18 October 2003

Go to the people on legislation in dispute, Mr Howard

The Democrats offer a very different proposal to John Howard's to deal with legislation in dispute.

If the two houses of Parliament cannot agree on legislation, then the best solution is to take it to the people. The Democrats believe legislation in dispute could be resolved through binding plebiscites, asking the opinion of the nation.

If the Prime Minister genuinely wants a mandate, then he can put the legislation to the voters.

An example would be a deadlock over the further sale of Telstra.

Under Mr Howard's preferred option, he would wait three months, hold a joint sitting, pass the legislation and sell Telstra. There would be no way to stop him.

But under the Democrats' proposal, he could go to a normal election with all the disputed legislation and ask the Australian people: 'Do you want to sell Telstra?'

While he's at it, he could ask the people 'Do you want medicines to be more expensive on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme?' and 'Do you want more disabled people thrown off the disability support pension?', because these are the other pieces of legislation the Senate is refusing to pass.

Unlike Mr Howard, we trust the Australian people.

The Democrats' proposals are based on S5B Disagreements�referendum of the NSW constitution. Trusting the people is a much better idea than expanding the already autocratic powers of the executive.

Hu embraces Australia as cultural bridge

Australia is about to get a ringing endorsement from Asia's biggest country - China. It will say that Australia is part of the region and should be a member of its trade and other groupings, countering repeated signals from Malaysia in particular, that it is an outsider.

This will be part of Chinese President Hu Jintao's message to Australians when he speaks to the Federal Parliament in Canberra on Thursday, according to He Yafei, the head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's department running relations with North America, Australasia and the South Pacific.

President Hu will also say that while China understands Australia's military alliance with the US, it hopes Australia also will see its security in terms of developing mutual trust with China and other countries in the region.

Coming a day after US President George Bush speaks in the same spot, this implicitly urges Canberra to resist any American moves to build up Cold War-style 'containment' of Chinese power, and deepens the dilemma of defending Taiwan if the breakaway island moves to formalise its effective independence.

Hu's attitude is important. Mahathir's recent speeches promoting conspiracy theories about Jews ruling the world, sentiments applauded by Megawati, need to be answered by constructive engagement in the region, but not to the detriment of human rights. That means hard decisions about China but it also means hard decisions about Aceh and West Papua. The nation is hearing a great deal about how George Bush is to be received when he addresses the parliament on Thursday. We need to hear more about how MHRs and senators plan to draw Hu's attention to China's record on human rights as well.

Both sides of politics have spouted much nonsense over 'Asian values'. Usually this comes down to an implicitly racist theory that Asian governments should be forgiven the grossest violations of human rights for cultural reasons.

That attitude drove both Labor and the Coalition to decorously avert their eyes from genocide in East Timor for a quarter of a century in the name of cultural sensitivities.

Howard on Charisma

MITCHELL: George Bush, by the way, was asked I think it was by Paul Kelly, or was it by Laurie Oakes, that he said that he hadn't yet retained your popularity post-war, that he hadn't and he said that that was because of your charisma. Has he learnt the art of the Aussie sendup?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, he's improving. - got a sense of humour. You'd have to have a sense of humour to describe me as having a lot of charisma!

I like our habit of booing prime ministers on solemn national occasions such as the NRL grand final and the Rugby world cup. I like having deeply, deeply uncharismatic prime ministers. I just wish we had a different deeply, deeply uncharismatic prime minister.

Ovation Simulator

Well, almost. It would explain the presidential obsession with prearranged clapping.

Link thanks to gianna

A crowded House of Yankee lackeys

So the evolution has continued. A third US president now addresses the Parliament next Thursday. A first Chinese president does so 24 hours later. Like our effusive support of US foreign policy, so, very insidiously, have we adopted the American system of honouring selected visitors to address the national seat of our democratic process.

Do we really have to ape US practice as well as policy?

Well, not everyone does.

The Greens' Bob Brown, ever the politician to thumb his nose at convention, made another of those speeches this week that enrages his Coalition and Labor opponents bound by the strictures of party political pragmatism and/or sheer funk. Two speeches, in fact. Brown was as much outraged by the degree to which the US Secret Service insists the Parliament and its precincts must be closed off to ensure Bush's absolute security during the hit-and-run visit to Canberra of the President and his 'approximate' 640-member entourage (two jumbo jets, three US Air Force Starlifters) - makes you blink, doesn't it - as were some Coalition MPs by his remarks.

A passionate Brown told the Senate on Thursday morning: 'I find it quite outrageous, Mr [Senate] President, that you announced to this chamber what the security arrangements are without having the grace to first put those arrangements to the Senate for debate ...

'This is the centre of democracy in this nation. This is the elected parliament of the people of Australia and this [place] belongs to the people of Australia. How dare you close it down and put up a 'trespassers will be prosecuted' sign outside our Parliament because President Bush's Secret Service, in consultation with authorities here, have told you to do so. How dare you! This is the Australian people's parliament. It is not to be closed down because President Bush or [China's] President Hu and their secret service agents tell you ... This place is being turned into a replica of what they have in Beijing.'

The nation was shocked to learn on Wednesday that Labor's federal caucus is divided on the issue of giving Bush a standing ovation.

As the London Daily Mirror tells us, there are precedents:

GEORGE Bush pulled out of a speech to the European Parliament when MEPs wouldn't guarantee a standing ovation.

Senior White House officials said the President would only go to Strasbourg to talk about Iraq if he had a stage-managed welcome.

A source close to negotiations said last night: "President Bush agreed to a speech but insisted he get a standing ovation like at the State of the Union address.

Mike Carlton was actually flamed in Slate (complete with selective quotation) for writing:

This tosh conveniently ignores the fact that millions of Americans are also fearful of where Bush and his Texas oil cronies might be leading them. The artfully directed television pictures of the President's State of the Union message showed senators and representatives leaping to their feet in thunderous applause at about every third paragraph - bizarrely, it looked like nothing so much as a plenary session of the Chinese Communist Party - but in fact there is profound dissent in Washington and throughout the United States.

Until well after Lincoln's time the state of the union message was read to Congress by a clerk and it was believed that it would be a severe breach fo the separation of powers for the president to appear in person. Like so many things, this is not ancient precdent or respect for the office, but simple stage management. The analogy to a party congress is a faithful image. The tradition of parliament keeping its doors open gets abandoned for the sake of image.

The Victorian Legislative Assembly, like the European Parliament and the House of Commons, is made of sterner stuff when it comes to ancient precedent:

It is also considered disorderly for members to make noises or other disturbances whilst in the House. In 1693 the House of Commons resolved that members must not disturb a member who is speaking, by hissing, chanting, clapping, booing or other disturbances. It was expected that members would maintain silence or converse only in undertones. That precedent is followed in the Legislative Assembly."

But we do not need to rely on ancient precedent. Hear Speaker Halvorsen on the 1996 address by President Clinton:

I think standing ovations are the subject of atmospherics and sometimes whimsy and a whole host of other competing emotions and, indeed, I'm sure if the address that we are to receive is sufficiently significant, then the members spontaneous response would be the better one.

Whimsy aside, why would anyone want to receive fake standing ovations anyway?

Experts Downplay Bioagent

A suspicious sample of biological material recently found by U.S. weapons hunters in Iraq probably was purchased legally from a U.S. organization in the 1980s and is a substance that has never been successfully used to produce a weapon, experts said.

The discovery of the hidden vial of C. botulinum Okra B, which was revealed in an Oct. 2 interim report by chief U.S. weapons hunter David Kay, was highlighted in speeches by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other senior administration officials as proof that President Saddam Hussein's government maintained an illicit bio-weapons program before the war.

The significance of the vial is one of several elements of Kay's report that are being called into question by U.S. biowarfare experts and former United Nations weapons inspectors. Although most praised Kay for uncovering numerous cases in which Iraq hid suspicious equipment and activities from U.N. inspectors, they said the report appeared misleading in several areas.

The LA Times piece also documents several other errors in the Kay report, such as identifying diseases endemic to Iraq but never weaponised as WMD projects and, most egregiously of all, claiming Iraq's chemical munitions are not marked as such and are stored with conventional munitions is simply 'baloney'.

When you recall that Kay's own experts were not allowed to read the report before it was given to Congress you have to ask how much of the Kay report represents actual investigation and how much is political fabrication.

17 October 2003

Is the 9/11 commission getting tough?

As for the FAA and NORAD, their timid reaction on the morning of Sept. 11, has long baffled experts who have reviewed the tragic timeline in detail. They wonder, for instance, why it took the FAA 29 minutes, from 8:55 a.m. to 9:24 a.m. to notify NORAD that American Airlines Flight 77 bound for Los Angeles was drastically off course and heading for Washington, D.C. That, after two hijacked planes had already crashed into the World Trade Center.

Even more mysterious was fact that NORAD fighter jets were not scrambled from the closest Air Force base. Instead, the jets that were eventually scrambled in a vain attempt to intercept Flight 77 came from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., rather than Andrews Air Force Base right outside D.C.

During a public 9/11 commission hearing last spring, representatives from NORAD and the FAA disagreed over who told what to whom and when. Their testimony was often so puzzling, and contradictory, that commission spokesman Al Felzenberg said those officials may be forced to come back to testify again, this time under oath, something no inquiry witnesses have yet had to do.

This could get interesting. The various timelines for 9/11 have never made much sense and the big question has always been why the air defence system did nothing effective. The response to losing contact with golfer Stewart Payne's plane was quite different.

If, as claimed, all US agencies are co-operating with the 9/11 commission why is their FAA not co-operating?

Astronomers find first 'dark galaxy'

Astronomers have found the first 'dark galaxy' - a black cloud of hydrogen gas and exotic particles, devoid of stars. The gloomy galaxy lurks two million light years from Earth.

Joshua Simon, Timothy Robishaw and Leo Blitz of the University of California, Berkeley, observed a cloud of hydrogen gas called HVC 127-41-330 using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

It appears to be rotating so fast it would fall apart unless it contains a strong, hidden source of gravity. The researchers therefore argue that the cloud must be at least 80 per cent dark matter, the hypothetical invisible substance whose gravity is supposed to explain why many objects in the cosmos move as fast as they do.

If they are right, this could resolve a problem in dark matter theory. In our local group of galaxies, we know of only about 35 dwarf galaxies, but simulations of galaxy formation using dark matter suggest there should be about 500.

Now if only they would train their telescopes on Labor's federal caucus...

Vatican opens to world [but not condoms]

More controversial questions were raised by Scotland's new cardinal, Keith O'Brien of Edinburg, who told reporters Sept. 29 that he felt the Catholic Church should be open to discussion on priestly celibacy and contraception. He also signaled that he had no problem with gay clergy so long as they remain celibate.

In one signal of the tensions surrounding these questions, however, O'Brien on Oct. 7 recited a Profession of Faith in his cathedral pledging that he would 'accept and intend to defend' church law and teaching on precisely the same questions -- celibacy, contraception, and homosexuality.

In another sign of the unfinished business that awaits John Paul's successor, two cardinals clashed in the days leading up to the sliver jubilee on the hot-button issue of condoms.

Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who heads the Pontifical Council for the Family, told the BBC in early October that condoms may not be effective in blocking the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. This reiterated a long-standing position in Lopez Trujillo's office, which was laid out in a 2003 Lexicon published by the Council for the Family under the heading 'safe sex.'

Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels, Belgium, widely considered a leading candidate to succeed John Paul II, rebuked Lopez Trujillo.

'It does not befit a cardinal to deal with the virtue of a product ... I don't know if what he said is reliable,' Danneels said, adding that a cardinal should instead raise the ethical, religious and spiritual dimensions of the AIDS issue.

Brazil also picked holes in Lopez' argments:

[Brazilian Health Minister] Costa said he himself was a Catholic and that the church had a right to believe sex should be just for procreation, but "I disagree profoundly with this view" on condoms.

He said Brazil's AIDS program and all scientific evidence had found the most efficient way of preventing the spread of the disease was to encourage the use of condoms.

"The policy of free distribution of condoms was one of the big reasons for our success," the minister said. "Brazil's program is an international success and ensured that instead of the predictions that we would now have 1.2 million (AIDS cases), we have half that number.

I have reread the Sermon on the Mount but I can't find anything about attacking public health programs for ideological reasons.

Interesting that at least two cardinals, Daneels and O'Brien, are not toeing the party line on this and other issues.

Howard push to hose down sheriff furore

The Federal Government is scrambling to avert a new regional controversy ahead of this weekend's APEC meeting after United States President George Bush described Australia as 'sheriff' of the Asia-Pacific.

His comment, meant as a compliment to Australia's international standing, risked reigniting regional sensitivities over the closeness of the relationship between the two countries.

Government figures and the US ambassador moved swiftly yesterday to hose down suggestions that Australia's near neighbours would be offended.

However, the Malaysian Government has already said the comment reinforced the view that Australia was acting as a United States 'puppet' in East Asia.

The controversy sprang from a response Mr Bush gave in an interview with a group of Asia-Pacific journalists this week when asked whether he saw Australia as his 'deputy sheriff' in the region.

The perceived endorsement of that term by the Prime Minister, John Howard, during a magazine interview four years ago prompted an angry response from some regional countries, led by the Malaysian leader, Mahathir Mohamad.

I have no time for Mahathir. All he is really doing is playing the same kind of security politics that John Howard plays, just from the other side of the fence. The brief and inglorious history of the Howard doctrine does not bear repeating. Our diplomatic standing in the region might improve if the president went back to discussing the Man of Steel's charisma

Bush orders officials to stop the leaks

He warned of action if anonymous sources were quoted, a senior aide said. Visiting senators also heard a stern line.

Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to 'stop the leaks' to the media, or else.

News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately.

Evidently the president is a fan of Yes, minister:

The ship of state, Bernard, is the only ship that leaks from the top.

Sir Humphrey, The Bed of Nails

Link via Atrios

Fijian PM backs apology for eating missionary

Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase today commended a planned apology by a village whose ancestors killed and ate a missionary in 1867.

'I believe in the Bible that says once a wrong has been done, apology and asking for forgiveness is most appropriate and yes, I support them in their intention,' Qarase told AFP today.

Reverend Thomas Baker, an Englishman born in Playden, Sussex, in 1832, was the first missionary killed in Fiji when a group he was leading, comprising young theology students and local missionaries, was ambushed as they walked through Navatusila village in interior territories untouched by Christianity.

Qarase says he has no details of the intended traditional apology ceremony although media reports name him as one of the delegates to the apology session.

He says his role would presumably be in his capacity as Minister for Reconciliation.

'I know the event took place years ago but it is better to be humble and ask for forgiveness from those who have been wronged,' Qarase said.

A staunch Methodist, Qarase says the ceremony would be very good for personal relations with others, especially between the villagers and Baker's surviving family.

Um, I certainly hope that John Howard follows Qarase's example when it comes to saying sorry. I think.

16 October 2003

The Iraqi Shiites

The hawks came to see an Americanized Iraq as a replacement for Saudi Arabia. The plan was risky, not least because the secular Baath government had been among the main ramparts against Sunni and Shiite religious radicalism in the Gulf. The hawks argued that a liberated Iraq would kick-start a wave of democratization in the Middle East, paralleling events in Eastern Europe when the Soviet Union weakened and then fell. (They did not explain why the United States, if it wanted democratization, did not start with places like Egypt and Jordan, which were more plausible candidates, being allies, developed civil societies, and recipients of substantial aid). They believed, incorrectly, that Iraq's petroleum-producing capacity - while not at Saudi levels - was significant enough to offset Saudi dominance of the oil markets. And unlike Saudi Arabia, Paul Wolfowitz thought, Iraq did not have holy cities such as Mecca and Medina that would make the stationing of U.S. troops there objectionable: Iraqis, he said, "don't bring the sensitivity of having the holy cities of Islam being on their territory." (He apparently did not then know about the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala). The hawks were aware that a democratic Iraq would have a Shiite majority, but their client, Ahmad Chalabi (head of the expatriate Iraqi National Congress), convinced them that Iraqi Shiites were largely secular in mindset and uninterested in a Khomeinist theocracy. In the short term, they thought, Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress would run Iraq in at least a semi-democratic fashion.

You really should read the whole thing. I'm a bit startled (alert and alarmed, perhaps) that neocon �bergenius Wolfowitz did not know about Najaf and Karbala. Back on 29 March someone rabid said:

And whichever military genius laid out the line of advance on Baghdad might have taken account that Najaf and Kerbala are holy cities with a status (for Shi'a) equal to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

Public Opinion, among others discusses the Cole article.

You must also read the Truth from These Podia (giant PDF file) which sets out in some detail how sophisticated and how carefully planned was the war party's information management (apart from not knowing anything about 12 or so centuries of Iraqi history). What a pity they promise so much better than they perform.

Bush: I don't mind protests

President Bush also indicated that it was still the US preference to sign a free trade deal with Australia by the end of the year, and said he would use the visit to pursue the matter with Mr Howard.

He bristled slightly when asked why his own popularity, according to current polling in the United States, had suffered since the war while Prime Minister John Howard's had remained high in Australia. 'Well, it must be his charisma,' he replied. 'He married well, and he's smart.'

It would just be crass to say a man who can detect charisma in John Howard should be able to find anything anywhere, but it would be unkind, so I won't. I'm actually proud, in a perverse way, that charisma is so little an issue in our politics that John Howard can be elected.

Bush's sheriff remark foxes Hill

In an interview in The Australian newspaper, Mr Bush said Australia and the US were equal partners, friends and allies.

Asked whether he saw Australia as the US's deputy sheriff in South-East Asia, Mr Bush said: 'No. We don't see it as a deputy sheriff. We see it as a sheriff. There's a difference.'

Speaking to reporters about a $3.5 billion submarines contract, Senator Hill was reluctant to be drawn on the president's comments.

'It's not my language,' he said.

'I'm not interested in the sheriff comments.

'I'm not sure what it means.'

Senator Hill said he thought the US-Australian alliance was in very good shape.

Why, God, why?

Murray water headache for Howard

While federal Labor endorsed the 1500-gigalitre option months ago, and pledged some money towards buying back water, state Labor governments appear more guarded about a policy bitterly opposed by many irrigators.

Agriculture Minister Warren Truss shied away from the findings, telling Parliament that by focusing on restoring 'icon sites', 'we can achieve worthwhile outcomes without having to destroy rural economies or tear at the heart of the availability of water for irrigators'.

He said the report 'makes the point that good management of the water that goes to the environment is just as important - probably more important - as the volume of water that is actually supplied'.

But Labor's environment spokesman Kelvin Thomson accused Mr Truss of misleading Parliament, citing numerous examples of the report finding that only the return of 1500 gigalitres - which is now Labor policy - delivers the best outcomes for the river.

Introducing the report, Professor Jones ruled out any trade-off. 'It is critical to recognise that non-flow management options cannot be traded off against environmental flow allocations,' he said.

Leading environmental scientist Mike Young warned yesterday that forest plantings, groundwater development and improvements in irrigation efficiency could take another 1700 gigalitres out of the Murray, outweighing the benefit of even the 1500-gigalitre option.

This debate is beginning to make the division of the Thatcher government into 'wet' and 'dry' economics look incredibly prescient. We want the river to run or we don't. If we do, let's find out what's needed and do it. Or does dry economics mean we abandon a basin that produces nearly half our agricultural produce to the market?

The rise and fall of Ansar al-Islam

Washington fingered Ansar as a terrorist group experimenting with poisons, and used its tenuous links to Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda to help justify the war against Iraq.

US officials were triumphant last spring, even as the broader Iraq invasion was still underway, after a three-day assault. Gen. Tommy Franks declared that a 'massive terrorist facility in northern Iraq' had been 'attacked and destroyed' by a joint US-Kurdish operation.

But today US officials assert that Ansar not only survived - like Gharib, who barely escaped after a four-hour bout with a US sniper - but that it is regrouping. They say Ansar is reinfiltrating Iraq with Kurdish and Arab militants from Iran, and, along with Saddam loyalists, is behind an increasing number of anti-US attacks across Iraq.

Actually, if I remember correctly the massive terrorist facility was destroyed almost as often as the town of Umm Qasr fell to the coalition. The MTF was centrepiece of Powell's speech to the UN, even though journalists established within days it was actually a broken down place without power or running water in American-protected Iraqi Kurdistan.

Well, now we need Ansar al-Islam back for propaganda reasons so apparently the destruction declarations are officially inoperative.

I was strongly tempted say the massive terrorist facility was a bit like the Holy Roman Empire in that it was not massive, terrorist or a facility but that would be wrong. Just a pleasing literary allusion. Like calling a smoking gun a mushroom cloud.

BBspot - Open Source Community Developing Their Own Viruses

Heading the development of the OVP is Jukka Koskelin. He explained, 'We took a look at the virus marketspace and realized that Microsoft has over a 95% share of all viruses developed. I don't think the Linux community can be taken seriously if we don't increase our share in that area.'

'The viruses we're developing will work cross-platform unlike Microsoft viruses which only work on Windows systems. There are ports to Linux, *BSD, Solaris, and yes, even Windows. We should have a Mac port in a couple of months,' Koskelin continued.

The OVP currently has two viruses in beta: 'eyespy' and 'GPLdaemon.' Eyespy installs a spyware checking program, and notifies OVP, so they can inform the user that they're being spied on. GPLdaemon uses spare CPU cycles to check every file on an infected users hard drive bit-by-bit to see if it contains any software that violates the GPL.

I was infected with this meme at John Quiggin

The Man Who Knew

Correspondent Scott Pelley has an interview with Greg Thielmann, a former expert on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Thielmann, a foreign-service officer for 25 years, now says that key evidence in the speech was misrepresented and the public was deceived.

"I had a couple of initial reactions. Then I had a more mature reaction," says Thielmann, commenting on Powell's presentation to the United Nations.

"I think my conclusion now is that it's probably one of the low points in his long, distinguished service to the nation."

Thielmann's last job at the State Department was director of the Office of Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs, which was responsible for analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Secretary Powell. He and his staff had the highest security clearances, and everything - whether it came into the CIA or the Defense Department - came through his office.

Check out the interactive for tracing various claims Powell made in that speech.

The Soviet Republic of Texas

YOU MIGHT THINK America's rigged system of congressional elections couldn't get much worse. Self-serving redistricting schemes nationwide already have left an overwhelming number of seats in the House of Representatives so uncompetitive that election results are practically as preordained as in the old Soviet Union. In the last election, for example, 98 percent of incumbents were reelected, and the average winning candidate got more than 70 percent of the vote. More candidates ran without any major-party opposition than won by a margin of less than 20 percent. Yet even given this record, the just-completed Texas congressional redistricting plan represents a new low.

The plan grabbed headlines as a consequence of the flight by Democrats -- twice -- from the state to prevent its adoption. The Democrats, whose only hope, being in the minority in both houses, was to prevent a quorum, eventually gave in; the legislature has adopted the plan. It's abhorrent on two counts. Texas Republicans, egged on by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, violated a longstanding tradition by redrawing the map in the middle of a census cycle. Their new rule seems to be, why wait 10 years if you can cram something down your opponents' throats today? And their plan is designed to wipe out moderate and white Democrats from the Texas congressional delegation. We don't know whether the plan violates the Voting Rights Act or will survive legal challenge. What is clear, however, is that it will aggravate the triumph of extremes in Washington while further sovietizing America's already-fixed electoral game.

I have long believed we should elect our House of Representatives from multi-member districts. the Australian Senate actually reflects popular opinion better than the House because the use of multimember districts means that fewer votes are wasted on losing candidates.

Once upon a time, (1975) Fred Daly, then special minister of state, drew up a redistribution for the House by flooding his living room floor with cut up street maps bearing his notes of polling booth results. The Senate rejected that distribution and we now use boundaries drawn by the Electoral Commission. The independent distribution, controversial in 1975, is now part of the consensus on how to govern Australia.

The US Centre for Voting Democracy released Monopoly Politics 2002 before the last US congressional elections:

CVD's model of projecting House winners based only on past federal election results and the senior of incumbents had a 99.9% accuracy over the past 3 elections. Out of more than 900 projections over the last 3 elections cycles based, the model made only one incorrect projection. We have applied the model to the 2002 elections and report our findings in a detailed report. Using data available as as November 6, we report on the accuracy of our projections.

Fred Daly did not have a computer. The development of redistricting software makes it extremely easy to create electorates with equal numbers of voters and massive majorities in favour of the incumbent. Consider California, for example. According to the CVD:

Using modern mapping software and redistricting techniques like packing and cracking, a political party in control of redistricting can end up with an undeserved artificial majority or an exaggerated, over-represented majority that allows them to pursue policies lacking support from the majority of voters.

The Electoral Commission insulates us from this kind of rorting, while the consensus between the two major parties continues. If that ever breaks down we will end up in the mess they have in the US. The only permanent guarantee is to elect the House in the same way as the Tasmanian House of Assembly or the ACT Legislative Assembly.

14 October 2003

Betraying the Kurds again?

Peters, a columnist for the right-wing New York Post, finds himself in the unusual position of being in agreement with longtime leftist Clare Short, Tony Blair's former secretary of international development. Even as she traveled to Washington to argue that the occupation needs to be internationalized, she told Salon last week, 'It's better not to have Turkish troops there, because there's too much complex politics and history. It's a further destabilizing development.'

With virtual unanimity, analysts, scholars and veterans from across the political spectrum say that, moral issues aside, introducing Turkish soldiers into an already volatile ethnic and sectarian situation is counterproductive. 'The decision is a very bad one, for Turkey and for Washington,' says Graham Fuller, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA during the Reagan administration and author of 'The Future of Political Islam.' Fuller, like many others, believes Turkish troops will further fracture the region, causing tensions in the north, spurring other neighboring governments, especially Iran, to step up their involvement in Iraq, and, if things go wrong, potentially weakening America's important strategic relationship with Turkey.

'Iran will see this as an effort by Turkey to create a foothold in Iraq,' he says, and will be likely to send more of its own proxies into the country. He also dismisses the American hope that shared religion will lead to Turkish rapport with the Iraqis in the fractious Sunni triangle. 'My sense is that Turkey will be treated as the functional equivalent of Americans,' he says. 'This business of being fellow Muslims will have no relevance. Indeed, you could argue that Turkey has baggage from being a former colonial power.'

Really, it's hard to imagine what's coming next. These people refused to transfer sovereignty to the UN because, they said, they would only transfer it to Iraqis. The Iraqi Governing Council sic is vigorously opposed to this decision. Does that matter to the Bush raj? And does that virtual unanimity of scholars and experts matter either? Obviously not.

Vatican position on condom use and HIV scientifically incorrect

A statement by the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council on the Family that condoms do not protect people from HIV is scientifically incorrect and could contribute to the spread of the virus, the head of the UN population agency said today.

'The fact is that when condoms are properly used, in conjunction with programmes encouraging abstinence and fidelity to one partner, they provide effective protection against HIV/AIDS transmission,' said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

'This position is shared by our partners and the international community. It is endorsed by international meetings, including the recent Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/AIDS,' Ms. Obaid added.

She was responding to an interview of Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo broadcast yesterday by a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television programme.

According to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN umbrella programme battling the spread of the disease, an estimated 42 million people were living with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, at the end of 2002. The AIDS epidemic had claimed an estimated 3.1 million lives in 2002, and an estimated 5 million people acquired the virus, it said.

'Wherever the epidemic has spread unchecked, it is robbing countries of the resources and capacities on which human security and development depend. In some regions, HIV/AIDS, in combination with other crises, is driving ever-larger parts of nations towards destitution,' UNAIDS said.

Will the Vatican curia apologise for this or, as with Galileo will they invoke their infallible authority and insist the Earth does not move?

All the President's votes?

Something very odd happened in the mid-term elections in Georgia last November. On the eve of the vote, opinion polls showed Roy Barnes, the incumbent Democratic governor, leading by between nine and 11 points. In a somewhat closer, keenly watched Senate race, polls indicated that Max Cleland, the popular Democrat up for re-election, was ahead by two to five points against his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss.

Those figures were more or less what political experts would have expected in state with a long tradition of electing Democrats to statewide office. But then the results came in, and all of Georgia appeared to have been turned upside down. Barnes lost the governorship to the Republican, Sonny Perdue, 46 per cent to 51 per cent, a swing of as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls. Cleland lost to Chambliss 46 per cent to 53, a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.

Red-faced opinion pollsters suddenly had a lot of explaining to do and launched internal investigations. Political analysts credited the upset - part of a pattern of Republican successes around the country - to a huge campaigning push by President Bush in the final days of the race. They also said that Roy Barnes had lost because of a surge of 'angry white men' punishing him for eradicating all but a vestige of the old confederate symbol from the state flag.

But something about these explanations did not make sense, and they have made even less sense over time. When the Georgia secretary of state's office published its demographic breakdown of the election earlier this year, it turned out there was no surge of angry white men; in fact, the only subgroup showing even a modest increase in turnout was black women.

There were also big, puzzling swings in partisan loyalties in different parts of the state. In 58 counties, the vote was broadly in line with the primary election. In 27 counties in Republican-dominated north Georgia, however, Max Cleland unaccountably scored 14 percentage points higher than he had in the primaries. And in 74 counties in the Democrat south, Saxby Chambliss garnered a whopping 22 points more for the Republicans than the party as a whole had won less than three months earlier.

Be afraid, be very afraid, and make damn sure Australia never adopts this corrupt idiocy of privatised voting.

Thanks to Seeing the Forest for the link.

Don't Look Down

The crisis won't come immediately. For a few years, America will still be able to borrow freely, simply because lenders assume that things will somehow work out.

But at a certain point we'll have a Wile E. Coyote moment. For those not familiar with the Road Runner cartoons, Mr. Coyote had a habit of running off cliffs and taking several steps on thin air before noticing that there was nothing underneath his feet. Only then would he plunge.

What will that plunge look like? It will certainly involve a sharp fall in the dollar and a sharp rise in interest rates. In the worst-case scenario, the government's access to borrowing will be cut off, creating a cash crisis that throws the nation into chaos.

I know: it all sounds unbelievable. But would you have believed, three years ago, that the U.S. budget would plunge so quickly from a record surplus to a record deficit? And would you have believed that, confronted with that plunge, our leaders would offer excuses rather than solutions?

The more I think about it, the more the Wile E Coyote nickname fits. It's not Osama, or Saddam that is forever running past the Bush administration, saying: 'Beep! beep!'. It's reality.


The old joke is still relevant: "Did you hear about Vatican III? The bishops are bringing their wives. Did you hear about Vatican IV? The bishops are bringing their husbands."

This actually links to a serious piece on the voices for reform of the Catholic Church, but the joke bears repeating.


Judging others on the character of their content.

And now, in the tradition of the Single Bitter Announcement Weblog and the Dullest Blog in the World we have a new development - the blog without blogposts.

Link via Fables of the Reconstruction

Colombians want real life to mimic reality TV

But ordinary Colombians see something deeper. Hector Gonzalez, a taxi driver in Bogot� who watches 'Gran Hermano,' is impressed by the way the contestants evolve.

'The people learn how to live together,' Mr. Gonzalez says. 'They have to learn how to pardon.' As a society, he adds, 'I think that we are very lacking in learning how to pardon.'

In Colombia, regionalism is rampant, fostered by distrust of the central government. This has led to homegrown solutions to problems of public order that have only given rise to more violence, such as the creation of self-defense groups in the northwest province of Antioquia that later became paramilitaries.

According to Maritza Sandoval, a Bogot� psychologist who has closely followed 'los realities,' as they are known here, fighting with words is a novel concept in a society where disagreements are often resolved with weapons.

'It is very censured to confront somebody [verbally],' Ms. Sandoval explains. 'In Colombia, it doesn't happen,' describing society as 'very authoritarian,' leaving people 'afraid to express their feelings.'

The show's Internet message boards reveal Colombians increasingly rewarding those contestants who get along. In addition to Andrea getting ousted, Lu�s, the farmer, earned the ire of the female audience for his machismo, and was sent packing. Meanwhile, viewers praise Ram�n, a musician who owns a craft shop.

'You live in peace and tranquility, and for this you will be the [winner of] Big Brother,' writes 'Camila'.

While I'm blogging about life imitating fandom...

Blair under fire over Kelly death

'Sir Kevin has said the key decision on the naming strategy 'was taken at the meeting in Number 10'. That meeting was chaired by the prime minister. The prime minister's denials are now shown to be a sham,' Michael Ancram, the Conservative's foreign secretary said.
Blair, when he gave evidence to the inquiry in August, said he was at the July 8 meeting and took full responsibility for the strategy agreed at it.

But a month earlier, during a trip to the Far East, days after Kelly's suicide, he denied authorizing Kelly's name to be made public.

Tebbit is one of many witnesses making their second appearance before the Hutton Inquiry after being recalled. He is the final witness in Hutton's inquiry.

The questioning comes despite lawyers for the various parties having already given their closing comments. Tebbit's interview was delayed from last month to allow the top defense official to receive medical treatment for an eye ailment.

Lord Hutton is expected to deliver his report on the inquiry by December.

That is one report I look forward to reading.

The Day of the Locust

Pleasure in the humiliation of others - Schwarzenegger's lifelong compulsion - is the textbook definition of sadism. It is also the daily ration of right-wing hate radio. As governor he becomes the summation of all smaller sadisms, like those of Roger Hedgecock that in turn manipulate the 'reptile within' of millions of outwardly affluent but inwardly tormented commuter-consumers. In their majesty, the predominantly white voters of California's inland empires and gated suburbs have anointed a clinically Hitlerite personality as their personal savior.

The last word about all this should, of course, belong to Nathanael West. In his classic novel The Day of the Locust (1939), he clearly foresaw that fandom was an incipient version of fascism. On the edge of Hollywood's neon plains, he envisioned the unassuageable hungers of California's petty bourgeoisie.

'They were savage and bitter, especially the middle-aged and the old . . . Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize they've been tricked and burn with resentment. .. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies.'

Fandom scares me sometimes. The howls of outrage by bookfen over the storyline changes in Peter Jackson's films of The Lord of the Rings have to be heard to be believed. Why are we busy debating this tripe when there is a real world to argue over? Why do completely rational individuals suddenly morph into RUDBs without warning when football is discussed? Why do people learn Klingon? Why can I mumble in Sindarin? What does it all mean?

Russia spurns weapons hunt plan

Russia's ambassador to Australia and former North Korean trade negotiator Leonid Moiseev said Russia could not involve itself in the PSI.

'I can say very frankly that it would be a very difficult for us to join the initiative,' he said. 'The basic difference (between us and the member countries) is both China and Russia have a common border with North Korea ... We are immediate neighbours and Russia and China have big Korean communities within our borders.

'Both Russia and China have a lot to lose.'

Six-way Beijing-sponsored diplomatic talks were the only way to resolve the nuclear stand-off, he said.

The crisis follows North Korea admitting in October last year that it had a nuclear program.

A source close to the PSI said last night the 50 new nations would not join the PSI but could be co-opted if a rogue ship or aircraft entered their waters or airspace.

The Australian really should have headed this piece: 'The usual drivel'.

Let's unpack the last paragraph:

A source close to the PSI

A PR guy for one of the PSI governments said last night

the 50 new nations would not join the PSI

too busy joining the Coalition of the Willing

but could be co-opted

We'll announce their consent without talking to them the way we did with the CoW

if a rogue ship or aircraft entered their waters or airspace

the PSI will ignore the UN Charter and international law

Proliferation is a major problem. President Bush recognised that in his recent speech. The PSI nations, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States can do something about it right away.

All of those nations export arms. They can stop. After proving their sincerity in that way, they can take the PSI to the Security Council and seek legal authority for their wildcat operation.

13 October 2003

Alternative 'peace deal' for Mid-East

The unofficial pact has not been published yet, but sources say there is a key trade-off at its heart.

Palestinians would not demand the right of return for refugees.

In exchange, they would get sovereignty over one of the most disputed religious sites in the Middle East, Jerusalem's Temple Mount, known to Arabs as Haram al-Sharif.

If and when the deal is signed - supposedly in Switzerland over the next two to three weeks - it will be called the Geneva Accord.

Swiss diplomats have been nursing the process along for the past two years.

If the report is accurate, this is massive news. I would really like to know what the accord says about the settlement issue. Finally, some hope out of the Middle East.

Did E-Vote Firm Patch Election?

Diebold Election Systems has had a tumultuous year, and it doesn't look like it's getting any better.

Last January the electronic voting machine maker faced public embarrassment when voting activists revealed the company's insecure FTP server was making its software source code available for everyone to see.

Then researchers and auditors who examined code for the company's touch-screen voting system released two separate reports stating that the software was full of serious security flaws.

Now a former worker in Diebold's Georgia warehouse says the company installed patches on its machines before the state's 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials.

If the charges are true, Diebold could be in violation of federal and state election-certification rules. The charges also raise questions about the integrity of the Georgia election results and any other election that uses patched Diebold systems that have not been re-certified.

At the last NSW state election the software for the legislative council election jammed. That was not a problem because if necessary there were the paper ballots to fall back on. Electing 21 legislative councillors from the whole state under STV is a tad more challenging than counting first past the post. The votes were cast on paper, then entered into a database, then calculated. The process was public, accountable and verifiable.

What Diebold is reportedly doing is the equivalent of opening up a ballot box, fiddling with the contents and then closing it again without explanation.

A certain baboon has argued in the past that the Diebold problem is the result of bad design and inappropriate outsourcing.

The ACT experimented with evoting at their last election. Wired on the event just has to be quoted:

Electronic voting could meet its match this weekend when Australian voters test an electronic system under some of the most fiendishly complex voting rules in the world

I'd prefer to stick with a paper trail for the time being.

In the Company of the Enemy

Women have spit on him. Men have chased him with crowbars. While he was waiting for a bus a few years ago in the Patagonian city of Bariloche, Argentine media described in a well-known case, a man walked calmly up to him and in a conversational tone asked:

'Are you Astiz?'

'Yes I am,' Astiz answered.

The man punched him twice in his face and kicked him in his groin before Astiz ran away. Every year since, on the anniversary of the assault, the townspeople hold a block party in the exact spot where the punches were thrown, to celebrate humiliation of Astiz.

'He is our Judas,' said Hebe Bonafini, president of Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo, a human rights group. Bonafini's two sons disappeared 26 years ago. 'In Argentina, we see our torturers every day. The devil lives next door.'

An amazing story, courtesy of Beautiful Horizons. The brutality in the Southern Cone under creatures like Galtieri and Videla was driven by a a constructed ideology called the Doctrina de Seguridad Nacional. Go read and then consider how the emphasis on internal repression, detention without trial, and a state of permanent warfare resonates in the first decade of this century.

A Generation

The pitch black night gave me two black eyes

with which to search for light.

Gu Cheng 1956-93, translated from the Chinese by Sam Hamill

Australian Democrats | RSS News Feeds

I did a little tour when I discovered this page. The other parties offer email updates, but they haven't discovered RSS yet.

Brian Harradine | Wrong way to reform the Senate

I propose a system which would have fixed three-year terms for the House of Representatives, with half-Senate elections every election.

A government could hold a joint sitting after a fixed-term election to vote on legislation which had (1) originally been detailed in the government's election manifesto, (2) subsequently been introduced to parliament within the first year of the government's three-year term, (3) been rejected twice under the present requirements for a double dissolution trigger, and (4) been put to the people again at the next election.

My proposal has a number of advantages.

It extends the average length of time between elections. Over my 28 years in the Senate there have been elections approximately every 2 1/2 years. A guaranteed three-year term would give governments more time to implement their program, yet continue to allow senators to be elected for six-year terms. It would also remove some of the uncertainty surrounding the timing of elections.

It also introduces a measure of stability by having senators who are not too closely focused on the short-term imperatives of their re-election. It allows a broader perspective on issues in the house of review, rather than a focus on the more immediate parliamentary cycle.

The focus of most comment in the lead-up to the discussion paper has been on the Senate as a problem. But the real problem is that the present system does not provide a predictable system for resolving deadlocks. Deadlocks are a problem caused not by the Senate itself, but by irreconcilable differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate, and more particularly between the major political parties.

Finally, the one point no-one has mentioned before about Senate reform. The Senate crossbench has absolutely no say about any bill on which the government and the opposition agree. It follows that the Howard proposal is not about the powers of the Senate but about the powers of the Opposition. Howard's proposals also increase the prime ministerial temptation to call early elections and get a free shot at passing deadlocked bills without consultation or compromise.

If the present Senate had been 'depowered' (Ron Boswell's term, not mine) a number of very bad laws would have passed unamended.

Panic as flypast sparks attack fears

Plumes of flame across the night sky, ear-splitting noise and shaking windows sparked fears of a missile attack on Parliament House, Canberra, as nerves jittered over terrorism.

The cause of the panic, which prompted hundreds of calls to the Australian Federal Police, was a flypast by two F-111 jets commemorating the 100th anniversary of the High Court, at about 8pm on Saturday.

'The timing of it was appalling, on the eve of the Bali service' said Madeleine Quigley, from Ainslie, in Canberra's inner north. 'I seriously thought it was a missile going for Parliament House. I didn't think it was a plane.'

The flypast appeared as two thunderously loud balls of flame screaming overhead at a height of about 300 metres and heading toward the city's landmarks.

Organisers issued press releases in the week before the event, but did not inform police.

Almost as good as the event in November 2001 when the RAAF practiced intercept skills by having 2 fighters in hot pursuit of what appeared to be a commercial jet (it was actually a USAF transport) on a direct course for Sydney's highest skyscraper.

12 October 2003

Gandhi sermon for Bali crony

From the Gandhi book, Judge Siregar will quote:
'Hate can only be finished by love. Let us keep purity of heart . . . weapons must be laid down, we can't protect ourselves with a weapon . . . mankind must move away from violent means.'

Read at the sentencing of convicted bomber Abdul Rauf on 8 September.

My Country

The love of field and coppice

Of green and shaded lanes,

Of ordered woods and gardens

Is running in your veins.

Strong love of grey-blue distance,

Brown streams and soft, dim skies

I know, but cannot share it,

My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror

The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,

All tragic to the moon,

The sapphire-misted mountains,

The hot gold hush of noon,

Green tangle of the brushes

Where lithe lianas coil,

And orchids deck the tree-tops,

And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!

Her pitiless blue sky,

When, sick at heart, around us

We see the cattle die

But then the grey clouds gather,

And we can bless again

The drumming of an army,

The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!

Land of the rainbow gold,

For flood and fire and famine

She pays us back threefold.

Over the thirsty paddocks,

Watch, after many days,

The filmy veil of greenness

That thickens as we gaze ...

An opal-hearted country,

A wilful, lavish land

All you who have not loved her,

You will not understand

though Earth holds many splendours,

Wherever I may die,

I know to what brown country

My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea MacKellar

This 1904 poem, written when the author was 19, was read out at last year's Sydney commemoration for the Bali atrocity.

US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops

The destruction of the fruit trees took place in the second half of last month but, like much which happens in rural Iraq, word of what occurred has only slowly filtered out. The destruction of crops took place along a kilometre-long stretch of road just after it passes over a bridge.

Farmers say that 50 families lost their livelihoods, but a petition addressed to the coalition forces in Dhuluaya pleading in erratic English for compensation, lists only 32 people. The petition says: 'Tens of poor families depend completely on earning their life on these orchards and now they became very poor and have nothing and waiting for hunger and death.'

The children of one woman who owned some fruit trees lay down in front of a bulldozer but were dragged away, according to eyewitnesses who did not want to give their names. They said that one American soldier broke down and cried during the operation. When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it. The same paper quotes Lt Col Springman, a US commander in the region, as saying: 'We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn't tell us.'

Collective punishment is unlawful under Article 4(2)(b) of the Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Fourth Geneva Convention. It's also extremely ineffective.

More convictions for pedophile priest

One of Australia's most notorious pedophiles, former Catholic priest Michael Charles Glennon, was convicted yesterday of molesting three boys between 1986 and 1991.

After the decision, Judge Roland Williams lifted suppression orders allowing details of Glennon's crimes to be reported for the first time - including convictions in 1999 and August this year.

The verdict, by a County Court jury, was the culmination of a legal saga that included aborted trials, a controversial intervention by broadcaster Derryn Hinch and appeals to the High Court.

I certainly hope that the prisoner did not use any of those dangerous condoms on his victims and that the judge and jury realise that, far from doing justice, they have possibly joined a plot to discredit the church.

Nats, branded anew, try to defy the odds

Take for instance, the Prime Minister's ambitious proposal to blunt the teeth of the Senate. This does not particularly appeal to some Nationals. Federal director Andrew Hall flagged this as soon as the government paper containing options was released last week.

Yesterday's conference revealed deep division within the party about the move to cut back Senate power. The conference considered a motion from Queensland that, while accepting the Government's 'justified frustration' over rejected legislation, also acknowledged 'the historic role of the Senate in protecting Australia from the excesses of irresponsible governments, in particular the Whitlam government'. The motion opposed 'any reduction in the powers of the Senate to reject legislation'.

But this went down to an amendment, strongly backed by Anderson, that supported the need for reform to remove impasses between the houses.

During the debate, Anderson appealed to the party not to cut itself out of the issue by being too prescriptive immediately. 'We must be fully involved in a red-blooded way in this debate,' he said. Anderson recognised that people used their Senate votes carefully to have the upper house as a check and balance, but he said the other side of the equation was that people voted for a government in the lower house, and it was an issue when the government's platform was continually obstructed.

Two messages out of yesterday's debate on the Senate: this is an issue that will be quite difficult within the rank and file of the National party, especially in Queensland; and it is not going to be one on which Anderson will seek to differentiate his party. He could be forgiven for hoping that the Government will have to soon drop it for lack of bipartisan support.

In its way, the National Party has given us a very good argument to vote against the Howard Senate proposal. If the National party's historic commitment to the Senate can be reversed overnight because the Liberal party wants to, then that just proves that how dominant is the executive and how badly we need the current powers of the Senate to continue.

Tradeoffs are possible, like ending the Senate's power to block supply, but we are seeing no sign of such tradeoffs. All we're really seeing from the Howard government is a very loud: 'Gimme'.

Harry's small voice of protest is all we have

Our new president has entered the public debate over the Mesopotamian war and, not surprisingly, he trots out the expected pro-war line - if the UN doesn't do what the US orders it to do, then it is irrelevant. It is an interesting understanding of relevance, is it not? The UN is supposed to be a forum of nations with a mission to avoid war where possible by reason and negotiation, with military force used as a last resort. This does not suit the US or its satrapies, so we redefine the role of the UN to be a rubber stamper of American intentions and a cheer squad for its unilateral actions. Well, not quite unilateral. Where the US goes, you can be pretty certain John Major won't be far behind.

President Jeffery confuses us a bit when he throws in a line that 'violence in pursuit of political, religious or cultural aims is wrong and simply never works. . .' Did he check that line with the Man of Steel before delivering it? Will he tell George the Smaller that violence never works? Or should he have made it clear that our violence always works, theirs - whoever they may be - never does?

Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett is right: 'United Nations reform should not be used as an excuse to allow the United States . . . to take pre-emptive action against another country.'

But where is the Leader of the Opposition while this major revolution in our constitutional arrangements is going on? We scour the paper in vain looking for a comment from Simon Crean about the politicisation and presidentialising of the office of governor-general. Presumably he is too busy making sure his backbenchers don't go feral on him during the Bush visit, being rude and causing embarrassment.

Today, Ozplogistan is convulsed by LWDBs alleging that the criticism of Sir William for speaking out was dishonest because RWDBs are not condemning Jeffery for speaking out. Equally the RWDBs are alleging hypocrisy for supporting Sir William and condemning General Jeffery.

I don't see that as the issue. Sir William (right or wrong) called us to be a better Australia. General Jeffery calls us to vote Liberal. Sir William was controversial. General Jeffery is unacceptable.

Is the 9/11 commission too soft?

Despite budget restraints and complaints from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that the White House had 'slow-walked and stonewalled' the joint inquiry, the panel's 900-page report was completed late last year. Then it sat in limbo for nearly nine months while committee staff negotiated with the White House and its intelligence agencies over what portions could and could not be released in the public version.

It was finally released in August, complete with some major redactions, including 28 blacked-out pages that dealt with the interaction between Saudi businessmen and the royal family and whether they intentionally or unwittingly aided al-Qaida or the Sept. 11 hijackers. Despite urging from Democrats and Republicans as well as the Saudi royal family, Bush refused to declassify the 28 pages, insisting that the revelations would jeopardize intelligence 'sources and methods.'

It's another reason for the families' dissatisfaction. 'The frustration is we even had to lobby for the commission in the first place,' says Van Auken. 'And that we still have to fight to get a report that resembles a real investigation and determines what went wrong.'

The joint inquiry report has now been around for months. is there anything in it that would have justified classification on national security grounds?

The veracity of the Bush administration is getting easy to test. Look at the join inquiry and try and find something seriously effecting US national security. Hell, look at the Kay report and try and find the clear proof of WMDs that the Bush administration is claiming. If they'll spin documents on the public record why should anyone they would not spin classified documents to get their way?