Friday, June 30, 2006

More grist for the mill

THE US Supreme Court has ruled that the military commissions set up by the Bush Administration to try Guantanamo Bay detainees, including Australian David Hicks, are illegal and have to be abandoned.

The court's 5-3 ruling said that the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war had to be applied to proceedings against all detainees at Guantanamo.

The court ruled that the Bush Administration's position that detainees held at Guantanamo and elsewhere are illegal combatants and not covered by the Geneva Conventions is unconstitutional.


On the same theme -

Britain: The Government's anti-terrorism laws suffered a major setback yesterday when a High Court judge quashed control orders on six suspected Iraqi terrorists who had been under house arrest for 18 hours a day.

The ruling left the Government's control order regime in tatters and threatened a fresh confrontation between ministers and the judiciary over the interpretation of the convention.

It doesn’t get stranger than this

I'm playing swap here because this is a particularly long rant.

Even your half aware American would concede the historic fact that Britain’s Westminster is ‘the mother of parliaments’.

Note parliaments, not democracy, there is a world of difference. Britain was dragged kicking and screaming into any semblance of universal suffrage.

I know about these things because my own family, back in the 1840s, was unceremoniously exiled from Britain, (again note exiled, not transported as convicts, but the effect is the same). Exiled because of the family patriarch’s deep involvement in a movement which sought real reforms in the way the country was governed, a group called the Chartists.

Now people tend to think the good life came to Britons with the Magna Charta, but this was nothing more nor less than a bunch of petty chieftains clamoring for their own bit of power, against the total power of the crown.

That they used words like ‘to all free men of our kingdom’ narrowed the stakes a fair bit, as anyone below them was hardly considered worthy. This style was seized on later, when more people were notionally free in that society, to spread the rights. It was never actually intended for everyman.

Like the petty chieftains, the powerful Bishops sought guarantees for the freedom of the English Church. Although this originally meant freedom from the King, later in history it was used for different purposes, like out free men.

The parliament existed well before any semblance of democracy, as a powerbase for the non-royals.

Slowly, slowly into the early 20th century, a reasonable form of democracy took hold in Westminster.

That is the history lesson, now we get to the strange…

In the guise of fighting terrorism and maintaining public order, Tony Blair's Government has quietly and systematically taken power from Parliament and the British people

On the one hand, it is now illegal to democratically protest, within a bulls roar of the old parliament precinct.

Ministers now have the right, without recourse to anyone, to invade, confiscate and detain on suspicion of terrorism.

Sure parliament can force inquiries into questionable acts, but reports from those inquiries must go directly to the minister and only released at the ministers discretion.

There are a boatload of similar proscriptive laws under a two anti terrorism acts over the past few years.

Now Blair is trying to up the ante, allow certain classes of law to be made, with no reference to parliament at all.

A stupefied commentator asked the question, ‘what would they think of that in Bush’s America?” What indeed? It has arrived already.

In the face of this steady dilution of democracy and freedom, we have the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ events in the very undemocratic House of Lords.

These crusty old souls used to be appointed by the government of the day, for life. The system has changed in recent years in that aspirants to the House of Lords now buy their way in, fluffing up party coffers as they go.

So here, this most undemocratic house is in need of a new president (one who presides over) and for the first time since that old magic Magna Charta, these appointed souls decide on an election to fill the role.

The rules are worthy of the greatest democracy we could dream of. Apart from a 75 word manifesto, the candidates are barred from politicking. No teak and biscuits in the members rooms, or pink gin at the bar. Any form of largess is immediately seized on as breaking the noble rules of this election.

The job is probably worth around 150,000 pounds a year (Americans can just double the figure into dollars,) so worth a bit of fanfare. But no, rules are rules, strictly adhered to.

Give me a break! Obviously money does not buy brains. These privileged morons actually expect to get applauded for democratically electing the head of a house bought with cash.

All I can say is that Britain has always had a dubious approach to democracy, the politicians put their collective toe in the water and obviously decided it wasn’t for them.

She’s a heartbreak old ‘Mother of Parliaments’.

Flying blind

Staving off violence … an Australian soldier tries to calm a crowd in Dili on Wednesday. Supporters of Mari Alkatiri poured in to the city yesterday.
Photo: AP

The human disaster bearing down on tiny East Timor really does seem to present a microcosm image of the worlds major conflicts.

At the heart of the issue is poor intelligence, leading to poor planning and resource allocation by the big powers.

Overseeing the birth of the nation of East Timor has largely been Australia’s responsibility. But as we dissect the comparisons here, it is well to remember that, at least militarily; Australia is a client state of the US.

A FORMER senior Australian army officer has slammed Australia's grassroots intelligence networks in Timor and elsewhere in the region, saying they are in poorer shape than during World War II.

Retired Major-General Mike Smith, who was deputy commander of UN forces in East Timor in 2000 and now heads the charity Austcare, said yesterday he found it surprising that Australia "keeps being caught with its pants down" in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea".

"If we really, really knew this region as well as some people think we do, then why are we constantly surprised by these issues?

As fresh violence broke out in Dili, General Smith said that "human intelligence is not deploying people to an area two weeks before an incident. It's having a network of sources throughout the country that have been established over many, many years.

Now slip over to another zone where Rice abruptly decided to make stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan to her planned trip to a foreign ministers meeting in Moscow.

Rice said the United States had once made the mistake of ignoring Afghanistan -- after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989 and the subsequent fall of their client government, which gave rise to the Taliban. That is one!

But a worse scenario is starting to come out:

A crucial intelligence war is going on in southern Afghanistan, where American, British and Canadian troops are trying to glean better information about the Taliban while attempting to persuade Pakistan to close Taliban command centres and camps.

The efforts follow the failure of the American-led coalition and Nato to predict the ferocity and numbers involved in the Taliban offensive that started in the middle of last month.

Intelligence officers from several western countries said the Taliban preparations took place through the winter in and around Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, in Pakistan.

Much of the blame for the lack of information has been placed on the narrow focus of the US military in the past. Until last year the coalition's intelligence operated only in the provinces of eastern Afghanistan and only as far south as Zabul province.

The critical provinces of Helmand, where 3,000 British troops are now deployed, and Kandahar and adjacent Balochistan were not covered. The Americans were interested only in catching al-Qa'eda leaders, who were believed to be hiding in the eastern provinces or in Pakistan's adjacent North West Frontier Province.

The Taliban presence farther south was ignored and, although Pakistan was helping American intelligence, Islamabad turned a blind eye to Taliban activities in Balochistan.

That full article is in the London Telegraph - Intelligence officers widen the net in hunt for Taliban

The truth is, our leaders and planners, the initiators of aggressive incursions and frantic cleanup operations, are flying blind. They appear to be driven by gut feeling, by domestic political imperatives, by assumptions by not by hard, reliable intelligence.

It’s like putting a Sopwith-Camel pilot into a stealth bomber and expecting basic instincts to conquer the technological complexities of the craft.

Fighting wars ‘by the seat of the pants’ is a dangerous folly, but that is what is happening out there right now. The coalition is flying blind.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

fighting kiddie porn

Responding to the frog - Onward Kiddie-porn Warriors

“…when it comes to smut, nothing is more disgusting than kiddie-porn! But don't worry, Republicans have got yer smut solution right here

The real target of major isp/space providers, so far as their users, is to provide ‘family friendly’ or acceptable environments. The agents dealing with this crap are targeting; kiddie porn, which must be ‘quarantined’ then reported to the relevant authority; generally accessible (that is on public access sites) porn images.

For the corps it is just good business to monitor and control the issue. But there are both legal and commercial constraints.

Forcibly blocking off-color Web sites is fine, but the logistics of hunting these sites is enormous. The corps really have to rely on public complaints, then follow up. Even then the web site ‘owner’ must be given a choice to make the site private or have it killed.

No one government , even the US of A is going to forcibly do anything to the web!

Eavesdropping on what Americans are doing online or anywhere else for that matter, is not new. What is new, historically, and dubious even at its height, is the concept of privacy. Privacy is, and always has been, an illusion.

Making certain hyperlinks illegal – repeat -

No one government , even the US of A is going to forcibly do anything to the web!

Dispatching "search and destroy" bots is great, and efficient- NOT! The beautiful anarchic, liberating, free-for-all web is not about to be reigned in by a set of rigid scripts (bots) with only limited ability to adapt to mind-blowing variabilities of content.

Bots are a blunt instrument, they don’t work effectively, otherwise the US government would already control the web.

I have been playing around with thoughts of Smoke and Mirrors, inspired by Mike at Born at the Crest of the Empire

In a timely fashion, I came across an article which says something about how we humans respond to stimulus.

“Experiments with an honesty box for tea money revealed that people were better at paying up when under a watchful gaze. The surprise was that the eyes were not real, but photographed ones.”

The gist of the argument, under experimental conditions, people behaved more ‘honestly’ when there was a suggestion that they were being watched. Now these were adults, they know a picture from real eyes, but the suggestion seems to be enough.

That, in the end, is the only tools which governments might have, when fighting what they might consider the excesses of the internet.

It all comes down to suggestion, to smoke and mirrors, because that is the only, even vaguely, effective remedy.

Will it work against the sick bastards who deal in kiddie porn? That is to be seen. Given the dynamics of how the major ISPs operate, the only real remedy might be in constant public surveillance and reporting, but that to has its problems. (See previous post - Home Spy Kit)

I know, from god knowledge, that those ‘real’ people monitoring this crap are constantly sickened by it. The corps know how distressing the task is, they make employees sign waivers before they take on the assignment; can’t have too many agents going down with stress at company expense.

But it is a problem, and one that is made more difficult for those of us who champion the anarchic nature of the net. Personally I rank any abuse against the weak by the stronger as nearing a capital offence.

The very reason I rail against powerful, intrusive government holds for these sick individuals who pray on kids and other helpless critters. If we are going to protect the good parts of the net, maybe we have to be more ready and willing to help find ways to expose the people who abuse it.

Insane, political or just dead?

Three Guantanamo Bay detainees who hanged themselves in their cells were tested psychologically only days before their suicides and showed no signs of being depressed, a military doctor said yesterday.

The doctor suggested the examinations, performed one to two weeks before the suicides on 10 June, supported assertions by military officials that the prisoners killed themselves as a political act - not because they were despondent about their prolonged detention. The Independent

I’m trying to work out the distinction being made on this issue. It beats me; seems to depend on your definition of psychologically unstable I guess.

But you would have to be stark raving mad to think you could benefit from the political points scored by killing yourself.

I think we’ll just put this down to some more of that shallow justification of the unjustifiable that the Bush regime is so adept at providing.

Rupert Rules

How lucky are we, to have Rupert to decide who is going to run our world? Never mind that his only interest is increasing News Corp revenues, at least we know who is trying to pull the strings.

Murdoch has warned Britain’s Prime Minister in waiting, Gordon Brown, not to take his support for granted at the next general election.

The chairman and chief executive of News Corporation said he could see himself supporting David Cameron, the new Conservative leader, despite many years of backing new Labour.

Murdoch has been a firm supporter of Blair since the beginning of the 1997 general election campaign and has praised him for the unpopular war in Iraq and taking action on terrorism.
Blair’s allies will be relieved Murdoch has not called for him to leave office more promptly.

“We’ve been a very big supporter of Tony on big issues, he’s been a very courageous world leader. We’ve also been critical of him on other things like Europe,” Murdoch said.

“But for no reason other than the dynamics of British politics we would like to see at least a year to 18 months a stand-off between Gordon Brown and David Cameron so we can decide which of those most coincides with our views. Those two are going to decide the next election and I think the British public would be cheated if they only got a month or two’s warning.”

His views on the shape of the next US presidential race?

If an election was held today “it would be Hillary Clinton versus (Republican senator) John McCain”.

“In that context I don’t think (Clinton) would be the favourite, but she could certainly win. She and her husband are extremely able and tough politicians.”

Blair, MClinton and McCain are all likely to be guests at News Corp’s executive conference in Pebble Beach, California, next month. Also attending the conference will be former US vice-president Al Gore.

Murdoch said he would not judge Mr Gore’s environmental campaigning before hearing the message from the former vice-president in person.

“We’re all environmentalists, it’s a question of whether some people exaggerate the facts or not.”

The original article appeared in Murdoch’s Australian flag ship newspaper – The Australian

Not a bright idea

A Muslim musician living in Britain said on Wednesday that two directors at his record label had threatened to resign if he released a new album describing suicide bombers and the West's immorality.

The threat means Aki Nawaz, who was born in Pakistan but moved to Britain aged three, would have to distribute "All is War (The Benefits of G-Had)" independently, causing delays of around two weeks.

Nawaz blames the climate of fear in Britain, but I’d be inclined to blame his juvenile naiveté. On his band's Web site All is War is described as "13 tracks of provocation and law breaking". That is hardly what the world need right now.

The voice of protest is one thing, inciting hate and violence to an impressionable audience is totally irresponsible.

He knows he is on thin ice. Here you have a guy who was bought up in the West, which he despises so much, but chooses to stay anyway rather than live where he might feel more at home. But on the issue of naiveté, I think Nawaz expresses it well:

“I have no loyalty to any country and remain defiant that if wrongs are committed then we should speak irrespective of who is the target.

The album is work of very focused and intelligent but emotional attack on how I stand about society in general.

“… I accept any challenge through discussion or debate and hopefully those that question with it will think about their questions before asking rather than exposing their own ignorance.”

He sounds like a troubled young bloke to me, not to mention a wooly thinker. I can understand why his co-directors of the record label he started are not really over the moon about the project.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Winning hearts and minds

The bank transaction records of millions of people in Britain and around the world may have been disclosed illegally to US intelligence agencies as part of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism programme, privacy campaigners said yesterday.

CIA agents and US treasury officials have been secretly monitoring financial transactions routed through Swift, the Brussels-based, industry-owned co-operative that links 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries.

Swift, an acronym for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, provides electronic instructions for transfers between virtually every bank, brokerage house, and stock exchange and routes 11 million transactions each day.

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was disclosed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which said they had been pressed by the administration not to divulge its existence. From the London Daily Telegraph

I don't think there is much to say to the report.

Home Spy Kit

It’s a novel approach for many Australian’s, the old Stalinist, spy on your friends and neighbours routine. [to dob, the act of reporting suspicious or bad behavior to an authority]

Most, in the past, have prided themselves on an antiauthoritarian stance, which precludes tattling, dobbing, coppering, telling tales on supposed wrong doers.

Obviously things change, and the tensions from an increasing racial mix make some groups fair game.

Apparently more than 80,000 people have called the national security hotline to report suspicious behaviour since it was set up 3½ years ago

This is the "Be alert, not alarmed" campaign. Out of 12+ million, over 3 ½ years 80,000 is not a significant portion of the population, but still unheard of in the country’s history.

Oh, there has always been do-gooders and moral policemen [usually women], those during wartime ever ready to secretly mark apparently eligible men, who stayed home, with white feathers. No country is perfect!

Now comfortable, middle class European Australians have any number of obviously suspect foreigners for neighbours. So for some at least, all bets are off – dob a neigbour, feel the power!

"Be alert, not alarmed"

What is the result of the hard work of all these vigilant Aussies, so quick to the phone to tattle on some suspicious behavior? Well if you assumed every terrorist arrest in the country was sparked by a phone call by a lert (the country needs its lerts), no more than a few dozen dangerous customers have been identified.

But the ratio isn’t even that good. One ‘dobber’ quite rightly reported the suspicious purchase of quantities of material, which added up to a fairly specific bomb making scenario. The purchaser was put under surveillance which led police to a wider group.

Now note, this particular ‘dobber’ was a specialist in his field, not Mrs Kafoops, a genuine lert, hiding behind her venetian blinds.

In short, while the government is crowing about the effectiveness of this campaign, in reality it is a costly croc of dog droppings; probably great for seeding their sick message in the community, but useless as a crime fighting tool.

Dob in a lying, sleazy, thieving, cheating politician

Okay, a bit wordy, but I think we should start a counter campaign. According to the rules of the game, there is no need for hard evidence – just suspicion.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, who is or is associated with, or dresses like, or walks and talks like a politician is open game.

I think outing crooked lawmakers could become a worldwide sport, if only I can find a server large enough to carry the list of names and supposed crime they have committed.

That crazy old internet

It’s amazing the things you find on the web, like the article (snippet below) Democrats demote Rep. William Jefferson. A perfect storm of opportunism and racism

Now if it had just appeared on Workers World I might have just passed it by as another meaningless commentary. But I found it on a site called Axis of Logic.

The trouble there is, the argument really has no logic. I’ve been following the story at GP Daily - Dollar Bill: The Jefferson Files which is why it caught me attention in the first place.

Crass political opportunism resulted in outright racism June 16 when Democratic Party leaders violated their own rules and precedent to oust Rep. William Jefferson from a key position on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. On Axis of Logic – original source: Workers World

I’d recommend you read the article, but try these bits for logic:

- “…sending the FBI to raid Jefferson’s congressional office, allegedly to stop corruption, ignores the pervasive corruption in Washington.

- The drive to oust Jefferson was led by Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader. The presumption of innocence was thrown overboard along with the party rules in order to pursue Pelosi’s politically bankrupt electoral strategy of campaigning against the Republican “culture of corruption.”

- she [Pelosi] never responded to charges against Mollohan, who is accused of enriching himself to the tune of millions. That is because Pelosi and the Democrats had negotiated a deal to get Mollohan to step down voluntarily from the Ethics Committee while keeping his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

- Jefferson is not accused of using his position on the House Ways and Means Committee to violate the law. But Mollohan is directly accused of using his position on the Appropriations Committee for massive personal enrichment.

- But it is an unwritten rule that no one in the political establishment of the ruling class is allowed to attack the class itself, nor are they allowed to denounce ruling class racism.

Okay logic no, but a lot of supposition and allegation. I’m not familiar with the Mollohan case, and if the allegation is correct then he too should have been sent packing.

This is the ‘logic’ I don’t understand, it is the Republican logic which holds that two wrongs must make a right.

I’m not sure how, logically, the race issue comes into this. I would have thought the Jefferson issue was more about timing, with the mid terms looming. If Jefferson gave a rat’s arse for his party and constituents there would not have been an issue at all, black or white.

How, logically, anyone can draw from the FBI raid on Jefferson, that it “ignores pervasive corruption…” is beyond me. The man had his fingers in the piggy bank at the wrong time, in the wrong place.

There is no conspiracy; that is logical. That so many crooked lawmakers are still at work in Washington defies logic, but that is an altogether different story.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gore blimey Mr Prescott

You gotta love it, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister dumping on Bush:

JOHN Prescott sparked fresh embarrassment by saying he wished George W Bush had not been elected president.

The diplomatic gaffe came at a private Downing Street meeting with former US vice-president Al Gore.

It reminds me of my senior school days, the kid who has been caught out at whatever it is that invokes the march to the headmaster’s (principal’s) office.

The kid knows he’s going to get ‘six of the best’, that is six allmighty whacks across the finger tips with a length of supple cane.

Once you reach that door, the rest is a certainty, so when the kid is asked by the head’ “do you have anything to say for yourself?” More often than not he faced the inquisitor and said, simly, “and f**k your mother too!”

John Prescott is on his way out. It‘s not a matter of if, but when. He’s made far too many gaffs for a man in his position.

Singly they don’t amount to much of anything; he got caught poking his secretary in his ministerial office, he played croquet, for god’s sake, at his ‘grace and favour’, country home.

The list goes on, but is too ridiculously petty to bother with, suffice to say the list is long enough to give his enemies a lever and a place to stand.

That being so, I picture the unrepentant Prescott thinking, well if I have to go, I might as well stick it to someone on the way.

Who better than his boss’ best buddy, George W? Oddly though, he was saying it to a god buddy of his own, Al Gore!

The Deputy Prime Minister and Gore worked closely together during international negotiations over the Kyoto climate change treaty.

Prescott's aides insisted that he was only expressing sorrow that American environmental policy would have been different if Gore had been elected.

I’d rather stick to my vision of events, Prescott sticking it to George because he could.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Celebrations as government fails

Dancing spilled into the streets of Dili today as East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri announced his resignation, in a move that is set to ease tensions in the troubled nation.

There was no immediate word on a replacement, but news of his departure was welcomed by thousands of people who have been demonstrating in the capital for the past week.

Alkatiri read a very brief statement in English, Portuguese and Tetum, the local language before walking back inside.

Alkatiri said he would co-operate with the President in forming an interim government. He said he was resigning because all Timorese had a right to live in peace and tranquility.

State-run television in Dili reported that six other cabinet ministers had resigned as well.

Read more here...

A Genuine hero

A hero of East Timor's independence struggle, Jose Ramos Horta, has resigned from the Government in disgust, while his former wife emerged as the frontrunner to take over from the embattled Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri.

Alkatiri', despite solid evidence of setting up death squads to eliminate his opposition, is refusing to step down as Prime Minister. President, Xanana Gusmao had threatened to resign in an effort to force Alkatiri’s hand, but was convinced by the people and foreign governments to stay.

Next in the pecking order is Ramos Horta and his resignation must further weaken Alkatiri’s position. It also weakens the process of negotiation with rebels and liaison with peace keeping troops; Ramos Horta had been the rock holding many of these issues in place.

Both sides have relied on him to bring key people together in his efforts to broker an end to the crisis.

I’ve never, personally, met Ramos Horta. I could have, he lived close enough for many years. But I have heard him speak, I’ve listened to interviews and followed his fight, in exile, to free his country from Indonesia’s cruel grip.

Believe me, when Ramos Horta is described as a hero, it is no idle boast. He stood firm and resolute over, 20 years of exile, getting the message out to a world community, which still has no idea where his country is.

Ramos Horta’s resignation was a shock to most who have been looking to his skills to break the crisis in the tiny country. But his move must be a well-judged ploy, because he rarely puts a foot wrong in anything he does.

The problem for Ramos Horta and Gusmao is there determination to play by the country’s constitution; to do it properly and ensure rule of law. Unfortunately Alkatiri’s group do’t seem to share that noble ideal.

Military will support sectarian butchers

forces in Iraq could be in danger of supporting sectarian violence when they
shadow the highly factionalised new Iraqi army taking control in southern Iraq
next month.
Australian opposition defence spokesman Robert McClelland said
there was "clear evidence" that Iraqi security forces had been involved in
sectarian violence.

"The Australian Defence Force should not be seen to
be an extension of any factional elements within the Iraqi forces. We cannot
have our personnel involved or potentially implicated in sectarian violence," he

A battalion of 450 Australian troops in southern Iraq will provide
back-up to the Iraqi army when it takes control of the desert province of
al-Muthanna in the first stage of a larger security transfer agreement.

I terms of a chess game, the Coalition of the willing, led by the US, have shown the strategic abilities of a rank beginner.

If there was ever any great thought put into the opening gambit, strategy began and finished there. Sure the coalition took out their opponent’s king, but where did they expect to strike after that?

Well, no where really, because they mistakenly thought that taking the king would force checkmate.

So now it is back to an old story, a lesson of history never learned, the bolstering of one set of future enemies of the US to try and rescue something out of the ensuing mess.

I don’t know how much the US and allies spend on intelligence – either the thinking type or the information assessing type, but they should ask for their money back.

On second thoughts, odd leaks suggest that the latter form of intelligence was fine, it was the former and particularly among political leaderships, which is lacking.

So here we go, whoever wins in Iraq now in a compromise to ease out of the monumental mess (and it won’t be the people) our military are going to be supporting a new set of butchers.

Great George, thanks!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The cut price war

So Barry’s used car lot is supplying the British military transport in Iraq, with the normal deadly effects of Barry’s vehicles.

THE FATHER of a soldier killed in Iraq has accused the government of allowing troops
to die needlessly by deploying old and inadequately armoured Land Rovers in the
conflict zone.

Roger Bacon, whose son Matthew was killed by a roadside bomb last September, says the second-hand "Snatch" Land Rovers have led to unnecessary deaths.

His comments reflect growing concern over the use of ageing vehicles shipped out from Northern Ireland.

They are not designed to withstand powerful explosions. At least 18 soldiers have been killed in attacks on them, representing nearly a quarter of all casualties lost in hostile action in Iraq. Troops say the Land Rovers are seen as a soft target.

Well, I suppose if they are going to get blown up, a fully rigged Range Rover would be out of the question. But these old bangers aren’t even safe on English roads. So after a few complaints, and a secret ‘official’ report, there was talk of alternatives.

It has been confirmed that one heavily armoured vehicle considered by the Ministry of Defence, the RG-31 built by a division of BAE Systems would have
provided significantly more protection. Ministers say it was rejected because it
was considered too wide to go down some streets.

Relatives of the dead and campaigners say the RG-31 is a viable alternative, as most of the fatal incidents have been on open ground. Bacon, 34, an intelligence officer, was killed as he was being driven to Basra airport on a dual carriageway.

Brigadier Bill Moore, who is in charge of a programme at the MoD to find a new
vehicle, said the use of heavy armour had to be balanced with the need to
interact with local communities.

Good one Brigadier Bill, they sure as hell get to interact with local communities. Sounds like British troops in these decrepit Rovers are being spread a bit thin across the communities though.

Let’s get it right

SEVEN men arrested in the US for planning to blow up America's tallest building and FBI offices were not Muslims and not linked to the US Islamic community, Islamic leaders insisted yesterday.

The suspects - five Americans and two foreigners - arrested on Thursday after approaching an undercover FBI agent who they thought was an agent of al-Qaeda, were described as a cult.

So why is it, every time I hear a news report, like the early ones in this saga, my eyes roll back and the word bullshit forms on my lips?

The Authorities knew these malcontents were not Muslim terrorists; they used the fact that these idiots wanted to contact al-Qaeda to help trap them. But in the end they were, for the most part, home grown, simple minded cultists.

Don’t get me wrong, anyone as dumb as this lot should be taken off the streets, for everyone’s safety. But don’t spread needless fear and alarm by styling them as something they are not.

Even worse, every time Bush officials play this game they further dilute their credibility. In the current climate, truthfulness and credibility are essential to protect everyone from the low life malcontents our sad excuses for government are creating.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Ungrateful Afghans?

HAMID Karzai, the Afghan president, yesterday criticised the US-led coalition's anti-terror campaign, saying the deaths of hundreds of people, including Taleban militants, were unacceptable.

His sharp assessment came as Osama bin Laden's deputy urged Afghans to revolt against coalition forces, and four more US soldiers were killed.

It seems it is not really acceptable to just trot into another sovereign country and shoot up its citizens. A clearly frustrated Karzai said:

"It is not acceptable for us that in all this fighting, Afghans are dying. In the last three to four weeks, 500 to 600 Afghans were killed. [Even] if they are Taleban, they are sons of this land."
I guess no one ever claimed that non-war was easy.

Not sorry over killed ministry guards

Australian troops mistakenly opened fire on the minister's bodyguards, killing one and injuring four others. The minister was on his way to meet Australia's trade representative.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, regrets the Iraqi Trade Minister's bodyguard was killed by Australian troops but will not be "flinging out apologies" until he is told the full story of what happened.

Howard said until proven otherwise, he worked on the assumption that "Australian soldiers always do the right thing". He was confident the debacle on the streets of Baghdad would not harm Australia's trade with Iraq.

Howard lacks the easy going ‘charm’ of his best buddy Bush. In fact Howard exhibits all the worst aspects of the ‘Methodist fundamentalist’; don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance and don’t say sorry.

To be fair (which is no easy task when discussing this slimy toad) the traveling situation in Baghdad does not equate with quiet Sunday driving.

From the reports, the troops were escorting an Australian trade delegation from a meeting with the ministry. They were in convoy, and the APC had signs warning other drivers to stay back.

When an SUV, carrying un-uniformed men holding AK47s, approached at speed, ignored hand gestures and proceeded to overtake, the Australian troops reacted.

As the unidentified SUV began to pass the troops, fearing an attack, opened fore. The SUV veered into a pole, leaving one occupant dead and the others injured.

The Aussies didn’t stick around either. Experience says that this potential attack could result in a number of outcomes, including road bombs, ambush or a similar attack.

The bottom line is that the roads of Baghdad are bloody dangerous for everyone, armed or not.

But the thing that is really worrying, after the criminal actions of the Australians in the oil for food scam, is the trip was all about winning that wheat contract back:

Howard said the Iraqis told Australia's ambassador yesterday that it would not affect wheat deals. "The Iraqi trade minister told our ambassador that he greatly appreciated the letter, which Trade Minister Mark Vaile had sent to him and that he did not want this incident to interfere with the bilateral relationship or to affect our trade relationship."

Mark one up for the slimy toad. After playing a lead role in executing a trade war, and destabilizing a country totally, the main concern is still to hold onto the rights to those bloody wheat contracts.

When all is said and done, I really can’t understand what my country is thinking by holding onto an asexual, teetotal, ‘war for trade’ leader.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dichotomy of power

Oh for those simpler times; 1139 for example there was a ban, at least among Christian countries, on the cross bow. Its armor piercing capabilities were just too dangerous for noble folk at the time to contemplate.

Now our noble folk have a lot more on their defensive plates.

British Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has just thrown his considerable political weight behind replacing the country’s aging anti-missile system.

The Chancellor threw his weight behind Tony Blair's plans to replace the submarine-based system when it is decommissioned in 2024. Replacement, opponents claim, could cost £25bn. Brown will authorise the spending of £1bn a year between now and then.

Bush recently announced the deployment of the incomplete would be swung into asction against the latest North Korean threat.

US officials said they could try to shoot down a North Korea test missile with 11 interceptors based in Alaska and California.

Okay, so we’ve been aware for years of the inevitability of rogue states getting access to the modern equivalent of cross bows. Once the nuclear and missile systems were developed the threat of spread was evident.

That’s the big ticket ordinance, which can perhaps defend against attacks by other big ticket delivery systems. It doesn’t do a bit of good against the small operator who is willing to hand deliver the goods in person.

Having stirred up malcontents of all types, world powers now have to factor in the cost and logistics of fighting ghosts. Some of these threats were signs which might give clues of their intentions, but not all, by a long shot.

Some kid any of us went to school with, in any country, could well have grown up sufficiently discontented generally to become a threat in these queer times.

So our power brokers, our Blairs and Bushs, our Howards and Putins must be going nuts trying to work out were they are going to put their resources while they are otherwise occupied in spreading alarm and generating fresh malcontents.

Their friends, the arms manufacturers are no doubt pleased as punch, but those clever beans aren’t capable of developing weapons against micro aggressors, and that is what the coalition of the willing are best capable of creating at the moment.

While the political elite are caught in this dichotomy between macro and micro aggression, we the people are the meat in a not too tasty sandwich.

There is no gain for us in the massive arms industry; most people are forgoing even minor treats because gas prices, in a 'gas' war, are crippling.

We can’t even simply like, trust, ignore or loath our neighbor anymore when we don’t really know who our neighbor really is.

To our political elites I can only say – no, I’d better not, the bloke next door might be an agent.

Bush stumbling

President George W Bush told Europeans yesterday it was "absurd" to regard the United States as the greatest threat to world peace.

Now just think about that for a moment; how often has a US president had to make a statement like that to friendly nations?

The visibly annoyed Bush was responding to a journalist's question about opinion polls, asking why most Europeans believe the United States is a greater menace than Iran or North Korea.

A sobering thought? Most Europeans believe…

Guantanamo Bay and trans-Atlantic trade barriers are hot spots. Even before Mr Bush landed for the one-day meeting in Vienna, his host, the Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, had made clear he would be demanding the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, in the name of the European Union.

But there are many other areas of concern. EU countries are working frantically to head off and confrontation with Iran, for instance.

Asked if the United States would come to the table for provisional talks, while waiting for a final Iranian verdict, Bush replied: "Our position is, we'll come to the table when they verifiably suspend. Period."

Bush was tackled a second time on the collapse in European public support for his administration by a Viennese journalist who reeled off statistics, including the fact that three quarters of Austrians regard the United States as a grave threat.

It was absurd to think America more dangerous than Iran, he repeated. "We are a transparent democracy, we debate things in the open," he said.

Personally I believe the concept of a ‘transparent democracy’ has become an oxymoron. The US government hardly behaves with transparency, and nor do my various governments. I really can’t see that argument taking wing and flying.

I’m just interested to see what sort of media this gets in the US. I’ll be highly surprised if it receives open and transparent coverage.

The pirates target 'young workers' over theft

Young workers in the United States are twice as likely as older colleagues to steal office supplies for home use without thinking it is wrong, a new study says.

And all those missing paper clips and pens add up to more than $50 billion a year.

One in five workers age 18 to 24 did not feel it was wrong to take home office supplies, said the Spherion Workplace Snapshot, an online survey.

"That's just how many people admit it," said John Case, head of, a security consulting firm based in Del Mar, California.

The Spherion survey of 1,630 employed U.S. adults was taken in early April and released this month.

"A lot of people that steal don't consider it stealing. They just consider it taking things or that it's a fringe benefit," Case said.

By contrast, just 12 percent of older workers said they took supplies. In dollar value, older workers may take more costly supplies because as senior employees they may have easier access, less supervision and more ways to cover up such a theft, Case added.

I wonder just how much that useless little survey cost? Right or wrong, business factors pilferage in to their pricing, the customer pays regardless of whether anything is stolen or not.

It doesn’t make the theft right, just recognises the reality.

What I want to see is a survey which details the theft by lawmakers, through bribes and backhanders. That is public money too, added to the cost of purchases.

How about those little perks and bribes among civil servants. More to the point perhaps, seeing as the money has to come from somewhere, what about the fiddles by the big corps who buy of lawmakers and civil servants.

You can pretty much bet that $50 million a year is chump change in the corporate rip-off slush funds.

I posted some lobbyist factoids a few months back:

  • Of the states, California lays claim to the lions share of ‘lobby’ money spending; $212 million in 2004.
  • Texas comes in second at around $160 million.
  • New York tally is around $140 million
  • Minnesota was the only other state to reach the $50-million mark.

But whenever things star getting hot for the big guys, what do they do? They divert the argument, most often divert it to the weakest in society. Everyone knows kids are irritating critters, so let’s target them.

No way big guys! How about using some of you filthy cash to fund a survey in to just how much is really being pilfered from our communities.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dili Death Squads

Embattled East Timor Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, looks set to trigger a new round of violence, rather than give in to President Xanana Gusmao's resignation demand.

Gusmao made the demand following the arrest of dismissed interior minister Rogerio Lobato’s arrest on suspicion of arming political supporters.

It seems Alkatiri might have good reason to stick to his guns.

Rebel leader Vicente "Railos" da Conceicao has claimed Alkatiri and former interior minister Rogerio Lobato armed a secret death squad, with him as its leader, to target political opponents of the Prime Minister.

East Timor Prime Minister, Mari Alkatir

Death Squad claims

Attorney-General Longuinos Monteiro, whose office issued a warrant for Mr Lobato's arrest over the death-squad allegations, said yesterday he had "no evidence against the Prime Minister" but expected Lobato and Conceicao to stand trial - the latter for illegal weapons possession.

A former Falantil resistance fighter, Colonel Railos, has also alleged the Prime Minister ordered his Lobato to supply him and his 30 men with weapons to eliminate Alkatiri's political opponents.

Now, they are mounting a case against Railos and his men, alleging that because they are civilians, it is illegal for them to possess weapons.

A document currently doing the rounds purports to be a memo written to the then interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, matching 30 names with the serial numbers of weapons.

The memo says Minister Lobato asked a local border patrol commander to arm these former resistance fighters to form a private army.

The commander said the orders came right from the top, but Prime Minister Alkatiri denies any involvement.

East Timor was plunged into violence in May after Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri sacked 600 of the 1,400-strong army for mutiny when they protested about alleged discrimination against soldiers from the west of the country.

Since then, rebel troops and thousands of protesters have called for Alkatiri's removal, blaming him for the violence that has seen youth gangs fighting, looting and burning buildings in Dili.

The prosecutor-general said recently, that there was no clear evidence linked Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to charges that his former interior minister armed civilians to attack political opponents.

"I am sure and I am clear that from this particular case and to date, we have no evidence against the Prime Minister. And we have no idea yet about his involvement in this particular case," Longuinhos Monteiro said.

Foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, says a UN investigation into the country's recent bloodshed could begin soon.
The UN has agreed to carry out a formal inquiry into several incidents in which civilians, police, and soldiers have died in gunfights and other violence.
Ramos Horta says East Timor's own authorities are clearly incapable of doing their own investigations, because of the allegations against them, and because of the ongoing political crisis.

Stand off continues

So for now it is a showdown between President Xanana Gusmao and embattled PM, Mari Alkatiri.

"I can only give you an opportunity to make a decision: you either resign ... or I will fire you myself because you no longer have my trust," Gusmao told the PM.

Alkatiri's ruling Fretilin party also demanded the prime minister's resignation, accusing him of lying about distributing weapons to civilians, said party member Vicente Maubucy Ximenes.

With mounting evidence of death squads, some who are still armed and active, even Alkatiri fears that his resignation would trigger a new round of violence.

Fatal Iraq bungle

Australian security guards protecting a trade delegation in Baghdad have mistakenly opened fire on the bodyguards of the Iraqi Trade Minister, killing one and wounding three, according to witnesses.

The shooting took place as the trade delegation left the offices of Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudany in the capital's western Mansour district.

"The (Australian) convoy left the ministry. Our convoy followed them. They thought the driver was trying to pass and they shot and killed him and wounded three guards and two civilians," Salim al-Bahadiry, a bodyguard for the trade minister, said at the scene. (Sources various)

This trade delegation was apparently trying to win back wheat contract with Iraq, a market which has been problematic for Australia since revelations of Oil for Food kickback to Saddam’s regime by the wheat traders.

It must be a real bitch not knowing who the enemy is. An SUV full of swarthy guys in Hawaiian shirts, sporting AK47s, yup, must be the enemy.

The Aussie troops have been pretty much fireproof in Iraq and Afghanistan, with apparent accidents their main undoing. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a virtual combat zone there are bound to be slip-ups.

But, the desperation of Australian trade officials to win back the Iraq market merely increases the pressure and likelihood of serious errors of judgment.

How about doing one thing at a time? Why not concentrate on stabilizing the country first without the added complications of trade issue. Australia is deservedly penalized on Iraq trade, but one sure way they can overcome the stain of their greed is to actually give something back by way of helping stabilize the country.

What am I saying? This non-war is all about greed, that’s why we are there in the first place, rather than letting Iraqi nationals sort out their own mess.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Rewards of a serial killer

I was recently asked about Australia’s attitude to the death penalty - Beheadings and other curiosities. We no longer practice that barbaric penalty, preferring to simply lock serious offenders away in a quiet corner.

Now that approach can be relatively satisfying, considering the constraints of maximum security prisons and the potential for the prisoner to be reminded every minute of their being that society does not want them.

It is even possible to hope that after a time they really start to suffer the mind twisting and emotional lurches which visit upon the caged. It should be a fairly barbaric punishment in itself.

Unless, like the NSW prison system, which decided it would reward these long termers when it was “judged he were no longer likely to attempt to kill himself, or to escape.”

Take our notorious serial killer Ivan Milat. He’s serving a life sentence in Goulburn's Supermax high-security prison for the murder of seven backpackers between 1989 and 1992.

Ivan was also a notorious razor blade swallower and general self mutilator as well. He’s a reformed character now, a model prisoner, so they give him a sandwich toaster and a television as part of Corrective Services' privilege and punishment system.

Funnily enough the families of his victims thought that was a bit crook; the bastard is there to be punished, not to live the life of riley!

So the good law ‘n order government of NSW says, “Right you are then, this just isn’t good enough. Take those things away from him immediately,” always ready to take action after the fact.

But I will bet you London to a brick that, if they fancy goods are removed from his cell, if I stress, they will soon be put back and no more said.

The prison system just wants peace, and will play it there own way. And who is going to find out anyway, it is after all a ‘Supermax high-security prison’.

US polity in need of fresh concepts

This analysis - US polity in need of fresh concepts

The construct behind George W. Bush's foreign policy has collapsed under the weight of

Is published in the Australian and is well worth a look. The curious thing is that the writer, Paul Kelly, is a well known apologist for the right. Like the article itself, there is a suggestion that all is not well among the camp followers of the right.

THE Bush administration is confronted by strategic failure and fatigue. The ideas and methods devised by George W. Bush to interpret the unipolar world have been discredited by the Iraqi debacle. The search has begun for new concepts to govern the US polity.

This debate runs parallel with America's desperate need to salvage the best possible outcome in Iraq. The premise, however, is manifest: Iraq symbolises the collapse of the intellectual framework that defined Bush's foreign policy.

In the latest issue of The National Interest, National Intelligence Council former vice-chairman Graham Fuller says that Bush's universal war on terror, predicted to last for decades, is flawed because "the task is *Sisyphean, the enemy generalised, the goals unclear, the scope open-ended". [* laborious or futile]

… The neo-con philosophy was shaped by four ideas: that the character of evil regimes and their values did matter; that US power could be deployed for great moral purpose, as in World WarII and the Cold War; that government-led social engineering from communism to Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was to be distrusted; and that neither global institutions such as the UN nor international law should be relied on to deliver security and justice.

The full article is HERE

Sea King inquiry reveals flaws

It’s common knowledge that the Sea King military helicopters have design flaws. A Sea King at Bamaga on Cape York in northern Australia in 1995 all 15 people on board – two pilots and 13 passengers - died.

An inquiry into the Bamaga incident had recommended that Sea Kings have "crashworthy" seating installed and proper harnesses. But a decision had been taken not to install them on the grounds of cost, weight factors and convenience.

In the aftermath of the Indonesian tsunami, the region around Nais was hit by another devastating quake. The Australian navy quickly dispatched emergency assistance, including helicopters. When a second Sea King Shark 02 crashed on Nias in April last year, only two on board escaped.

The inquiry into the second crash was just about to wind up, after 103 days. The panel had taken 9000 pages of transcript evidence, heard from 150 witnesses and cost more than $5 million, and has been aborted.

It seems head of the Sea King Board of Inquiry, Commodore Les Pataky, and a fellow board member were asked to step down because Commodore Pataky was chief of staff of the maritime command and deputy maritime commander. From 1998 to 2000 the other member, Captain Dowsing was fleet aviation officer.

The basis of the dismissal: “there was no "actual" evidence of bias by Commodore Pataky or Captain Dowsing in the present inquiry, but there should be perceived fairness in procedure; and if the board proceeded as it was, any finding it made was likely to be set aside by a court.”

Why the inquiry managed to get so far before this gem surfaces isn’t clear. What is clear is that self-regulation and internal inquiries are bound to be flawed, or at least subject to suspicion.

Whether it is military personnel, politicians or the commercial sector, there is simply no guarantee of unqualified, independent assessment.

Commander Alexander Street, representing Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt, maritime commander at the time of the Shark 02 crash, said he opposed the recommendation. He said the application that the two step down was a "misconception of the obligation of fair process".

Commander Jack Rush, representing families of the victims, argued that there were great advantages in keeping the five-member board, representing the navy (Pataky and Dowsing), the RAAF (Group Captain Ian Farnsworth), the army (Lieutenant-Colonel Martin Raby) and a civilian (John Raby, chief pilot of Virgin).

Australia has a highly respected Civil Aviation Authority with a strong record in air accident assessment and not ties to the military. Surely it would have save time, money and grief to appoint them to conduct a truly independent investigation.

But what of all the other incestuous inquiries, based on the dubious claim that groups can fairly evaluate their own internal issues. The only thing guaranteed from them is whitewash and cover-up.

UK gets Blair Force too

Prime Minister Tony Blair will get two dedicated aircraft for official visits, his spokesman said on Tuesday, finally allowing him to globetrot in the style U.S. presidents are accustomed to.

No more clunkers for Tony

The funny thing about this is that just a couple of weeks ago Tony’s media folk were all atwitter because he flew cattle class home from a European holiday.

I don’t think his fellow shuttle passengers would have been pleased at the long ‘security check’ delays, but he was making a point.

Travel costs for Brit MPs is always under the microscope, and Tony copped a lashing recently for his humungous bill.

But by providing two ‘second-hand jets, one short-haul, one long-haul,’ and allowing Ma’am and her kin to use them as well, the travel costs can now be neatly hidden, probably somewhere in the secret anti-terrorism budget.

Tony’s ‘officials’ believe the current system under which the premier charters commercial aircraft or uses the Royal Airforce Fleet is inefficient, insecure, costly and inconvenient.

The opposition believes: "This reinforces the impression of a government which is out of touch with the real world, and is too concerned with the trappings of office rather than getting on with the job."

Oh well, it will be a nice legacy for whoever gets to take over 10 Downing Street. That event seems to be approaching faster than a short haul jet!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Right Royal Scandal

This scandal involves a criminal ring, illegal lobbying, money laundry, corruption, money forgery, prostitution, information piracy and deposed royal families.

Prince Victor Emmanuel was arrested at the Italian lakes late on Friday and driven almost 1,000km to Potenza in the south where the investigation has its headquarters.

The head of the Savoy Dynasty and son of the last King of Italy is accused of heading up a corruption and prostitution racket relating to a casino in Campione d'Italia, an Italian enclave in the south of Switzerland.

You can read more on GP Daily Princes, prositutes, gambling and the mafia

Italy might prosecute marine

Italian agent Nicola Calipari, killed at checkpoint.

Italian prosecutors have formally requested a trial, in absentia if necessary, of a US marine accused of shooting dead an Italian intelligence agent in Baghdad last year.

Mario Lozano, is accused of manslaughter and attempted double homicide in the March 2005 killing of agent Nicola Calipari, who had been escorting a newly freed Italian hostage to safety when he was shot at a checkpoint.

A judge will have to rule whether there is enough evidence for an indictment.

The governments of Italy and United States officially called the shooting an accident, but Italy's independent magistrates continued their own investigation into the politically-charged incident.

What is in those documents?

Embattled Australian monopoly wheat exporter, AWB Ltd, is going to incredible lengths to keep documents out of the hand of the country’s commission investigating the Oil for Food scandal.

AWB has launched a radical move to bar Commissioner Terence Cole from demanding thousands of sensitive documents that detail what its executives and lawyers knew about $290 million of corrupt payments to Saddam Hussein's regime.

The latest battle, despite a new law obliging the document handover, the Federal Court is being asked to permanently block Cole from demanding the obviously incriminating evidence, which AWB claims is protected by legal professional privilege.

AWB shored up billions of dollars of wheat sales to Saddam Hussein's regime by helping Iraq siphon about $290 million from a UN trust account between 1999 and 2003. Some AWB executives claimed the money was the real cost of trucking the Australian wheat from port to Iraq's silos; other AWB managers have told Cole that they and the company always knew it was a scam.

The Senate last week amended the Royal Commissions Act so that Commonwealth commissioners could filter bogus claims for legal privilege. Commissioners can now examine any documents that parties claim are privileged and decide if the claims are genuine, but parties may still appeal those decisions in the Federal Court.

A notice of motion filed by AWB yesterday shows the company wants Mr Cole restrained from calling for, inspecting, using or publishing any of the documents cited as privileged and barred from making any decision about the status of privilege until the Federal Court makes it own ruling on the documents.

AWB also wants the court to declare either that the recent changes to the Royal Commissions Act are invalid or that they are too wide and should not apply to AWB's documents.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A salute to US Marine, Major Michael Mori

Major Michael Mori, the US marine and military lawyer assigned by the Pentagon to defend accused terrorist David Hicks, has been a faultless defender of justice in his Guantanamo Bay assignment.

The Australian detainee is reportedly not the most sympathetic of characters. His fellow Muslim detainees think he’s a waste of real estate and a sad joke, certainly not the stuff of terrorist paradise.

Mori has taken his assignment very seriously, and has stood by a belief that Hick’s detention is a breach of justice.

Abandoned by his Australian government, Hicks turned to his birth place Britain who have consistently refused the US the right to hold their citizens at Guantanamo Bay

Following Britain's reluctant acceptance of Hicks' right to citizenship, the US authorities have hindered the process to administer oaths that would see Hicks swear loyalty to Britain and the Queen.

Major Mori, with access to the detainee, has now volunteered to administer the oath.

"David could be sworn in in the next week — that's what should happen," said Major Mori, who saw Hicks at the military base in Cuba a week ago.

"But will the (US) Department of Defence do it? That's the real question."

Major Mori is pessimistic that Hicks' future will be resolved quickly. "I just think the US is trying to delay Hicks becoming a Brit because they know Britain's position on the (military) commissions," he said.

Under an agreement that has resulted in the release of nine British nationals from the Guantanamo Bay prison, Hicks could be released and would gain immediate British consular access and protection. Major Mori said the US would be reluctant to see that happen.

Holiday camp from hell

Mori also give an inside picture of this holiday camp from hell:

Major Mori sticks by his assessment of the punitive conditions in which Hicks is being held. He said Hicks, a convert to Islam, was a well-behaved prisoner who had been doing well until his sudden return to isolation. Hicks is in a concrete room with a steel door for 22 hours a day. In the two hours outside his cell he can shower and use a recreation area.

Major Mori scoffed at the suggestion Hicks, who is studying year 11 subjects with the assistance of the Australian consul, benefited from a reading room.

"There's nothing there, it's a joke," he said. "There is a little desk and a chair that you are chained to."

Hicks was at his lowest point, Major Mori said. The small table and plastic chair obtained for him by the Australian consul had been confiscated.

"They are saying it's like a US maximum-security prison and that is absolutely true, and it is used in the US for death-row inmates," he said.

You can bet Tony Blair won’t have this guy on his Queens Honours list, but he sure as hell deserves the salute more than any of the others named lately.

Honour lost in British system

General, Sir Tommy Franks – not quite

Britain has secretly honoured a raft of senior US military and business figures in the past three years.

The recipients include General Tommy Franks, the man responsible for the "Shock and Awe" Iraq war attack plan, and Riley Bechtel, head of the Bechtel Corporation.

Bechtel, the billionaire head of the US-based engineering giant, was handed a CBE for "services to UK-American commercial relations" in 2003.

He is a likely bidder for future nuclear plants in the UK and has made hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction projects in Iraq.

Others honoured include several senior US military figures, among them Vice-Admiral Timothy Keating, the man in charge of maritime forces during the Iraq invasion, and Rear Admiral Barry Costello, commander of the Third Fleet and Task Force 55.

The secrecy of these awards was explained away by Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, said: "Awards to citizens where Her Majesty the Queen is not head of state are not formally announced."

Opposition MPs have charged that the awards were kept quiet to avoid awkward questions. Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP who helped unearth the full list of foreign honour recipients, said: "These awards are supposed to be for good works and those who have helped Britain. Instead it seems they are being handed out to those that have supported Blair's misguided policies."

The revelation came during concern over the award in the Queen's Birthday Honours of a CBE for the police chief under investigation by the inquiry into the recent shooting of an innocent during a London terror raid.

Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman received the award despite facing a disciplinary charge as a result of the Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry.

Of course, the whole Honours system is under a cloud of suspicion because the ruling Labour were caught out selling Honours to raise campaign funds.

Not that I think Tommy Franks would have been all that interested in paying for a gong, but the Bechtel bauble must raise an eyebrow or two.

The Honours system has always been a bit dubious, but the Blair government seems to have been particularly profligate in its bestowing of these ‘gifts’.

The apparent secrecy of the US awards, on top of the pure debasement of the system by simply selling them off might be the beginning of the end for a system which obviously lacks the honour of its title.

For Blair, it is just one more on a growing list of blunders which will, hopefully, speed his farewell.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Pentagon’s bullshit details of U.S. Abuse of Detainees

Wow, those naughty American military folk, actually admitting to:

"…several incidents involving U.S. special operations forces in 2003-04. It said interrogators fed some Iraqi detainees only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unapproved interrogation practices such as sleep deprivation and loud music and stripped at least one prisoner."

An here we thought they were playing rough with their prisoners, but all the time it was no worse than the behaviour of any busy and forgetful family, toward their pets.

The way the US media is sucking this bullshit up, it is obviously well crafted to tell the country just what they want/need to hear. Yes Virginia, war is hell, and shit happens, but it ain’t so bad really.

"…the detainees' treatment was wrong but not illegal and reflected inadequate resources and lack of oversight and proper guidance." So there you have, just one of those things really.

Of course this readily accepted and eagerly lapped up, bullshit ignores the many reports over recent times of very real and horrid incidents.

A forest of newsprint should paper over the mess quite adequately it seems.
Lest I seem unfair singling out the terminally blind US population, I will also lump my Australian and Canadian countrymen in as well. Their governments are equally complicit in this brutal, illegal treatment of detainees, and the populations just as happily blind to the facts. And there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Refusing to acknowledge the truth of these issues of prisoner abuse is a sad commentary on out societies, but worse, a very real motive for the growing numbers of people around the world who will despise us for our blind stupidity and wanton cruelty.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Are you deaf, blind and stupid

The perception that corruption is something that happens in banana republics, but not at home, is still being pushed by big media. That is true for countries like Russia, as well as the US et al.

Ernst & Young just released their report on commercial corruption. I haven’t seen it, but these two differing views are telling. First from Novosti and Reuters:

Western cos. say corruption main challenge on emerging markets *RIA Novosti, Russia

Firms expect fraud from emerging nations: E&Y study Reuters

*Half of Western firms say bribery and corruption are the main problems they face on emerging markets, a study released Friday by Ernst & Young said.

"The greatest risk identified in emerging markets is corruption and bribery; almost 50% of respondents identified this as the most threatening," the financial services company said in a press release for its "Global Fraud Survey: Fraud Risk in Emerging Markets."

Both developed (60%) and emerging market (86%) companies said the risk of fraud was prevalent primarily in emerging markets, the company said, adding that many organizations made an investment decision based on multiple criteria, including fraud risk.

"Our survey found that one in five organizations has made a decision not to invest in an emerging market as a result of fraud risk assessment," the company said

From South Africa, a reasonably developed economy:

'More fraud in developed economies' Cape Argus, South Africa

Emerging markets may still foster perceptions of loose business practices, but in reality more fraud takes place in developed economies, an Ernst & Young survey shows.

"Of the respondents that recently suffered a significant fraud, 75% experienced a fraud in their developed country operations, while 32% experienced a fraud in an emerging market," Ernst & Young's 9th Global Fraud Survey showed.

However, 42% of the respondents were without a formal anti-fraud policy, virtually unchanged from the prior 2003 survey, Ernst & Young said.

I’m starting to feel like a Basil Fawlty, when he remonstrates with a guest over the view from the room: “Are you deaf, blind and stupid?” Of course that is the infamous misquote, but it suits my purpose and mood.

How can we read, day in day out, headlines from the US, Britain, Australia, France and every other ‘developed’ economy, regaling us with news of corporate and political corruption, then still believe it doesn’t happen HERE?

"Our survey found that one in five organizations has made a decision not to invest in an emerging market as a result of fraud risk assessment," the company said.

I can only guess that means the assessment must give a positive to the potential for corrupt practices.

It is time everyone stopped deluding themselves about corruption. African leaders have just recently begged developed economies to reign in their own crooked dealings.

It goes like this, according to the ‘banana republics’: The big bribe money comes from the big countries, and the loot is usually stored in banks in those big countries. Or to put it in a simpler way – it takes two to tango!

It could get Gorey

I can’t help thinking that Al Gore is waiting, not just for an invitation, but for a total clamouring mass of invitations. He really wants to be co-opted, made an offer he can’t refuse.

You can’t blame him if those are his thoughts.

For starters losing on such a vast stage, regardless of the dubious circumstances, must be a sobering experience for anyone with an ounce of self respect and dignity. Gore must have seen enough to know that those human traits are not the stuff of political success.

“No hide, no Christmas box”, as my old Granny used to say, or as the political hard-arses would have it – “crash through or crash”; ignore little issues like being seen as a crook or liar, or just hones feelings of rejection, because success is the only thing that matters.

So now Mrs Gore is on his case to go for it, mainly because she thinks Hillary sucks, according to some reports. Bill doesn’t seem to think she suck’s, but few of us will ever get closer enough to feel easy about the woman.

It would be refreshing to have a world leader who was a touch on the sensitive side, but I expect the US will have a woman president before they ever get a sensitive one.

It just ain’t gonna happen! Al is setting himself up nicely with his environmentalist profile, another refreshing and fatal touch.

Columnist Jim Kouri has wandered out of his usual crime and corruption patch to give an insight into Gore’s future if he decides to run.

From Kouri’s Al in Wonderland “So, Al Gore has gone Hollywood. He certainly fits right in with the rest of those idiot savants who can make movies or act, but lack the common sense of a seven year old.”

That from a side player; wait till you see the crap flowing from the sewer of the hard arse political practitioners on all asides.

Gore is, in every way, a soft target. Hell, if you tell the average voter that accepting the idea of global warming will hit them economically, they will run from the idea in droves. Never mind reality, we are talking about potential future expendable income here.

I have to admit, I’ve grown to like Al. I used to see him as a sort of educated, articulate J. Danforth Quayle. Sorry Al, I know that isn’t very fair, but perceptions are powerful.

It is the perception which will be dragged out to beat Gore to a pulp. There is simply too much powerful vested interest in destroying our planet for a quick, dirty buck top allow some nice guy do-gooder to step in and fuck it all up.

But, having said all that, I am more than willing to be proved totally wrong. I guess, like so much troubling this world today, it depends on whether the average American voter can just once ignore the predictable force-fed crap and think and listen for themselves.

No, sorry Al, I can’t see it.