include is that I would guess the odd French or German intelligence document might well find its way to a backbencher or two in the house of commons.
The Australian Parliament: Time For Reformation
Leaving aside the question of the functions of parliament, and proceeding to the second question: What is wrong with parliament that it needs reform? The implicit answer of the orthodox reformers is that it puts too many difficulties in the way of governments governing, too many limitations on the power of governments to do what they like between elections. This naturally leads to a further question: Why should governments have absolute power between elections? What advantage would we gain by removing parliamentary limitations on government power? Usually the orthodox reformers have no answer. If pressed, they say it is because the country must have certain legislation. Currently it appears that we must have certain media ownership legislation, which is self-evidently good for us. How we are to know that it is good for us without thorough examination through parliamentary processes is not explained. The claim is also made that we must be economically efficient, and we will regress economically if the government does not have unfettered power to do what is economically good for us. The same people, however, tell us that at present, under the current parliamentary system, the economy is doing wonderfully well. Perhaps we could have an even more efficient economy if the government were all-powerful. If asked for an example of an efficient economy, these people usually cite the United States, the country which has the most rigorous institutional and political constraints on the power of the government.

In any event, the argument that powerful government equals economic efficiency has been blown out of the water. The American academic Arend Lijphart conducted a detailed study of stable modern democracies, rating them according to whether they have more majoritarian systems (in which one party wins power with few limitations) or proportional or consensual systems (in which parties are compelled to share power and compromise). He found that, on a range of economic and social indicators, including economic growth, inflation and employment, the proportional/consensual systems clearly outperformed the majoritarian systems. This finding has been supported by a recent comparison of Australia's economic performance with that of the Netherlands, Lijphart's most proportional/consensual country..4 In spite of their only argument having been decisively refuted, the proponents of orthodox "reform" press on. Every so-called reform of parliament turns into a proposal to reduce it to a rubber stamp. We have been provided with a perfect example in recent days. A proposal to change the parliamentary term to four years was floated, probably initially to fill in time between afternoon tea and the cocktails at a party conference. This change is said to be self-evidently necessary for economic efficiency. We were not given time to consider whether, if politicians now are short-term thinkers, incorrigible pursuers of quick political advantage and pork-barrellers, adding a possible extra year to their term would turn them into statespersons and great forward planners. The proposal immediately developed into schemes to nobble the Senate entirely, to allow the government, under various guises, such as joint sittings, to pass any legislation it liked and, as a necessary by-product, to avoid any parliamentary accountability. If these schemes appeared too drastic, perhaps we would buy the old chestnut of 'stopping the Senate blocking supply'. As this usually involves allowing the government to call anything 'supply', the effect would be the same.

Australian government is about modified majoritarianism. By its nature, a federal government always commands a majority in the House. Any bill supported by both government and opposition always passes the Senate. All Howard's reform would really do is lock the opposition out of the process, so naturally the hereditary political geniuses in the federal parliamentary opposition are tempted to support this.

8 June 2003

Empire of lies
From the Washington Post:

The latest vogue in Washington is the proposition that it really doesn't matter whether Saddam Hussein maintained an arsenal of unconventional weapons in recent years. American troops may not have uncovered any evidence of the weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration was warning about, the argument goes. But they have found plenty of proof that Iraq suffered under a brutal dictator who slaughtered thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands of his own people, and that is reason enough to justify the invasion. We disagree. We are as pleased as anyone to see Saddam Hussein removed from power, but the United States cannot now simply erase from the record the Bush administration's dire warnings about the Iraqi weapons threat. The good word of the United States is too central to America's leadership abroad ? and to President Bush's dubious doctrine of pre-emptive warfare ? to be treated so cavalierly.

Like most Americans, we believed the government's repeated warnings that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction threatened the security of the world. The urgent need to disarm Saddam Hussein was the primary reason invoked for going to war in March rather than waiting to see if weapons inspectors could bring Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs under control.

It would still be premature to conclude that Iraq abandoned its efforts to manufacture and stockpile unconventional arms after the first Persian Gulf war in 1991. But after weeks of futile searching by American teams, it seems clear that Iraq was not bristling with horrific arms and that chemical and biological weapons were not readily available to frontline Iraqi forces.

Like most Australians, I shared the expectation of most Americans that WMDs would be found. I thought the war was wrong, for various reasons, but I am astonished that there is no sign of the vast arsenal ready to go on 45 minutes' notice. Even if the outcome for the Iraqi people is desirable that does not excuse those leaders who appear to have shown either duplicity or incompetence in dealing with intelligence issues.

The US is not popular in the world and that popularity is falling dramatically as a direct result of this war. Before we listen too gently to those voices who claim what the hell, we did over an evil tyrant we should ask them about the Congo, about Burma, about Aceh. Without the WMDs what distinguishes those places from Iraq and if liberation is a good and sufficient cause to go to war when will the coalitions of the willing assemble?

Worse than that, the US armed forces are already dramatically over-stretched. We now know that US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld deliberately reduced boots on the ground to prove a point. We now know that prewar estimates of a 250 000 troops to maintain the occupation were not, as the war party claimed at the time, exaggerated.

In his rage and impatience for an easy solution George Bush told the US Congress that the US is not subject to the decisions of others. Because of the over-stretch the US needs allies to maintain the occupation. Those who would promote lying as an act of state should think long and hard. The lies make it difficult to persuade allies to contribute troops. And the lies make it difficult for the Iraqi people to believe anything the coalition tells them. Lying costs.
Howard on Senate deform
And not surprisingly when you look back through the history of constitutional examination you find some nuggets and I found a nugget back in 1959, it was a joint parliamentary committee on constitutional reform and it has impeccable bipartisan credentials. One member of it was the then Member for Werriwa, Edward Gough Whitlam, and the other was Sir Alec, or later to become Sir Alec Downer, that well known South Australian Liberal, the father of our present Foreign Minister, a former Minister in the Menzies Government and former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. And what that committee essentially recommended was that the Constitution should be altered by referendum to provide that if legislation were rejected on a number of occasions by the Senate in the way described in section 57 now there could be a joint sitting of the two houses called without the necessity to hold a double disillusion. And that if the legislation were passed that joint sitting then it would become law. I think that could offer some years into the future a way of providing a more modern and contemporary and workable method of resolving differences between the two Houses. And it is the Government's intention to prepare and issue for public debate a discussion paper on such a proposal, we have not made a decision as yet to commit ourselves to the holding of a referendum, at this stage we have made decision to commit ourselves to the issuing of a discussion paper and the initiation through it of public debate. We have to find a way which is moderate and non-threatening and which respects the desire of the Australian people often to differentiate their vote between the House of Representatives and the Senate to resolve the deadlocks that we are facing. The proposition that every time a bill that is important to a government that in our case has been elected on three consecutive occasions, the proposition that the only way you, for years into the future, are going to solve that dilemma is by going to the expense of having often a premature double disillusion of Parliament, is I think increasingly unacceptable in the modern Australia in which we now operate. I know that constitutional referendums are notoriously difficult to get passed, we tried to break the nexus between the size of the House of Representatives in the Senate back in 1967, and that was overwhelmingly defeated, even though it had the support of both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, and we all know the history of more recent constitutional referendums.

But that doesn't absolve me or the Government of the responsibility of trying to find a way around this challenge. Conditions could exist for a double disillusion of the Parliament, in fact technically they exist now, although let me repeat my view that the current parliament ought, absence special circumstances, run its full term. No Prime Minister responsibly forswears his right to call an election if the circumstances are required, but I have the strongest possible view that the Australian people rightly visit electoral judgement on prime ministers and premiers who go expeditiously on an earlier occasion than they might to the polls without a proper reason based on public policy. But double disillusions in the present circumstances would not produce as good an outcome in the Senate for us as would a half Senate held at the normal time towards the end of next year. And they are all the circumstances that I have to take into account. So I take this opportunity my friends of saying to you very frankly that we do need to look at whether the time has come to alter the deadlock provisions of the constitution. And if after that process of three months consultation we thought there was a reasonable prospect of community support the likelihood is that the Government would seek to run the referendum in conjunction with the next general election, whenever that occurs. Now let me repeat this is not a radical proposal. It is a moderate, practical, sensible, long ago thought of idea to resolve what in some circumstances is a legislative nut without the necessity of the constitutional hammer of an expensive and of course inappropriate double disillusion.

This is a radical proposal which would enable the executive to pass any laws it wished. It will be defeated at referendum.

Just to feed my pretensions to run a blog of record, Section 57 of the Constitution reads:

Disagreement between the Houses.
57. If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.

If after such dissolution the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law, with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.

The members present at the joint sitting may deliberate and shall vote together upon the proposed law as last proposed by the House of Representatives, and upon amendments, if any, which have been made therein by one House and not agreed to by the other, and any such amendments which are affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be taken to have been carried, and if the proposed law, with the amendments, if any, so carried is affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, it shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of the Parliament, and shall be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent.
Downsizing in disguise
The streets of Baghdad are a swamp of crime and uncollected garbage. Battered local businesses are going bankrupt, unable to compete with cheap imports. Unemployment is soaring and thousands of laid-off state workers are protesting in the streets.

In other words, Iraq looks like every other country that has undergone rapid-fire "structural adjustments" prescribed by Washington, from Russia's infamous "shock therapy" in the early 1990s to Argentina's disastrous "surgery without anesthetic." Except that Iraq's "reconstruction" makes those wrenching reforms look like spa treatments.

Paul Bremer, the US-appointed governor of Iraq, has already proved something of a flop in the democracy department in his few weeks there, nixing plans for Iraqis to select their own interim government in favor of his own handpicked team of advisers. But Bremer has proved to have something of a gift when it comes to rolling out the red carpet for US multinationals.

This is really not surprising. The Argentines have done almost everything demanded of them under the Washington consensus and their economy is a shambles. The Iraqis, of course, have no choice about accepting the Washington consensus. It's ironic that the Bush administration are happily telling the world that big-F freedom now prevails in Iraq and then wondering why so much of the world regards American-style freedom as a dubious proposition.
Aristotle on Blogs
All the same, as we have said, the causes and principles which they describe are capable of application to the remoter class of websites (topoi tou histou) as well, and indeed are better fitted to these. But as to how there are to be updates, if all that is premissed is the Linked and the Unlinked, and Present and Past, they do not even hint; nor how, without updates and change, there can be generation and destruction, or the activities of the links which traverse the web. And further, assuming that it be granted to them or proved by them that blogs (blogoi) are composed of these factors, yet how is it to be explained that some are lesser, and others greater? For in their premisses and statements they are speaking just as much about virtual as about mathematical objects; and this is why they have made no mention of markups (anasemeia) or links or other similar phenomena, because, I presume, they have no separate explanation of virtual things.

Further confirmation of my theory of the antiquity of blogging.