13 December 2003

Global warming kills 150,000 a year

At least 150,000 people die needlessly each year as a direct result of global warming, three major UN organisations warned yesterday. The belief that the effects of climate change would become apparent in 10, 20 or 50 years time was misplaced, they said in a report. The changes had already brought about a noticeable increase in malnutrition, as well as outbreaks of diarrhoea and malaria, the three 'big killers' in the poorest countries of the world.

The report was published at the climate talks in Milan, where ministers are trying to put the finishing touches to the Kyoto protocol, designed to put legal limits on developed countries' greenhouse gas emissions. Russia's ratification of the protocol is needed for it to come into force.

Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a World Health Organisation scientist, said the estimates of deaths were extremely conservative and the reality was probably far higher. They were expected to double in the next 30 years. 'People may say that this is a small total compared with the totals who die anyway, but these are needless deaths. We must do our best to take preventative measures,' he said.

The Bush administration is calling Kyoto a straigtjacket. That might be appropriate treatment for an insane policy that continues to claim global warming is not happening or is having no impact.

Climate change 'cost $60b' in 2003

Climate change may have cost the world over $60 (AU$81) billion in 2003, triggering a spate of natural disasters from a deadly heat wave in Europe to massive flooding in China, the United Nations has said.

In a report released on Wednesday, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said the cost of natural disasters had risen 10 percent from $55 billion in 2002 and was part of a worrying trend of climate change.

The agency, which is hosting a 12-day climate conference that ends Friday in Milan, called on nations to make a greater effort to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, as a way of tackling the crisis.

'Climate change is not a prognosis, it is a reality that is, and will increasingly, bring human suffering and economic hardship,' UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said.

'Developed countries have a responsibility to reduce their emissions, but also have a responsibility to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of global warming.

Seems like a lot of money to pay for not ratifying Kyoto or acting on global warming.

A Baghdad Thanksgiving's Lingering Aftertaste

Of more concern, air traffic controllers in Britain are seething over the flight, in which the president's 747, falsely identified as a Gulfstream, traveled through British airspace. Prospect, the controllers union in the United Kingdom, says the flight broke international regulations, posed a potential safety threat and exposed a weakness in the air defense system that could be exploited by terrorists.

'The overriding concern is if the president's men who did this can dupe air traffic control, what's to stop a highly organized terrorist group from duping air traffic control?' asked David Luxton, Prospect's national secretary. Luxton said the flight was in 'breach' of regulations against filing false flight plans set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which he said should apply to a military aircraft using civilian airspace.

Luxton said that by identifying itself as a Gulfstream V instead of the much larger 747, Air Force One could have put itself and other airplanes in danger. The Gulfstream can climb faster and maneuver more nimbly than a 747, which means controllers could have assumed the president's plane was capable of a collision-avoiding maneuver that it couldn't actually do. And the 'wake vortex' of a 747, much larger than a Gulfstream's, could jeopardize smaller planes that were told by unsuspecting controllers to follow in the mislabeled plane's wake.

Let's see. The turkey was fake. The flight plan was fake. The BA encounter was fake. The spontaneous cheering by pre-selected and pre-warned troops was fake. Meanwhile air security was imperiled and non-selected US troops missed out on any turkey at all. Doesn't the generosity of George Bush just warm the cockles of your heart?

12 December 2003

The Nobel Lecture by Shirin Ebadi

In the introduction to my speech, I spoke of human rights as a guarantor of freedom, justice and peace. If human rights fail to be manifested in codified laws or put into effect by states, then, as rendered in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human beings will be left with no choice other than staging a 'rebellion against tyranny and oppression'. A human being divested of all dignity, a human being deprived of human rights, a human being gripped by starvation, a human being beaten by famine, war and illness, a humiliated human being and a plundered human being is not in any position or state to recover the rights he or she has lost.

If the 21st century wishes to free itself from the cycle of violence, acts of terror and war, and avoid repetition of the experience of the 20th century - that most disaster-ridden century of humankind, there is no other way except by understanding and putting into practice every human right for all mankind, irrespective of race, gender, faith, nationality or social status.

In anticipation of that day.

With much gratitude, Shirin Ebadi.

Go read.

Howard's latest cosying up to Bush is madness

It shouldn't be too difficult for Latham to sell the idea that Australia, by endorsing NMD, is aiding and abetting the Bush Administration in an adventure that will trigger a nuclear arms race centred on this region.

The real target of NMD is China, which has the capacity to deploy 1000 thermonuclear warheads on ICBMs by 2015. The strategic purpose of NMD is nuclear offence, not defence.

In theory NMD provides an anti-nuclear shield behind which a pre-emptive nuclear strike can be safely launched without fear of retaliation.

But in practice, the shield can be breached by low-flying cruise missiles launched from submarines close to shore or by terrorists carrying a nuclear device into the US (or Australia) in a suitcase.

NMD is a trillion-dollar fantasy. It is well outside the square of Dr Strangelove, which at least operated within a framework of the balance of terror provided by Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD for short).

When pressed, Hill could not even say against whom NMD is to protect Australia beyond 'rogue states'. Forget that NMD does not work. Forget that NMD drags us further into a dangerous alliance - dangerous because of Howard's failure to articulate a foreign policy beyond doing whatever the Bush administration asks. What rogue state would choose a missile launching system over sub-launched cruise?

And if NMD's real target is China what is that going to do to our new relationship with China?

Museum's blue poles cause a whole new row

David Barnett, John Howard's authorised biographer, in a previously secret submission on the controversial National Museum of Australia, has objected to a sculpture of blue telegraph poles in the Garden of Australian Dreams because he sees it as a monument to Gough Whitlam.

I understand Barnett is also asking tv stations not to broadcast Abbot and Costello movies lest it remind the masses of the Man of Steel's treasurer and his health minister. Really this is garbage of the first water. Like terminating the director of the ANM without any stated reason apart from not accepting the Whig armband theory of history - that everything in Australia was wonderful until it got even more wonderful. More here.

Global trade = global warming

Merchandise trade currently accounts for only about 20 percent of global GDP, with agriculture representing just a small part of global trade. But even at these relatively low levels of trade, the transportation sector consumes nearly 60 percent of the world's oil and produces a quarter of all energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. Oil use by transportation has almost doubled since 1973. Transportation-related emissions are growing at about 2.5 percent annually -- faster than any other sector in the economy.

Any dramatic increase in global trade could add substantially to the world's annual carbon-dioxide emissions. Particularly problematic is the growing use of trucks and airplanes at the expense of slower and more efficient trains and ships. Technological breakthroughs for freight transport are not yet on the horizon. Improvements in fuel efficiency are possible, but studies show that they would encourage more long-distance transport due to lower operating costs and are unlikely to prevent emissions growth in the face of increasing demand.

Given the general scientific consensus that carbon-dioxide emissions will have to drop below 1990 levels within a few decades in order to stabilize the climate at the lower end of various warming scenarios, long-distance trade poses a serious challenge. If the world's future economic development depends largely on global trade, then in the absence of radically new transportation technologies, we are likely to face the ultimate conflict between the economy and the environment. If global trade in agricultural products is the only way out of poverty for hundreds of millions of rural poor in developing countries, the conflict may well turn out to have an additional tragic dimension.

More later.

11 December 2003

The Australian Bill of Rights

Legislative powers of the Parliament 51.(xxiiiA.)The provision of maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family allowances

(xxxi.) The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws:

(xxvi.) The people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws

Trial by jury. 80. The trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury, and every such trial shall be held in the State where the offence was committed, and if the offence was not committed within any State the trial shall be held at such place or places as the Parliament prescribes.

Trade within the Commonwealth to be free. 92.Trade commerce and intercourse among the States shall be absolutely free.

Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion. 116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

Rights of residents in States. 117. A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.

Section 51(xxiiiA) seems to protect only doctors and dentists. Section 80 has been held to apply only to those offences declared indictable by the parliament, not to other offences no matter how serious. Placitum (xxvi) has been held not to require that the special laws be for the benefit of the people it is made for.

Section 116 prohibits the Commonwealth from making laws about religion, although Section 51 does not give the Commonwealth any such power.

The High Court has implied a freedom of political communication but its limits are uncertain.

This is not a bill of rights we can be proud of. Strangely enough, a bill of rights (PDF) we could take pride in does exist. It�s just not current law anywhere in Australia. The ACT has now passed a statutory bill of rights, but it does not bind the ACT legislature. We are the only electoral democracy without a constitutional or statutory bill of rights. We should fix that.

The Second Battle of Agincourt

A British businessman intends leading 5,000 archers to a second battle of Agincourt in an attempt to defeat plans for a windfarm at the historic site in France.

Amateur historian Don Baggs, 59, of Monmouth, south Wales, sent out a call to arms after friends in the village, in northern France, asked for his help.

Plans to build four 459ft wind turbines near the site of Henry V%u2019s victory over the French, in 1415, have united villagers in opposition.

Now Mr Baggs is planning his own expeditionary force in a modern-day show of strength aimed at demonstrating the international opposition to the plan.

He claims the village of Agincourt, spelled Azincourt in French, should be saved for future generations and made a world heritage site.

This guy should be careful or the White House will list him as a member of the CoW.

Mandela on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What I am trying to say is that all these social ills which constitute an offence against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not a pre-ordained result of the forces of nature or the product of a curse of the deities.

They are the consequences of decisions which men and women take or refuse to take, all of whom will not hesitate to pledge their devoted support for the vision conveyed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This Declaration was proclaimed as Universal precisely because the founders of this Organisation and the nations of the world who joined hands to fight the scourge of fascism, including many who still had to achieve their own emancipation, understood this clearly that our human world was an interdependent whole.

Necessarily, the values of happiness, justice, human dignity, peace and prosperity have a universal application because each people and every individual is entitled to them.

Similarly, no people can truly say it is blessed with happiness, peace and prosperity where others, as human as itself, continue to be afflicted with misery, armed conflict and terrorism and deprivation.

Thus can we say that the challenge posed by the next 50 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the next century whose character it must help fashion, consists in whether humanity, and especially those who will occupy positions of leadership, will have the courage to ensure that, at last, we build a world consistent with the provisions of that historic Declaration and other human rights instruments that have been adopted since 1948.

Human Rights Day 2003

Saddam's Labor Laws Live On

Most Iraqi workers hoped the fall of Saddam Hussein would liberate them, enabling them to recover their lost rights. Chief among them was the right to an independent union. In 1987, the regime of Saddam Hussein reclassified most Iraqi workers--those who labored in the huge state enterprises that are the heart of the country's economy--as civil servants. As such, they were prohibited from forming unions and bargaining.

The occupation, however, didn't lift this decree. It is still in force, as privatization looms like a sword of Damocles over those workers and the factories on which they depend for survival. And while keeping in place the ban on unions, the occupation authorities have kept wages low and unemployment high.

For Iraqi workers, the signal could not be clearer: The overthrow of Saddam did not bring liberation.

This is the guts of this story to me, although the attack on IFTU headquarters by the occupation kinda reinforces the CPA's attitude to unions. Go sign the petition

More on this here, here, and here.

These Squirrels Are Super Cool

Arctic ground squirrels are one the coolest critters around -- literally. That's because during their hibernation in arctic climates, they can cool their body to below freezing and still survive.

They manage this through a process called supercooling, in which a liquid can reach sub-zero temperatures but still remain fluid. This is possible by reducing the temperature very slowly.

The arctic ground squirrel can drop its internal temperature to as low as minus 6 degrees Celsius. While another animal's blood would freeze in its veins, the hibernating squirrel's keeps right on flowing.

Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks want to tap into these supercooling talents for human use. One of the applications they foresee is long-distance space travel.

'Humankind is destined to be imprisoned on Earth until we can devise a way to induce a hibernating-like state in people,' said lead researcher Brian Barnes, from the university's Institute of Arctic Biology.

Phooey. The Australian government has been using this technology for several years. Does anyone seriously believe that warm blood flows in the veins of Inquisitor-General Ruddock?

10 December 2003

Al-Sistani's Call for Democratic Elections

Another powerful Shi'a leader in Iraq is Moqtada al-Sadr, an outspoken critic of the U.S. occupation and son of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, a highly venerated cleric assassinated in 1999. Moqtada al-Sadr, whose base is the al-Kufa mosque in Najaf, has been urging the creation of a Shi'a guerrilla army. If the Americans are faced with a decision of choosing to support either al-Sistani or al-Sadr, they will have to turn to the former.

Yet if Washington is willing to support al-Sistani's calls for democratic elections, it could lead to a constitution with strong religious undertones, possibly threatening the secularism of Iraqi society. Shi'a leaders may also ease diplomatic relations with neighboring Iran, a country ruled and populated by Shi'a. If Iraq and Iran were to greatly improve relations, it could threaten to destabilize the current balance of power in the Middle East. The Bush administration may consider this result untenable. William Beeman, the Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University in Rhode Island, recently warned, 'Washington may consider it untenable, but Washington will be unable to prevent such a development if they support true democracy in Iraq.'

There still is hope in Washington that al-Sistani will remain an acceptable figurehead. Al-Sistani recently assured Washington that his proposed version of a new government in Iraq would not model the theocracy found in neighboring Iran, but that 'authority [in Iraq] will be for the people who will get the majority of votes.' If the Bush administration wants to create an Iraqi government in line with U.S. interests, it will have to work with al-Sistani and consider his demands.

I've given into my sad propensity for puns too much lately so I won't revive the old joke about Iraq and a hard place. If the Bush administration runs true to form they will treat al-Sistani as an opponent for opposing their ridiculous plan for show elections and then suddenly notice, when it is far too late, that their only choice is between al-Sadr and al-Sistani, not between a US proxy like Chalabi and al-Sistani.

The new Iraq will almost certainly be an Islamic republic, although it will not follow the Knomeini model of velayat-al-faqih. The new Iraq will not be especially friendly to Israel. The road to Jerusalem still runs through Jerusalem.

Latham puts republic on agenda

A federal Labor government under Mark Latham would make the republic a priority in its first term, the party's new political leader said today.

'People will know well in advance of the next election the timetable we would set out to advance (for) this very important issue, for the independence of our nation, pride of our nation' Mr Latham said in Melbourne today.

He said a Labor government would let the public decide on a model for a republic through three separate plebiscites.

Most, 'if not all', of this process would be completed in the first term of a Labor government, he said.

Mr Latham said he supported the direct election of an Australian president.

'We need a head of state who is one of us,' Mr Latham said.

'That truly means, in my assessment, that we all have to have a sense of participation, a sense of belonging to the process by which that person would be selected.'

Iron Mark is dangerous. The idea that the Australian people should get to vote on a republic they want instead of one the political elite wants could lead to all sorts of unmitigated catastrophe and unparalleled disaster. Next he'll be advocating democracy.

Clear as Mud

Talk about a curious policy. The Roadmap is dead on the ground, but Washington refuses to endorse an alternative. It nonetheless annoys its key regional ally by expressing an interest in the alternative. Yet it insists that nothing has changed. When the Bush team was running for office in 2000, they used to disparage that kind of nonsense as a feckless foreign policy. Above all else, the Bushies have prided themselves on moral clarity in dealing with the rest of the world. No matter how moral they now feel, clarity is almost entirely missing from their Middle East policy.

The Bush opposition to any pace plan that does not establish peace before it goes into effect is crazy. Although I happen to agree with this graf I am blogging it mainly because it's suck excellent snark.

A taste of things to come

The heatwave was record-breaking in its extremity, with temperatures exceeding 100F (37.78C) across a vast area of Europe, and the prolonged period of drought made it worse. Parts of eastern France had been without rain since February, the longest spell in a century. There was no feed for livestock; nothing was green any more.

In Feurs, in the Loire d�partement, a 34-year-old man was arrested for killing his horse in public, cutting it in four pieces and putting in his freezer. He said the drought had shrivelled all the grazing and he had no more grass or feed to keep the animal alive.

In France's south, the tinder-dry brush went up in flames at the hint of a spark and by the third week of July, 40,000 acres were burning between Toulon and Saint Tropez; the Massif des Maures, the chain of hills that form a noble backdrop the Riviera, was burnt to a cinder.

Two Britons, Margaret Timson, 63, and her granddaughter,15-year-old Kirsty Egerton, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, were killed when they tried to escape from the fires, close to La Garde-Freinet, near Frejus, by car. Other tourists from the Netherlands and Poland also lost their lives.

Rivers dried across the continent; in Spain and in Italy there were electricity shortages as hydroelectric power stations ceased to function when the flow dropped.

The Po, Italy's greatest river, was reduced to a trickle. As the rivers began to vanish, so did the Alpine glaciers. Many Swiss glaciers showed dramatic retreats, melting at a rate 10 times that of a normal summer. Italians scientists estimate that their own country's glaciers are now 20 per cent smaller than they were in 1987.

And the old and the infirm, at the heatwave's height in early August, simply keeled over. The French estimate an extra 15,000 deaths during the summer period across the country, but with the largest numbers in Paris.

And here in OZ we learn that one greenhouse impact will be a significant increase in bushfires. Joy. That will certainly fire up the Kyoto-free economy. Federal Environment Minister Kemp has just released an Australian global warming scenario. More when I've read it.

Public backs Latham's Bush attack

Almost half the Australian public agree with Mark Latham that US President George Bush is "incompetent and dangerous", according to a poll.

An ACNielsen AgePoll of 1363 people taken last weekend found that 45 per cent of Australians agree with the blistering attack by the new Opposition Leader on the head of Australia's most important ally, while 52 per cent disagree. Mr Latham made the comment well before he became Opposition Leader.

The poll found that 51 per cent of Australians believe Labor was right to oppose Australia's involvement in the Iraq war, while 45 per cent say it was wrong.

In January, when debate centred on whether the UN would sanction force against Iraq, only 6 per cent of Australians responding to an AgePoll were prepared to send Australian troops to war against Iraq. On April 1, 12 days after the first bombs had dropped, support for the war had grown to 44 per cent.

In the latest AgePoll, opponents of the war outnumber supporters in every state except Queensland and in every age group.

The startling findings suggest that Mr Bush's decision to invade Iraq despite global opposition has badly damaged his support within Australia, one of his country's closest allies.

It also indicates that the Iraq war has polarised Australians, and not only on party lines.

The poll found 26 per cent of Coalition voters believe Mr Bush is incompetent and dangerous, and 31 per cent think Labor was right to oppose Australian involvement in Iraq.

If this is Bush's popular standing in a nation counted among the closest allies of the US then what is it in the Arab world?

9 December 2003

Will the counter-insurgency plan in Iraq repeat the mistakes of Vietnam?

One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East. According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers - again, in secret - when full-field operations begin. (Neither the Pentagon nor Israeli diplomats would comment. 'No one wants to talk about this,' an Israeli official told me. 'It's incendiary. Both governments have decided at the highest level that it is in their interests to keep a low profile on U.S.-Israeli co�peration - on Iraq.) The critical issue, American and Israeli officials agree, is intelligence. There is much debate about whether targeting a large number of individuals is a practical - or politically effective - way to bring about stability in Iraq, especially given the frequent failure of American forces to obtain consistent and reliable information there.

This is crass stupidity of the highest order. Israel's record as an occupying power is not especially stellar, even at the level of merely securing the Occupied Territories. The real idiocy, though, is imagining that this is not something the Muslim world will hear about. And what price on any Iraqi cooperating at all once they learn that Gaza on the Tigris is not just a metaphor?

Gay asylum bid clears first hurdle

The High Court, by a 4-3 majority, allowed the men's appeals.

It held that the tribunal should have considered what might happen if they had lived openly as a homosexual couple. The majority held that the tribunal also fell into jurisdictional error by dividing Bangladeshi homosexuals into two groups - discreet and non-discreet - and failed to consider whether the men might suffer harm if police, employers or others became aware of their homosexuality.

'By declaring that there was no reason to suppose that the appellants would not continue to act discreetly in the future, the tribunal effectively broke the genus of homosexual males in Bangladesh into two groups - discreet and non-discreet homosexual men in Bangladesh,' the High Court said in its judgment.

'By doing so, the tribunal fell into jurisdictional error that renders its decision of no force or effect.'

The High Court ordered the RRT to redetermine its review of the Immigration Department's decision.

More later, perhaps. when I've read the decision.

Secrets And Spies

Meanwhile, Newsweek reports that Luti was a recipient of intelligence passed on to him by the Washington office of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the former Iraqi exile group led by Ahmad Chalabi, the darling of the neocons and their candidate to be Iraq's next prime minister. The INC - whose intelligence was widely considered bogus and unreliable by the U.S. intelligence community - served as a conduit for hair-raising but unproven (and later disproven) reports about Iraq WMD and terrorism links. Now, Newsweek has obtained a memo from the INC's Washington rep that claims the INC fed its intelligence to Luti and directly to Vice President Cheney's office.

Heaping more doubts on the integrity of the fact-finding process is new information from Israel suggesting that Israeli intelligence officials, too, joined U.S. and British intelligence in exaggerating the threat of Iraqi WMD. A report by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University last month called for an official investigation of how Israeli intelligence assessed the Iraqi threat. According to informed U.S. sources, a secret intelligence team was set up in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office before the war in Iraq to generate data adding yet more justifications for war - intelligence that Sharon;s office then shared, in English, with Luti's OSP - even though the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, was said to be much more cautious and restrained about the threat to Israel from Iraq.

Curiouser and curiouser? Or more and more lupine?

US, Britain pressed on Iraq arms hunt

Controversy has raged over whether the Baghdad regime had WMD, cited as a main reason for the US-led war that ousted Saddam Hussein earlier this year. The Iraq group's report in October said none had been found so far.

The two countries told the closed-door meeting that they want the report to be handed over to UNMOVIC, the UN arms team which monitored Baghdad's weapons programmes but left before the start of the war in March.

A US spokesman at the United Nations downplayed the requests and said the US-led coalition in Iraq had been regularly 'supplying information' about the hunt for the alleged banned weapons.

The call from Russia and France followed a presentation to the council from acting UNMOVIC chairman Demetrius Perricos, who was introducing the latest update report from the still-functioning UN inspection team.

Among other details, the update noted that 1.5 million dollars per month is now being spent on UMMOVIC, which says it is ready to resume the search if authorised to do so by the Security Council.

It is unclear if the Man of Steel or his government have had access to the body of the ISG interim report.

The problem with crying Wolf! whether it's Nigerien yellow wolf or aluminum wolves is that you can only do it once or twice with any effect. The conclusions in the ISG interim report are not supported by any evidence that goes beyond conjecture. Some statements, such as co-storage of conventional and unconventional weapons are outright false. If the body of the interim report supports the conclusions why is it not released to the Security Council? One would have thought the last tactic was sewing further doubt among US allies about US veracity.

Or is the US merely yelling about wolves of mass destruction?

Building a Better Occupation

This is bad business on two counts. First, it reinforces the myth, propagated by radical groups in the region, that the United States is waging a war against Islam. American officials showed they understood this danger earlier in the year - and during the first Gulf War in 1991 - by going out of their way to keep Israel out of the conflict. Why are they so openly aligning with Israel - and emulating its methods - during the equally sensitive post-battlefield phase of this war?

Second, Israel is a poor model on substantive grounds. Even when such a heavy hand has succeeded at swatting foes in the short run, it has tended to alienate more Palestinians in the medium-to-long run. The idea is to isolate the guerrillas from the population, but the result is often to turn the population into guerrillas.

The U.S. Army has had its own woeful experiences with attempts at this strategy. In Vietnam, it was called the 'hamlet' strategy. It didn't work. In early 20th-century Philippines, the cordoned-off villages were called 'concentration camps.' It did work in the Philippines, but only after two years of savage brutality, followed by 40 years of occupation - more time, at either task, than anyone wants to spend in Iraq.

The current phase of the Iraqi war is complicated. It requires American soldiers to kill a band of insurgents while, at the same time, a half-mile down the road, other American soldiers are fixing a water pump or painting a schoolhouse. In this sort of warfare, such strange anomalies are not just inevitable but appropriate.

However, the two activities shouldn't work against each other. The soldiers shouldn't blow up the water pump - or, to put it more concretely, shouldn't tick off the same people that the new water pump is meant to please. It's one thing for the left hand and the right hand to be doing different things. It's another for the left hand to mangle the right hand's fingers in the process. That's what seems to be going on in Iraq now.

Back in February and March the war party was asked why this war and this occupation would be nay different from previous colonial adventures. There was never any answer. There is even less of an answer now.

The spreading meme that we should declare martial law or institute some dramatically repressive policy does not answer the question. Why should what failed for the Russians in Afghanistan or the French in Algeria work for the coalition in Iraq? Why is the enterprise of Iraq different?

South of my days' circle

South of my days' circle, part of my blood's country,

rises that tableland, high delicate outline

of bony slopes wincing under the winter,

low trees, blue-leaved and olive, outcropping granite-

clean, lean, �hungry country. The creek's leaf-silenced,

willow choked, the slope a tangle of medlar and crabapple

branching over and under, blotched with a green lichen;

and the old cottage lurches in for shelter.

O cold the black-frost night. the walls draw in to the warmth

and the old roof cracks its joints; the slung kettle

hisses a leak on the fire. Hardly to be believed that summer

will turn up again some day in a wave of rambler-roses,

thrust it's hot face in here to tell another yarn-

a story old Dan can spin into a blanket against the winter.

seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones,

seventy years are hived in him like old honey.

During that year, Charleville to the Hunter,

nineteen-one it was, and the drought beginning;

sixty head left at the McIntyre, the mud round them

hardened like iron; and the yellow boy died

in the sulky ahead with the gear, but the horse went on,

stopped at Sandy Camp and waited in the evening.

It was the flies we seen first, swarming like bees.

Came to the Hunter, three hundred head of a thousand-

cruel to keep them alive - and the river was dust.

Or mustering up in the Bogongs in the autumn

when the blizzards came early. Brought them down;

down, what aren't there yet. Or driving for Cobb's on the run

up from Tamworth-Thunderbolt at the top of Hungry Hill,

and I give him a wink. I wouoldn't wait long, Fred,

not if I was you. The troopers are just behind,

coming for that job at the Hillgrove. He went like a luny,

him on his big black horse.

Oh, they slide and they vanish

as he shuffles the years like a pack of conjuror's cards.

True or not, it's all the same; and the frost on the roof

cracks like a whip, and the back-log break into ash.

Wake, old man. this is winter, and the yarns are over.

No-one is listening

South of my days' circle.

I know it dark against the stars, the high lean country

full of old stories that still go walking in my sleep.

Judith Wright

New England

I'm in New England for a week. I did not want to confuse any Australian readers who might have thought I'd gone overseas where I understand there may be a second New England.

New England is the name given to a region in the north of the state of New South Wales, Australia. New England has no defined boundaries, and the term has several possible definitions. At its narrowest, New England may be defined as the area of the New England Ranges, running south from the Queensland border to about Quirindi, and including neither the coastal regions of northern New South Wales nor the Western Slopes region west of the line Inverell-Gunnedah. A broader definition would include the region bounded on the north by the Queensland border, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the Liverpool Range and on the west by the line Boggabilla-Moree-Narrabri-Coonabarabran.

Armidale has sprawl. For a town of less than 30 000, that's terrible.

The loss of independence to the Australia Museum is dangerous to Australian culture

Deputy Secretary of the Department, Dr Stretton, is an observer on the Museum Council. It was revealed that departmental officers through Dr Stretton, played an improper role in drafting the Museum Council's response to the Carroll Review. In other words a key mechanism to facilitate the 'Howard-isation' of the Museum was prepared within the Department!

Our cultural agencies must surely be alert and alarmed by now, all the more so because the Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts seemingly has the Minister's permission to participate in this politicisation.

The story of the Museum is frightening and raises serious concerns about the ability of any institution or agency to effectively maintain its cultural independence.

I have outlined the chain of events which have unfolded during the life of the Museum because I think it is a story which needs to be told. Dawn Casey's lament of the Museum being the battle ground for the Howard government's war on culture constitutes a warning for other institutions - a warning to be heeded.

I believe that the ramifications of this government exerting its influence in such a partisan way damages the Museum and is designed to prevent the honest exploration and portrayal of Australian cultural heritage and identity.

The National Museum of Australia has become John Howard's personal story board through which he can make his image of Australia and pretend it is real: an anglo-centric society, patronising of migrants, in denial of indigenous injustice and glory for those who share this narrow, ill-informed conservatism.

John Howard has cultural pretensions of his own. That's why he was in a position to overrule Les Murray on language issues for the constitutional preamble and recently withdrew the commission for the London war memorial over artistic disagreements. As both rather stodgy examples of the Man of Steel's artistic ability demonstrate, John Howard is no Thomas Jefferson.

The level of interference in the museum is a disgrace.

Me of the never, ever: Costello uses language Howard would rather forget

Mr Costello also ignored Mr Howard's weekend direction against personal attacks on Mr Latham by suggesting the Opposition Leader should have been dumped after a 'drunken' incident involving a Sydney cab driver two years ago.

He suggested Mr Latham was taking a hypocritical stance over Democrat leader Andrew Bartlett's drunken accosting last week of Liberal Senator Jeannie Ferris.

'Well, Andrew Bartlett gets drunk and assaults someone and he is compelled to stand aside,' Mr Costello said.

'Another person gets drunk, has a fight over property and assaults someone and they make him party leader.'

He added: 'I heard Mr Latham said yesterday that he would sack a frontbencher that behaved like that.

'Well, which frontbencher do you think he might have had in mind? Himself?'

Mr Howard was forced at the weekend to pull the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, into line after he attacked Mr Latham in Parliament over his first marriage.

Costello's allegation is untrue. Latham was not charged with assault. The police investigated. Latham said he was defending himself from an attempted robbery. The police laid no charges. Trying to draw a moral equivalence between Latham and Bartlett is drawing a very long, and very dishonest bow.

Generational change seems to be generating a certain instability within the Liberal Party.

Rich lifestyles cannot go on, says EPA

The amount of land needed to produce the goods and services we consume, known as an ecological footprint, has increased by 23 per cent in five years. In that period the population grew by only 7 per cent. It now takes 7.4 hectares of land to maintain each Sydneysider's lifestyle, an increase of 16 per cent on five years ago. Regional residents saw their footprint grow by 15 per cent to 7 hectares.

The deputy director general of the Department of Environment and Conservation, Simon Smith, said: 'We take out too much of the good stuff and put back too much of the bad stuff.'

While per capita consumption of water has dropped, total consumption is increasing due to the growth in population. The current per capita use of 412 litres a day in Sydney is far above the target for 2005 of 364 litres.

The report notes that while it is possible to maintain existing levels of consumption in the short term, 'it means that water restrictions will occur more frequently in the future'.

'This, together with the need to increase the amount of water left in rivers for environmental flow, climate change and natural variability means that there is an urgent need to reduce consumption through such measures as water conservation and recycling.'

More energy is also being used, with electricity sales up by 4.5 per cent in the past two years, driving up greenhouse gas emissions produced by coal-fired power stations.

The report is available for download. This is a case of competing policies working at cross purposes. Raising public transport fares always shifts people out of buses and trains and into cars. That will increase the environmental footprint. Falling usage will exacerbate State Transit's fiscal situation. That will lead to further demands for fare rises. The vicious cycle is easy to establish and very hard to break away from. Fiscal and ecological rectitude are not always the same things.

8 December 2003

Should the Thylacine be cloned?

What are the moral implications of cloning an extinct species as opposed to an existing species?

MIKE ARCHER, DIRECTOR OF THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM: I'm not big on cosmic morality, believing it to be very much a personal and subjective matter, often culture-specific. But in this case, most people agree that the 'immoral' act' was extermination of the Tasmanian Tiger in the first place; to bring it back, if we can, would be to me a moral imperative aimed at undoing that black act. Most churches agree. Even a poll run on the internet in the United States, a country traditionally conservative about things like genetic engineering, was highly supportive of the Tasmanian Tiger Project with more than 75 percent of respondents in favour. Some Biblical fundamentalists have accused us of 'playing God,' a view which I reject utterly for the reasons just noted. In contrast, other more mainstream theists draw attention to the fact that the teachings of Jesus are about giving life, not taking it away. There are even Biblical comments that could be cited as encouragement for this project such as The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (New Testament, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15, verse 26).

What will the social impact be in bringing the Tasmanian Tiger back to life?

ARCHER: For the Tasmanian Tiger's social life (because if we can bring back one, we can bring back a population - there are other specimens), it will be one heck of a stimulus!� But what social impact will it have on us?� Enormous I would have thought. To name just a few, tourism to Tasmania would massively increase, if the project against all odds is successful and Tasmania is where Tasmanian Tigers are re-established. To actually reverse extinction, even if it is in just this one special instance, would be the biological equivalent of the first walk on the moon - something thought to be way beyond dreams. And, like the moon walk, it would do extraordinary things to kids' brains. They will be far more inclined to look beyond present limits, beyond prohibitions, to dare to try things that may result in equally awesome leaps in human capacity.

The world is a poorer place without Tasmanian tigers. Let's make it richer.

The Archaeology of Maleness Reaches Back ... and Back Again

The emperor Elagabalus appointed ministers in Rome through a competitive appraisal that Edward Gibbon, the 18th century historian of the Roman empire, described delicately as one based on 'enormitate membrorum.'

While this criterion for appointive office may not seem much more absurd than measuring candidates today by the enormousness of their campaign war chests or the telegenicity of their coiffures, it resembles a tiresome male fixation that is now stirring competition in a surprising arena: the staid field of paleontology.

A few months ago Dr. Jason Dunlop, of the Humboldt University in Berlin, announced in the journal Nature that he had found a fossilized penis, indeed 'the oldest fossilized example of such an intromittent organ,' he declared. No matter that it belonged to a minuscule spider-like creature known as a harvestman or daddy long-legs, a mere 6 millimeters in length. The fossil was 400 million years old, and evidently the find gave Dr. Dunlop and his colleagues bragging rights in paleontological circles.

But not for long. In last week's Science, Nature's rival publication, Dr. David J. Siveter of the University of Leicester, says he has found an even older intromittent organ, this one belonging to a minute crustacean known as an ostracode. Though Dr. Siveter's ostracode is only half the size of Dr. Dunlop's harvestman, it is older by 25 million years. This trumped the earlier discovery as the oldest known evidence of definitive maleness - a state that possession of a penis puts beyond doubt.

This rivalry would doubtless have been deeply perplexing to a man like Elagabalus, but in paleontology, age matters.

I am not going to touch this one with a 10-foot pole.

The end of political orthodoxy

Latham presents himself a stranger in a strange land, an outer suburban boy who worked his way to where he is, and who, as an outsider, calls it as he sees it in the nation and the polity that has been shaped by John Howard.

Everything about the Howard orthodoxy is predicated on the safe pair of hands argument, an experienced leader providing economic certainty in a frightening international climate. It's a powerful prescription.

But everything loses its lustre eventually. The American public faced a similar formulation in 1992, with the experienced Washington insider George Bush the elder facing off the younger, brash, outsider Bill Clinton. Clinton won that election by putting forward an audacious economic and social plan while providing an unflinching critique of the present. Interestingly, Clinton was also subjected to a sustained attack over what was referred to as the character issue, just as Latham is.

We will see how Latham's leadership will play out. But it is difficult to see how choosing Latham over Beazley, the experienced loser, was a crazy gamble, as some have suggested. As Ron Barassi told his players before they walked on to the MCG to win the 1977 premiership, the greatest risk is to take no risks at all.

Even if Labor is defeated at next year's election, it will have lost on its own terms and not those of the man it underestimated so grievously back in 1996.

The government has done a great job of projecting Iron Mark onto centre stage. It's also done a fantastic job of projecting its own prejudices into exactly the same place. Abbot's extraordinary play for the non-divorcee vote may tell us more about Abbot than about how the Australian people feel on divorce. That can only be very bad news for the coalition.

Abbott shoots from lip, hits large foot

Most people knew almost nothing about Mark Latham a week ago. Now they know he is a human being with an interesting past who makes Peter Costello and Tony Abbott froth at the mouth.

Perhaps someone in the Coalition ought to be wondering if this is such a great political achievement? Surely Pauline Hanson showed that there are dangers in making an ordinary sort of person look like a victim by over-reacting to them?

A lot of people I have spoken to this week have volunteered the opinion that the thrashing Latham has received this week - and the grace with which he has copped it - have wiped out a lot of the negative things they knew about him.

As David Penberthy noted on this page yesterday, there is a growing groundswell of voter discontent with the Government's arrogance.

The Government's ham-fisted assault on Latham this week provides more evidence of just how out of touch it is.

At week's end three things were established in the public mind, each of them potentially vital to winning marginal seats. One, Mark Latham is entertaining: when he comes on the TV, people are going to watch and listen. Two, his big theme is about climbing the ladder. And three, he is about the future and not the past.

As Latham sits down this weekend to celebrate the birthday of his son Isaac Gough, this is not a bad place to be at all after only four days in the job.

And he has the Government to thank for much of it.

Media mirrors (perhaps as much as it moulds) public opinion. If the Daily Telegraph is writing about the grace of the opposition leader then it is time for the government to reconsider their tactics. I cannot remember a week when the news cycle was so dominated by the opposition leader. I also cannot remember an interview so embarrassing as when Costello did his goldfish out of water impersonation after challenging Latham's inexperience and then being asked about his own identical inexperience when deputy leader of the opposition.

The Howard government is about feeling comfortable with a safe pair of hands on the driving wheel. Getting shrill sits ill at ease with comfort. Getting shrill in a way that reveals the prime minister's personal headkicker to be a prisoner of some fairly old-fashioned prejudices does nothing to preserve the comfort zone.

7 December 2003

Latham already swaying voters

Self-declared larrikin leader Mark Latham has already pushed Labor towards a winning position, the first opinion poll since his election showed.

Taken in the battler heartland that deserted Labor in 1996, an exclusive Sun-Herald survey of five crucial western Sydney electorates showed a major shift towards the new leader, despite his turbulent first week in Parliament.

In a stunning endorsement of last week's bold caucus move to elect the 42-year-old maverick, more than two-thirds of respondents applauded the choice.

The poll results came as Mr Latham continued to pound the Coalition on the key issue of Medicare.

I guess this is what happens when the coalition launches attacks on someone's marital record and security trustworthiness. A lot of Australians have been through divorce and a lot dislike the government's supine approach tot he alliance.

Evidently Western Sydney is ceasing to be a coalition stronghold. That is not good news for the government.

Melting ice 'will swamp capitals

Measures to fight global warming will have to be at least four times stronger than the Kyoto Protocol if they are to avoid the melting of the polar ice caps, inundating central London and many of the world's biggest cities, concludes a new official report.

The report, by a German government body, says that even if it is fully implemented, the protocol will only have a 'marginal attenuating effect' on the climate change. But last week even this was thrown into doubt amid contradictory signals from the Russian government as to whether it will allow the treaty to come into effect.

Global warming already kills 150,000 people a year worldwide and the rate of climate change is soon likely to exceed anything the planet has seen 'in the last million years' says the report, produced by the German Advisory Council on Global Change for a meeting of the world's environment ministers to consider the future of the treaty in Milan this week.

It concludes that the protocol must urgently be brought into force, but only as a first step, insisting that 'catastrophic' climate change 'can now only be prevented if climate protection targets are set at substantially higher levels than those agreed internationally until now'.

Kyoto was a compromise, and a fairly conservative compromise. It was never going to be a complete solution. Neither is ignoring the problem entirely as the Howard government effectively advocates.

You'd be drawing a wide, wide bow to claim that terrorist attacks kill 150 000 annually. But which problem takes priority?