Friday, February 09, 2007

PM’s definitive pronouncements praised

In a previous post, I quoted the following statement by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, on the legal status of the US military commission to be faced by the Australian Guantanamo detainee David Hicks:

We believe the arrangements for the military commission meet the reasonable requirements of Australian law.

After scratching my head for some time trying to unpack that enigmatic formulation, I think I may have cracked it. What the PM, I think, was trying to say was that:

Such military commissions, being conducted at Guantanamo Bay (hence, outside of Australian sovereign territory), and being constituted by an act of the US Congress (hence, not by an Australian Parliament), do not contravene Australian law, and therefore may safely be assumed to “meet the reasonable requirements of Australian law.”

Australians all will be relieved that their Prime Minister has this vexed issue so authoritatively in hand.

And, naturally, many of us will also be grateful to the PM for taking the time out of his busy day to give football fans the benefit of his assessment of the new AFL broadcasting deal:

Today Mr Howard told Southern Cross Radio he understands why some fans feel put out by the delayed free-to-air coverage.

“It doesn’t breach the anti-siphoning laws,” Mr Howard said.

“It’s a commercial deal involving the AFL and obviously that is a matter that ... people who are unhappy have got to pursue with the AFL.”

“But I can understand a little bit of unease about it.”

This will stand as the definitive appraisal of the AFL deal. Moreover, the ABC online news service is to be congratulated for so prominently headlining this crucial Prime Ministerial communiqué.

Snuff Goat Friday

image source

Ooohh errrr!!!

Yep, it’s a horror-slasher-kind’a Goat Friday this week!

This revolting image is offered as, I think, a screensaver by an animal-rights-kind’a outfit ... um ... I can only assume ... ?

Hard to say, because their site appears to be “under construction”.

Put it on your desktop at work and feel your ears burn, as your colleagues discuss your thought-provoking ‘statement’ ...

(Most sincere apologies to any readers enjoying a meal whilst surfing the ’Net ...)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nicaragua and USA back to future

The USA has “told Nicaragua to destroy Soviet-era anti-aircraft missiles,” it says here.

Over a decade and a half since the end of the Soviet-era, it’s interesting that Nicaragua’s arsenal of over one thousand SAM-7 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles should all of a sudden become such a red-button issue with the US State Department.

Perhaps not so strange, however, is that this renewed chest thumping should coincide with the recent re-election of Daniel Ortega as Nicaragua’s president. Ortega was, of course, the US’s Soviet-era bogeyman who led the Sandinista government in Nicaragua through the latter half of the 1980s.

The US has, since the September 11 2001 attacks, been pressing past Nicaraguan governments to destroy this arsenal, fearing that some of these could fall into the hands of terrorists. Hundreds have already been destroyed since 2004.

Ortega maintains, however, that the remaining missiles are required to balance the superior air power of Honduras and El Salvador.

And dare one suggest that Ortega also has regard for the stupendously superior air power of his historical foe, the USA ... ?

Dangerous idea considered

By Piers Bolt

Applied Hermeneutics’ token right-wing commentator, Piers Bolt, considers a dangerous idea.

John Allen Paulos, professor of mathematics at Temple University, writes, apparently in all seriousness:

Another way to get at the $1 trillion cost of the Iraq War is to note that the Treasury could have used the money to mail a check for more than $3,000 to every man, woman and child in the United States. ... Alternatively ... the Treasury could have sent a check for more than $150 to every human being on earth.

What? Give $3,000 to every man, woman and child in the United States? Or $150 to every human being on earth?

You mean, for free? Nought? Nada? Nil? Zilch?

What would that have done to our economic system?

The human economic value of anything inheres in its potential for making an individual's life more fruitful, comfortable, prestigious, etc., relative to others.

It follows that something cannot have value without a concomitant cost to others, in the form of reduced comfort, prestige, etc.

This dangerous idea of giving away One Trillion Dollarsfor free! – would almost certainly have caused catastrophic trade distortion in the world economy.

Since the dawn of human history, war production in a free market economy has been the optimum way – indeed, the only natural way – to distribute wealth, in consonance with the underpinnings of human economic value.

C’mon, folks, I know we’re in the realm of free ideas here, but this is courting with insanity.

(via Antony Loewenstein via Tim Dunlop)

Previously by Piers Bolt
A leftie society is a girlie society

US to be given further ‘ultimatums’

As the David Hicks case drags on, Australian Prime Minister John Howard apparently had a tense interlude in his party room yesterday, with several backbenchers expressing concern at the lack of due process, and “ridiculous” lengthiness of the “process”.

“What do you expect us to do?” Mr Howard was quoted as saying.

Mr Entsch responded “bring him home like the Brits did”, a reference to the British Government repatriating its Guantanamo Bay inmates because of concerns about the military commissions.

Mr Howard said that meant Mr Hicks would go free because he could not be charged under Australian law.

But he also indicated yesterday he would not let him languish indefinitely, saying he would set the US further timelines for the case to be dealt with.

He earlier gave the US until the middle of this month for Mr Hicks to be charged. At the weekend, two new charges were sworn against Mr Hicks but have not yet been approved or laid.

The folks at the White House must now be quaking in their boots every time the phone rings.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Smoke and plodding truisms

Australian Government ministers have been busily holding forth on the David Hicks matter. Trouble is that the rhetoric is becoming more opaque and self-contradictory. For instance, check out the latest from Prime Minister John Howard:

We believe the arrangements for the military commission meet the reasonable requirements of Australian law.

Whatever precisely that can be interpreted as meaning, compare Communications Minister Helen Coonan, representing the Foreign Affairs Minister in Senate estimates hearings last November:

... I don’t think that this Government has ever said that these processes are satisfactory.

I unpacked Coonan’s flummery in that previous post, but she’s relatively unpracticed in shameless spin. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, is The Master.

Pressed on the appropriateness of the US using retrospective laws to try Mr Hicks, Mr Howard then said: “I don’t equate what the US is doing with the passage of a retrospective criminal law in Australia. I don’t accept the analogy.”

This is almost impenetrable drivel. The questioner did not posit an ‘analogy’ or ‘equation’, but rather posed a legitimate question – “the appropriateness of the US using retrospective laws” – which the PM gingerly stepped around. Of course, the reporter seems to have let the PM completely off the hook, in keeping with standards of ‘balance’ and ‘objectivity’ that appear to be the norm.

Read the whole thing for a study in willful obfuscation and cowed journalism. About the only straightforwardly accurate utterance made by the PM was:

What the Americans do is up to the Americans.

Oh, that and the plodding truism that “once somebody goes overseas they lose the protection of Australian law.” The PM’s ‘canny’ mixture of smoke and plodding truisms tends to win the day for him.

Of course, when British nationals go overseas, they similarly lose the protection of British law. But the British Government had the backbone to assert the rights of its nationals and get them out of Gitmo.

Pax Saddam to be imposed

Juan Cole has observed that “the presence of so many U.S. troops in Iraq, and the way in which they’re often dragged willy-nilly into sectarian fights, such as Diyala, is probably impeding the natural process whereby Iraqis would be forced to compromise with one another.”

On this view, the recent Bush ‘surge’ plan is likely to exacerbate sectarian conflict in the short term. Presumably the ultimate objective of the troop ‘augmentation’ will be to ‘pacify’ the warring parties by means of overwhelming force. Which is to say: Terror.

In short, the plan would appear to be to clobber and otherwise terrorise the factions into ‘compromise’. Which is to say, to kill each and every militia or insurgent player until the will to fight on all sides has been subdued.

To put it another way, the essential strategy seems to be to impose a Pax Saddam on strife-torn Iraq. The question that then arises is whether the achieved ‘compromise’ will be a durable one.