5 September 2003

Christian Science Monitor | Australia scrutinizes influence of nongovernmental groups:
Earlier this year, Prime Minister John Howard offered to investigate all aid agencies working in Indonesia using Australian government funding, following complaints by President Megawati Sukarnoputri. And in a move that critics see as politically motivated, his government has hired a conservative think tank to investigate NGO influence on some government agencies.

'NGOs are becoming very influential today - they sit on various committees and are seen to influence governments and big business. As global players they need to be more transparent,' says Mike Nahan, executive director of the IPA.

IPA is not the only group scrutinizing NGOs. In June, IPA joined with two organizations in the United States - the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), known to be close to the Bush administration, and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies - to launch NGOWatch. The site will monitor the operations of international NGOs and their relations with corporations and government.

The cyber watchdog is being set up at a time when NGOs are gaining credibility on the world stage for attempting to reform world markets and politics to make them more humane. A study released by the United Nations and SustainAbility, a consulting firm, concludes the groups such as Oxfam International, Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund have become more receptive to market-based solutions to global problems - and in turn, corporations are more keen to work with NGOs.

Let's see. Howard has hired an NGO. They were given the contract, without any competitive bidding, to investigate other NGOs. Howard is doing this at the request of the Indonesian government. And the goal is transparency.

The Asia Times reported on 14 June 2003:

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.

Perhaps the IPA, which has sponsored previous conferences on the 'NGO problem' might begin its transparency campaign by declining the contract until it is subject to an open tendering process.

Le Monde | La proposition am�ricaine ne r�pond pas aux attentes de la France:
Le pr�sident de la R�publique et le chef de la diplomatie fran�aise s'�taient prononc�s la semaine derni�re pour un changement radical de la strat�gie am�ricaine en Irak. 'Le transfert du pouvoir et de la souverainet� aux Irakiens eux m�mes constitue la seule option r�aliste. Il doit �tre mis en oeuvre sans d�lai dans le cadre d'un processus auquel les Nations unies seules sont en mesure de donner toute sa l�gitimit�', avait ainsi d�clar� Jacques Chirac vendredi, lors de la r�union annuelle des ambassadeurs de France � Paris. Paris souhaitait en substance que la fin de l'occupation am�ricano-britannique de l'Irak soit clairement signifi�e et la responsabilit� clairement transf�r�e aux Nations unies et aux Irakiens. Il fallait, disait-on mercredi encore � l'Elys�e, 'br�ler les �tapes', sortir de la phase transitoire actuelle de l'occupation et passer tout de suite � la phase suivante, celle de la souverainet� irakienne, moyennant un calendrier serr� de transfert des responsabilit�s.

The president of the Republic and chief of French diplomacy called last week for a radical change of American strategy in Iraq. 'The transfer of power and of sovereignty to the Iraqis themselves constitutes the only realistic option. It must be begun without delay on the basis of a process to which the United Nations alone is in position to give all its legitimacy', said Jacques Chirac Friday, outside the annual meeting of French ambassadors at Paris. Paris demands in substance that the end of the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq be signalled clealry and the responsibility transferred clearly to the United Nations and to the Iraqis. We must, he said Wednesday at the Elys�e, 'br�ler les �tapes', to end the present transitional stage of the occupation and move quickly to the following stage, that of Iraqi sovereignty, by way of a timeline for the transfer of responsibilities.

The US draft resolution was always dead on arrival. It follows that the White House is merely manouevring for domestic consumption rather than engaging in serious diplomacy. Look forward to further examples of high policy such as renaming even more dishes.

4 September 2003

The Fat - Slammin' Sam:
Don't get me wrong, sex should be fun, as long as you get a result. If you're gay, old, infertile or ugly, you're a drain on society and should be spayed, eunuch style, and spend your life serving those more equipped to ensure our future.

If Tasmanian Tiger's took more interest in their survival and less in designer clothes and dance music, they would still be around today. But they ponced themselves to extinction when they had every chance to become the dominant life form on the Apple Isle - if Reggie is any indication it wouldn't take much.

Survival of the Species is paramount and its time we did it for our country so that we can put our own species at twenty metre intervals around the coastline to take pot shots at boat people.

Decent heterosexual people, like myself and Shane Warne, with huge procreation prowess should be venerated. We should be presented with young, ripe mother stock and let loose.

I'm ready to root for Australia, it's the only decent thing to do.

You Know It Makes Sense.

Gay partner of WWII veteran entitled to widows pension: UN

'I started this action because of discrimination before the law, and I firmly believe that anyone who lives in Australia or is an Australian must be treated with equality before the law, no matter what their sexual orientation is,' he said.

Mr Young says while he feels vindicated by the committee finding, the fight is not yet over.

'When the Government eventually changes the discrimination against same-sex couples, that will be the ultimate point,' he said.

The Australian Government has been given 90 days to respond to the decision.

Legal academic Wayne Morgan, who was a consultant on the case, says the significance of the UN decision can not be underestimated.

'Globally, it is the most significant statement that a UN body has ever made about the equality rights of same-sex couples, and in that respect it will have effects all around the world,' he said.

'For us here at home it's even more important because federal law contains a number of definitions very similar to the definition which the [UN] Human Rights Committee has ruled invalid under this decision.'

A spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs Minister Danna Vale says the Government is considering the committee's finding and will respond in due course.

Tasmanian gay rights advocates have welcomed the ruling.

The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group's Rodney Croome hopes the finding will prompt the Federal Government to act.

'The Prime Minister keeps telling us that we should support the loved ones of service personnel who are serving overseas, and if he's sincere about that then he will sit down with the man who's taken this case, and his lawyers, to discuss what can be done to ensure the memory of one of Australia's service personnel isn't treated with contempt,' he said.

Here is a very simple issue for Prime Minister John Howard, whose enthusiasm for supporting the troops is such a trademark. I hope he did not mean just the heterosexual troops.

Bourbon diplomacy

The US draft resolution is now available. It changes nothing and makes no concessions to international opinion. If you compare it with the East Timor resolution you can see the difference between what is needed and what the Bush administration is proposing.

All the draft speaks about is a vital role for the UN, already covered by Resolution 1483.

There's also the minor problem that the Bush administration has a record of ignoring UN authority at will so there is a special need for any new resolution to speak in clear and unequivocal terms. After all, when the US and UK were advocating Resolution 1441 they gave undertakings there would be no military action without a further resolution.

Talk about learning nothing and forgetting nothing.

Link to new draft courtesy of Whiskey Bar

ABC 7.30 Report | Interview on Abu Bakar Basjir trial:
KERRY O'BRIEN: If what we read in 'Time' magazine a year ago is correct, then Al Qaeda operative, Omar al-Faruq, would also have been able to give evidence linking Abu Bakar Bashir to JI's terrorist agenda.

He's been an American captive since May last year.

Are you aware of any attempt to make him available to Indonesia's prosecutors?

ZACHARY ABUZA: The Indonesian prosecutors made a written request to the US Embassy in Jakarta and were rebuffed.

I think this was a terrible mistake on the part of the Americans.

It really goes back to what is happening in Virginia in a federal court with the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.

Moussaoui requested the video testimony of the right to question two very senior Al Qaeda operatives, Ramzi ben al-Shaiba and Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

The Government has tried to keep these people from Moussaoui, from appearing in court.

A Federal Court has ruled against the Government and ordered them to allow Moussaoui to question these Al Qaeda suspects and for that reason the Government's probably going to drop the charges against Moussaoui and move him to a military tribunal.

But very clearly the US Government did not want to set any precedent in which a senior Al Qaeda leader in their possession could be made to appear before a court anywhere in the world, let alone an American one or Indonesian one.

Jemaah Islamiyah is the main terrorist organisation, and al-Qa'ida's main ally, in Southeast Asia. Basjir should have been convicted of leading JI. He might have been but for the Bush administration's bizarre approach to the trial of those charged with crimes against humanity.

Amanda Griscom: Bill Moyers Speaks his Mind on Bush-brand Environmental Destruction and More:
Grist: Can you elaborate on their religious and political dogma?

Moyers: They are practically the same. Their god is the market -- every human problem, every human need, will be solved by the market. Their dogma is the literal reading of the creation story in Genesis where humans are to have 'dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing ...' The administration has married that conservative dogma of the religious right to the corporate ethos of profits at any price. And the result is the politics of exploitation with a religious impulse.

Meanwhile, over a billion people have no safe drinking water. We're dumping 500 million tons of hazardous waste into the Earth every year. In the last hundred years alone we've lost over 2 billion hectares of forest, our fisheries are collapsing, our coral reefs are dying because of human activity. These are facts. So what are the administration and Congress doing? They're attacking the cornerstones of environmental law: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act]. They are allowing l7,000 power plants to create more pollution. They are opening public lands to exploitation. They're even trying to conceal threats to public health: Just look at the stories this past week about how the White House pressured the EPA not to tell the public about the toxic materials that were released by the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.

Grist: I'm interested in your explanation of why -- I haven't heard this dogma-based argument before. More often, critics interpret the White House environmental agenda as political pragmatism, as simply an effort to stay in power and pay back corporate contributors.

Moyers: This is stealth war on the environment in the name of ideology. But you're right -- there is a very powerful political process at work here, too. It's payback time for their rich donors. In the 2000 elections, the Republicans outspent the Democrats by $200 million. Bush and Cheney -- who, needless to say, are oilmen who made their fortunes in the energy business -- received over $44 million from the oil, gas, and energy industries. It spills over into Congress too: In the 2002 congressional elections, Republican candidates received almost $15 million from the energy industries, while the Democrats got around $3.7 million. In our democracy, voters can vote but donors decide.

I think this is interesting because it highlights the differences between Howard and Bush. The religious right is insignificant in Australia and if you asked Howard about Genesis he'd probably talk about the band. Despite that, Howard's tactics are almost identical - as with lowering the Medicare rebate in real terms and then expressing surprise when the rate of bulk-billing declines or using the Tampa incident to convince us that refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq were representatives of the regimes they were fleeing.

And apparently the survival of the species matters when the subject is gay marriage but not when the subject is global warming. At least Howard was clever enough to keep us out of a long-term role in the Iraq disaster.

NEO Information Centre Latest News:
The new data have enabled astronomers to refine the orbit of asteroid 2003 QQ47, and so rule out 13 of the 31 potential impacts originally listed on the JPL Current Impact Risk table. Among those 'virtual orbits' to be ruled out was the one for 21 March 2014, which gave the asteroid its Torino 1 rating.

The 18 remaining potential impacts are all rated at zero on the Torino scale and are therefore classed as 'events with no likely consequences'. Once again, the only remaining Torino 1 rated asteroid on the JPL Current Impact Risk table is asteroid 1997 XR2, with 2 potential impacts in June 2101. However, as with 2003 QQ47, the probability of 1997 XR2 impacting Earth is highly unlikely. Estimates suggest this smaller asteroid would impart just one thousandth of the energy that 2003 QQ47 was capable of delivering.

Given how swiftly 2003 QQ47 has been downgraded from a Torino 1, some may question whether the NEO Information Centre should have posted the information about 2003 QQ47 on the website in the first place. However we hope by keeping the public and media informed of this kind of issue, as it is unfolding rather than after the fact, we can promote understanding of the process of asteroid detection, tracking and risk assessment.

Well, we can all breathe easy again. Although George Bush's shift from his Top Gun role to Captain Kirk would have been fun...

3 September 2003

Salon.com | Why Dean and Franken are so hot right now:
It's not just his harebrained ideological nostrums for how to reorder America and the world. They hate him and it's personal. They hate his frat-boy smirk, his phony fly-boy act, his cringe-inducing mangling of the language, his born-again sanctimony, even his Texas twang and his godforsaken, tumbleweed ranch where only someone as fence-post-dumb as W. would hole up in August. They hate him like their lives depended on it, lives that will certainly be unbearable if this bumbling extremist is reelected (or elected) in 2004.

Definitely a snark of the week...

Midday | Badr Brigade declares war on al-Qaeda:
Kufah: In the aftermath of Ayatullah Hakim's assassination, the US coalition forces found an unlikely ally in the militant Badr Brigade that declared a war on al-Qaeda yesterday, when the whole of Iraq observed tashiyyee (post-funeral rites) for the slain Shiite leader.

Hakim, along with 82 other people, was killed in a blast soon after the Friday prayers outside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf. The blast is widely believed to be the handiwork of al-Qaeda operatives who disapproved of Hakim's collaboration with US forces in Iraq.

The one-lakh-strong [100 000] suicide squads of the Badr Brigade formed by Hakim in his lifetime for uprising against Saddam's regime had come out on the streets of Najaf, flaunting Kalashnikovs and placards bearing photographs of their dead leader.

'It's a death rattle for al-Qaeda and their friends. We will chase the killers of Hakim until our last breath and avenge his killing,' said a Shaikh who was leading the gun-wielding men on the streets.

In fact, when Sayed Ammar Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the nephew of Ayatullah Hakim came out to pacify the crowd, the huge mob broke into one chant, 'Intaqaam, intaqaam, ya Ammar (Revenge, revenge we don't want to be shamed).' Ammar was overwhelmed seeing the crowd and broke into tears. Ammar asked the crowd to calm down and told them, 'We are used to death. We don't fear death. Rather this death has proved our love for Iraq more than ever.

Bremer's 100 days have come and gone. Security in Iraq is nil. Basic services have not been restored. The occupation is running out of money. The missing WMDs (remember those?) remain missing. And now the country is fast drifting into civil war. About the only bungle that the Bush administration has not yet managed is inviting the Iraqis to eat cake.

EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Weak States Often Follow Strategies of Deception:
A recent comment made by the now-deceased British weapons expert, David Kelly, exemplifies a political tactic often followed by weak states in order to remain secure from outside threats: hyping or obfuscating their defense capabilities in an attempt to dissuade potential aggressors from attack or invasion. This strategy of manufactured uncertainty may have been recently employed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq, in which the deposed leader remained cryptic regarding the possibility of his country possessing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

David Broucher, a British representative to the United Nations conference on disarmament, testified that in February Kelly told him that his Iraqi contacts feared that if they were to allow full inspections, the United States would become too informed about Baghdad's defense capabilities and therefore Iraq would be more vulnerable to attack. This fear highlights the difficulty that governments find themselves in when they are labeled as a threat by one of the world's only great powers, the United States. In such instances, Washington demands that such states reveal their entire defense capabilities. When states refuse, they are often subjected to harsh United Nations sanctions that can cripple their country's infrastructure and economy. Such states find themselves in a perilous situation, one where their failure to disclose their military potential could either increase or decrease the chances of an attack by the United States.

In the case of Iraq, Saddam Hussein opted against full disclosure and instead remained ambiguous about his possible retaliatory capabilities. Washington called his bluff and effectively removed the leader from power. Despite this success, other states that have earned the negative attention of Washington are also following Saddam's strategy of deception and are attempting to hype or obfuscate their defense capabilities. These states have learned that the more powerful a state is, the less likely an aggressor will attack it. North Korea is the clearest example of a country following this doctrine.

Once the Bush administration began to harshly denounce North Korea, even threatening preemptive action, Pyongyang began to hype its defense capabilities. Indeed, Pyongyang told the Bush administration that it was actively pursuing nuclear weapons despite previous claims to the contrary. The North then backed out of international nuclear agreements and began to take measures toward developing nuclear arms. Occasional anonymous North Korean officials made statements claiming that the North already had nuclear weapons. In effect, North Korea quickly clouded its nuclear program in secrecy as to confuse potential aggressors about its military prowess. It is likely that during this time of secrecy Pyongyang is indeed attempting to develop nuclear arms in order to increase the costs that are associated with attacking a nuclear-armed and military-ready state.

And weak-minded governments often get taken in by these efforts...

Christian Science Monitor | Latest Iraq threat: cash crunch:
The future offers no immediate fiscal relief for the coalition. Iraq's budget for 2004, according an internal document provided by an official in the Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA], 'has inadequate funds for security, electrical, water, sewage, irrigation, housing, education, health, [and] agriculture.' For many middle and working-class Iraqis, basic services like electricity, safe highways, and a living wage have disappeared. In frustration, many Iraqis say, some of those struggling people are joining the resistance movements.

Tuesday, as Shiites buried their assassinated senior cleric in Najaf, a bomb went off at the Baghdad police headquarters, in an apparent attempt to assassinate the police chief. One Iraqi police officer was killed; 15 others were wounded.

The bloodshed, including bombings at the UN headquarters and the Jordanian embassy here last month, are keeping investors and even small businesses away. 'If you cannot get money to fix security, electricity, and infrastructure problems, that will prevent small businesses from wanting to come here to start up, and it keeps foreign investment out,' the CPA official explains. 'How can I run a business if I don't have a guarantee of security?'

Already, the terrorism that Washington once accused Iraq of supporting abroad is now plaguing Iraq at home - and grounding what the Bush administration thought would be a solid take-off for the postwar economy.

Now, the UN, nongovernmental organizations, and other major groups like the Red Cross are scaling back their operations in Iraq after the bombing of the UN headquarters, representing a withdrawal of foreign cash and demand for services that would have been pumped into Iraq.

With several tens of billions of dollars more needed, according to Bremer, the US will need its allies to help foot the bill. A donor conference, to that end, will be held near the end of October. But it is already proving difficult to get countries to foot the reconstruction bill for a war that many of them opposed outright.

The cakewalk has not happened. The Iraq adventure is not going to pay for itself. Is there a single neocon prediction about this war that has proved true? Floating Baby Moses has an excellent piece on why this is so.

Asia Times | Ayatollah's killing: Winners and losers
After Baghdad fell without a fight on April 9, scores of Ba'ath Party cadres took refuge in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Morocco and Mauritania. The Ba'ath Party has operated cells in these countries since 1968. The idea - brilliant in itself - was to have these cadres rally the Arab masses in these countries to join a jihad against the superpower which dared to occupy sacred Arab land. The masses may not be responding yet - but certainly professional jihadis already have. With the Najaf bombing, the "Saddam network" has scored another big hit: it has managed in one stroke to simultaneously divide the Shi'ites (62 percent of the Iraqi population) and hurl hundreds of thousands of them into the streets chanting anti-US slogans. Ayatollah al-Hakim's brother is a member of the American-imposed interim governing council, which has absolutely no power and is considered a sham by the majority of Iraqis. Al-Hakim's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has been vilified by other Shi'ite factions because it is - at least for the moment - against armed resistance. And many Shi'ites also remember very well that SCIRI backed Iran in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

As Asia Times Online has reported, holy Najaf is at the dead center of what happens next in Iraq. Immediately after the fall of Baghdad, first the imam at Ali's Shrine, Dr Haider Alkelydar, and then Shi'ite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, who returned from exile in London, were assassinated. As chaos takes over, Shi'ites are increasingly in favor of armed resistance against the Americans. But the top de facto religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, does not want to get drawn into any political wrestling match: he is still adopting a "wait and see" attitude. The one character who has everything to gain from al-Hakim's murder is young Moqtada al-Sadr, extremely respected because he is the son of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr. Moqtada al-Sadr favors armed struggle - right now - and that's exactly why he would be a useful ally to both the "Saddam network" and the jihadis. Their objective is total confrontation with the Americans - with no space for appeasers like the UN's Vieira de Mello or SCIRI's al-Hakim.

European diplomats are very cynical about the possibility of the neo-conservatives controlling the Bush administration swallowing their pride and turning to the UN for help. Even the UN is facing a no-win situation, and the diplomats in New York and Geneva know it. In the unlikely event blue helmets were deployed in Iraq, it's practically certain they would be regarded by most of the population as the tail end of the US occupying serpent. Especially if Washington insists on not relinquishing one inch of control of the whole, disastrous operation. So this is the gift of Washington's neo-conservatives to the world: instead of a democratic Iraq, a putrid state infected by a guerrilla virus and on the verge of a devastating civil and ethnic war.

After the UN and Najaf bombings it's hard to see why any Iraqi would co-operate with the US. The occupation is legally responsible for security in Iraq. The latest Bush spin, that the evil Saddam tricked them into fighting a war, tells us more about neocon intellectual poverty than anything else.

Comments go phut

Sorry if your comments have evaporated. I've shifted to Blogspeak. Blame Vivienne at Forceful and Moderate.

2 September 2003

South Knox Bubba | Stop me if you've heard this one
And, furthermore: It was reported today that at a White House staff meeting last week there was a heated discussion about the health of Vice President Cheney and his angina problem. President Bush interrupted and stated emphatically that men do not have anginas. The president was especially perplexed when a staffer said that Cheney has acute angina.
Why Voters Left the [US] Dems in 1994- by Nathan Newman:
But the other part of the story is why poorer voters not interested in the Christian Right agenda did not turn-out and why even religious voters were more interested in voting on cultural issues than on their economic self-interest. The answer is that Clinton's failure to deliver on health care and a real improvement in the economy for such lower-paid workers disillusioned them. The Democrats demonstrated how limited their party is in delivering benefits to working Americans, so they saw little difference in the parties and voted on cultural divisions rather than
economic divisions.

Interestingly, richer Americans decided the same thing and many more upper-middle class Americans decided the same thing and voted more Democratic than they had under Reagan--probably inspired by opposition to the religious conservatives.

Without a strong economic message for working Americans, voters turn to cultural issues to define their politics. And in an economy that is destroying the standard of living of most Americans, cultural politics becomes more and more racist and xenophobic.

If the Democrats or any progressive party is to have a chance of regaining the allegiance of the population, we need to develop a credible economic message that addresses the needs of working and poor Americans. Otherwise, we seemed doomed to a conservative and increasingly xenophobic politics.

It's a truism that you can't translate research between countries without a few caveats. Australia really has no religious right of significance. The US has not experienced the Hanson phenomenon which allows marginalised voters to vote their cultural message while yelling: 'A plague on both your houses'. Nevertheless, there is a serious message for Labor. Their economic message is just not strong enough for them to be able withstand Hansonism.

The really interesting question is why Labor holds every state and territory government. Partly it's because state politics are inherently economic and lack the cultural issues like Tampa or terrorism. If it's also because Labor is doing better on economics at the state level than the federal party needs to rethink what it's about.

Sleepless in Baghdad:
Words will never describe the relief. We chased around after the looters before I hitched a ride back to the city to file a story. The others went off in different directions, with Burns at one stage getting ahead of the US advance. When he came across a well-armed, menacing group of young men, he opted for the language of the morning. 'Bush good?' he asked. But they snarled back: 'Bush down shoes! America down shoes!' As they spat on the ground, the message was clear - Bush and the US were good enough only for the soles of their shoes, a terrible insult in this part of the world. Burns beat a hasty retreat.

Washington's glee [at taking the city] was obvious. But a Pentagon spin-doctor might have been disappointed with the turnout in the streets of Baghdad when the marines came to town. At first glance, the numbers looked good; but if you put the looters to one side, things became a little dicey. And if you took the foreign press and the marines out of the crowd in Firdos Square as the marines stage-managed the demolition of a towering bronze of Saddam Hussein, then the numbers were disappointing for an army that came here as liberators. For such a momentous occasion in Iraqi history, perhaps only 500 Iraqis watched.

Most of them were so consumed with questions and worries about the future that they didn't even stop to savour the moment, let alone the day. And, in the face of so many imponderables, many simply shrugged their shoulders.

Edited extracts from Paul McGeough's In Baghdad, published this week by Allen & Unwin

1 September 2003

Guardian Unlimited | The martyrdom of unsaintly Pauline:
At first this sly submission to Hansonism was condemned by the Labor party, but when Howard's xenophobic campaign against refugees won him the 2001 election, even that opposition was silenced. Nowadays you will be lucky to find a mainstream politician who can talk about Hanson without either tacitly supporting, or silkily sliding around her despicable views.

Politicians are scared of being on the level about this because they do not want to be seen to disrespect the people who support her, a critical group of working-class and lower middle-class swing voters dubbed the 'battlers'. These battlers, viewed as decent, hard-working and traditional salt-of-the-earth Aussies, form the bedrock of John Howard's political support, and Labor is desperate to regain their trust.

Both of the main parties pay lip-service to these battlers by tolerating and stoking racism, terrified that they will appear to be ignoring battler concerns. Neither is prepared to give the same people the true mark of political respect, and listen to them on other issues affecting the country.

Crucially, the battlers' take on economic policy is ignored, as it has been for most of the past 20 years. In the headlong rush of successive Australian governments to embrace free-market reforms, the battlers have been the downsized, low-waged cannon fodder.

John Howard simply took the economic policies of former Labor prime minister Paul Keating and grafted them on to the social policies of Pauline Hanson; the former fuelled battlers' disillusionment, while the latter was seen as its balm.

Perhaps if Labor actually listened to the people on Struggle St, they might have the political authority to deal with Hanson.

Sydney Morning Herald | Sharples to sue Abbott for defamation:
Mr Sharples today said there were three slush funds set up.

And he said he planned to sue Mr Abbott for defamation and release diary entries and tapes showing Mr Abbott was not telling the truth.

'It is correct, whether it happens today or tomorrow or Wednesday I'm not sure,' Mr Sharples told the Nine Network.

'I've got documents that prove that Tony Abbott is not telling the truth.'

He said his records of conversations would show Mr Abbott was saying one thing privately and another publicly.

'It will prove exactly what Tony Abbott was saying to me during this critical two months when we first joined forces, if you want to put it like that, and then he dumped me...,' Mr Sharples said.

'There was a lot of communication, luckily I recorded a reasonable amount of it and it's just totally contrary to what Tony's currently saying publicly.'

Mr Sharples said he could also prove the existence of three anti-Hanson slush funds involving Mr Abbott.

'Yes I can certainly prove that, otherwise I wouldn't have made the statement and in fact the proof is to some degree already in the transcripts of the tape that was heard just recently before Justice (Patsy) Wolfe,' he said.

The saga of Tony Abbot and the Slash Funds of Doom gets curiouser and curiouser. The Road to Surfdom has blogged that it would have been better to win the argument than to use the courts to beat One Nation. That is true, but it's an effort neither major party really tried at the federal level.

The Coalition could not take on One Nation because they were too busy running dog whistle campaigns like Tampa to acquire One Nation voters. Labor could not do it because Labor seems to be incapable of doing anything that might frighten the horses. Both should have taken a leaf from Queensland Premier Peter Beattie's playbook on how to deal with One Nation in and out of parliament.

If Sharples can prove the existence of undisclosed slush funds then I suspect Tony Abbot is history, but the slush funds are not the main game. If the federal opposition really wants to make something of this, they should be asking a very basic question that goes to the heart of the Howard government.

Why was John Howard campaigning for One Nation's vote while his favourite minister and chief headkicker was gunning for their destruction? And what does that say about Howard's real attitude to the battlers, the 'ordinary Australians' on whom he has built his prime ministership?

31 August 2003

R. Robot: The first self-writing weblog | John Howard and the terrorists of Oregon's excellent adventure:
In the mind of John Howard, it's always Jenna Bush's fault.

When will John Howard come clean about the way she insults President Bush?

Jazzercized pundits like Joe Conason and others apparently believe the best way to confront Mullah Omar is to invite him over and give him a free crate of uranium.

The bitter adulterers wildly believe that President Bush is a more dangerous sadist than Saddam Hussein.

At some point, when you look around and realize that your co-workers are spiteful and depraved, you have to break rank and become a Republican, if only for the sake of a common sense duty and good hygiene, morally speaking.

Weird, how accurate a self-writing roboblog can be...

ABC Insiders - 31/08/2003: Garrett welcomes first steps to save Murray:

BARRIE CASSIDY: Let's go to the issue about whether there is a problem with the Murray. How desperate do you regard the situation?

PETER GARRETT: Well Barrie, the Murray's in dire straits and it was very good that PM and State premiers could come into COAG and commit funds to beginning the process of bringing the river back to health. The river is not saved by this decision, it is not a historic decision until they get enough water flowing down the river and spend enough money over the next 10 years, particularly to set the guidelines that are necessary for river health. Yes, it is a good start but the river isn't saved until they spend the money and actually commit themselves to funds over a 10 or 15-year period.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But is $500 million not a good start?

PETER GARRETT: No, it is a good start but it is simply not enough. The Murray Darling Basin Commission, the scientists, CSIRO and river users all generally agree that the river needs a lot more water. That's going to cost a lot of money. The figure that was given to restore it to moderate health was 1,500 gigalitres. This it gives us 350 gigalitres, so we're still away short. The ACF and other conservation groups, environmental groups and interested parties would see this as a first step in a campaign to ramp-up the amount of money that needs to come into this river system and also to ensure that river communities have got some long-term livelihood and some security over their water access.

The 1500 gl figure is an official estimate by the MDBC. Why are we celebrating a 'success' we know will fail?

Paul Krugman | Fistfuls of Dollars:
Still, even the government of a superpower can't simultaneously offer tax cuts equal to 15 percent of revenue, provide all its retirees with prescription drugs and single-handedly take on the world's evildoers %u2014 single-handedly because we've alienated our allies. In fact, given the size of our budget deficit, it's not clear that we can afford to do even one of these things. Someday, when the grown-ups are back in charge, they'll have quite a mess to clean up.

But at least the juveniles ousted from office will have action dolls to play with.

Guardian Unlimited | One river's journey through troubled times:
Huge dams have turned the mighty Euphrates into a fraction of its former self - to the fury of countries downstream

Rising in the Kurdish mountains of eastern Turkey, the Euphrates river meanders for more than 1,700 miles through ancient history and troubled modern politics.

It is mentioned in the Book of Genesis as one of four rivers that bounded the Garden of Eden and its waters sustained great civilisations from the Babylonians to the Abbasids. Fearsome rulers, from Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein, have built their palaces on its banks.

The name 'Euphrates' is Greek for 'the good and abounding river', but today the water's flow has been reduced to a fraction of what it once was.

To summarise, Turkey and Syria are appropriating too much water and degrading both flow levels and water quality downstream in Iraq. The management problems where a single river basin encompasses competing nations make the rivalries in basins like the Colorado and the Murray-Darling simple.

Independent | Ban fishing in third of all seas, scientists say:
All fishing should be banned in a third of the world's oceans to reverse a catastrophic decline in fish stocks such as cod and tuna, British scientists have warned.

In a new study, they recommend that large areas of ocean, including the North Sea, around the Falklands, and the Gulf of California, should be made into legally protected marine reserves, policed by naval patrols and satellites.

The dramatic proposal - expected to be endorsed by an international conference on wildlife reserves next month - follows mounting alarm about the worldwide collapse of fish, dolphin, whale and turtle populations, and the destruction of ancient coral reefs.

Professor Callum Roberts, a marine biologist at York University and co-author of the study, said the world's oceans were now in crisis. 'We've now reached the terrible and unstable state where we're fishing species so heavily that there are virtually no reproductive fish around,' he said.

Last Thursday, the scale of that crisis was underlined when scientists with the Scottish Fisheries Research Service warned that North Sea cod stocks, now down to about 40,000 tonnes, were 'critical' and called for fishing to be heavily restricted.

That day, Australian and South African fishery protection vessels apprehended a Uruguayan trawler after a three-week chase, for illegally catching the endangered Patagonian toothfish. Known as 'white gold', the fish was thought to be worth $2m (�1.4m) [AU$3.5m] on the black market.

Maybe we need a new breed of chloroneocon who could get all hairy-chested over the urgent need to defend primacy over fishery stocks.