Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The Asia Times reports:

The Pakistani establishment has made a deal with the Taliban through a leading Taliban commander that will extend Islamabad's influence into southwestern Afghanistan and significantly strengthen the resistance in its push to capture Kabul.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Vader sessions

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Would this ever happen in your country?

The Guardian reports:

Twenty-six Americans and five Italians are to be put on trial in Italy, accused of kidnapping a terrorism suspect as part of the CIA's programme of so-called extraordinary rendition.

Maybe if there was a change of government.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oh no, the darkies are taking over!

This may not immediately interest you if you don't have an interest in cricket. Still, I think it's worth noting. Today's SMH reports on the daunting power of the Indian cricket board in determining team schedules. The report paints a picture of alarm - of decaying professional standards ('they', the 'Asian bloc' nations, were able to change the bowling laws so that Murali can lawfully chuck a cricket ball) and a loss of Australian sovereignty (our cricketers could potentially be forced to play in a different country on Boxing Day, the holiest day in the Australian cricketing calendar).

It's this sort of shite that reminds me that for many, Australian cricket is still a bastion of the White Australia myth. To the white supremecists, Australia's cricketing supremecy is a bright beacon of the white Aussie male's virility and superiority over the other nations of the old empire. Now this might sound far-fetched, but it's not. Consider that the language of this article is consistent with the theme of loss of control to outsiders (Indian cricket board, Chinese or Japanese enterprise, Arab Australians having more kids than white Australians, etc). But perhaps an even easier way to countenance this is to watch the cricket live, particularly when Australia plays one of the Asian nations and sometimes when it plays the English. It is in this environment that the worst of Australia's beered up, jingoistic yobbos find it necessary to hurl an untold number of obscenities on the opposition and their supporters in the crowd.

It's worth noting that I am not talking here about EVERY white Australian, or every white Australian at the cricket. Or, indeed, that these people are all white Australians (whatever that actually means!). I only wish to point out that there is a large segment of the viewing public who happily if unconsciously fit into this stereotype. Rather than being a refuge from politics and prejudice, sport is often a mirror which reflects the best and worst in our nature.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I love little pussy,
Her coat is so warm,
And if I don't hurt her,
She'll do me no harm.
So I'll not pull her tail,
Nor drive her away,
But pussy and I,
Very gently will play.

[Editor's note - yes, this is a real nursery rhyme.]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Remembering the Hama massacre

Another timely piece from Robert Fisk on the moral bankruptcy of the Arab regimes of the Middle East. This time the focus is on Syria, particularly the Hama massacre of 1982.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sudden fire or quiet storm?

Ever so gradually, pressure is mounting on the Australian Government to stand up to the United States over its treatment of David Hicks. Consider this. On February 7, The Australian carried news that John Howard is now critical of David Hick's indefinite detention by the US.

Prime Minister John Howard has criticised America's handling of the David Hicks' case as a handful of his backbenchers demanded the Australian terror suspect be returned home.

Mr Howard told his colleagues that the government had resolved to put a deadline on charges against Hicks and “would pursue the Americans on other timelines”.

This is a major back flip considering the Howard Government's near total silence over David Hick's treatment by the US over the past five years. What The Australian piece did not adequately convey was the obvious fact that Howard has miscalculated over Hicks and that it has taken him several years to realise that there is something very wrong about the manner in which Hicks has been dealt. Since Hicks was detained in December 2001, public sentiment has slowly started to swell in his favour, although I hazard a guess many Australians still simply do not care or even support his continued detention.

On paper, the Australian Government has always maintained that David Hicks' case should be handled in a fair and expeditious manner. But from the very moment Hicks was detained in 2001 the Government has gone to great lengths to avoid overt criticism of the United States. Even as recently as last week, there was no sign of descent from the Australian Government. Instead, we were told on 7 February 2007 that the Australian Government "welcomes the move by the United States to charge David Hicks." Remember, it has taken over five years for the United States merely to announce nominal charges against Hicks. His trial has yet to occur.

Back in September 2004, when Hicks had already been detained without charge for nearly three years, the Government said it had spoken to their American counterparts to ensure that Hicks got a fair and expeditious trial. It was already clear to Australian Government observers that the Military Commission process Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, another Australian subsequently released, were being subjected to had serious flaws. These concerns were blandly described in a press release as:

... involving operational and procedural aspects of the conduct of the Military Commission process, including the lack of agreed rules of procedure that could lead to uncertainty for both prosecution and defence in preparing cases.

The same press release assured us that Australia had "reached an understanding" with the United States that Hicks would be afforded some basic human rights protections - a presumption of innocence, a right to silence, the right to defence counsel (although this would have to be an American as an Australian could only act as 'legal consultant') and that he would not face the death penalty. Significantly, these protections were not subjected to any independent verification, which the US does not permit at Guantanamo, but was premised on some as of yet unsubstantiated belief that the US will uphold the protections it promised to afford to Hicks.

In July 2006 Attorney-General Ruddock stated:

The Australian Government has made it clear to the United States that it continues to expect appropriate procedures will be in place to ensure a fair trial.

The principle concern I have is that all the assurances that have been given to us – and there are a number of them – are honoured. And I am sure they will be.

Clearly the Government's attention has always been placed on being seen to be doing something, but nothing more than the bare minimum. In truth, the Government has always treated as inevitable that Hicks would be detained for as long as the United States cared to detain him. Nor has the Government ever taken seriously Hicks' numerous claims of being tortured and punished for speaking to legal representatives and outside observers. According to Attorney-General Ruddock there is a simple explanation for all of Hick’s complaints – he’s weak willed:

"I don't hear most people who are detained in Australia are found to be unfit to plead simply because they've been detained... Some people don't handle it well."

Such statements reflect the Government's blatant contempt for the well being of an Australian citizen. It is in the light of such statements that we must understand the Government's sudden concern for David Hicks. There are clear messages in all of this. Australians do care about Hicks. Public pressure does have an effect. And Governments are almost always the last to realise what everyone else, including cowardly bureaucrats, has known for a very long time. It has taken the Australian Government over five years to reach the very simple conclusion that David Hicks should be brought back home immediately. For David Hicks, the Government's sudden concern may be all too little too late.

For more information on David Hicks and his treatment by the Australian Government go to .

more on the Australian Government and Hicks in this excellent piece by Julian Burnside QC.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Palestinian opinion poll

Is there a link between violence and the halt of the financial assistance ?
(77.2 %) of the Palestinians believe that the halt of the foreign financial assistance to the Palestinian government would further increase the severity of violence in the region, whilst (8.5 %) said that ‘ it would curtail the violence’ and (13.8 %) are of the opinion that ‘ its cut-off now is not effecting the violence at all’ and (0.5 %) declined to respond to the question.

Read the entire poll here. Thanks to Palestine Blogs for putting this up.

Status anxiety

Me mate Jason has a few splendid entries on the virus of 'Affluenza' spreading through a city near you. You can read the entries here and here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

David Chapelle does Bush