Notes on Civil Society

Seeking the zeitgeist through an eclectic compilation digest of news from mainstream media and informal internet sources...

16 November 2006

Leo McKinstry: In defence of the white working class

Anti-racism has become the central theme of today's political culture, yet the obsessive concern for racial sensitivities rarely seems to be applied to the white working class. This is the one ethnic group that it is perfectly acceptable to insult and ignore.

Once regarded as the backbone of Britain, the people who saved our country in two world wars, the indigenous, less affluent, sector of the population is now treated with contempt by liberal elitists, who sneer at the supposed idleness, vulgarity, xenophobia and ignorance of so-called "chavs" or "white trash".

This kind of repellent snobbery and prejudice was captured in an extraordinary outburst from newspaper columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Condemning white working-class Britons as "either too lazy or too expensive to compete" in the new era of multi-racialism, she wrote that "tax-paying immigrants past and present keep indolent British scroungers on their couches drinking beer and watching TV".

Such comments are not only offensive, but also factually incorrect, since levels of unemployment and welfare dependency are actually much higher in certain immigrant communities. According to the Office of National Statistics, 35 per cent of Muslim households have no adult in employment, more than twice the national average, though no liberal columnist would dream of ever writing about "Muslim scroungers".

Y the younger generation is so different

I’VE had it up to here with Generation Y. They are the youngest, they are the prettiest, they are the cleverest generation in the history of mankind.

Did you know they discovered sex? Yes, apparently it’s true. And, courtesy of their penchant for the internet and MSN, they have been credited with being the first to truly think on a global scale: they have “chat friends” all over the world.

Well, what about the baby boomers? We discovered Bali. And we went on a Contiki Tour of Europe in the 1970s. We even have the photo albums to prove it, replete with obligatory pic “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa and a pasted-in ticket-stub from our very first trip on the London Tube. Top zat, globe-trotting Generation Y!

The fact is I’m more than a little jealous of Generation Y. Here they are in their early 20s and they have the entire business world a-frettin’ and a-fussin’ about whether they are happy in their jobs.

Are you feeling valued, Generation Y? Is anyone being mean to you, Generation Y? Are we paying you enough, Generation Y? Can I get you a pillow, Generation Y?

15 November 2006

High Court ruling cuts refugee protection

REFUGEES holding temporary protection visas will not be entitled to further protection in Australia if they are no longer in danger in the country they fled, following two landmark High Court rulings today.

Temporary protection visa (TPV) holders will now face a more onerous test when they apply for further protection following the High Court's judgement yesterday in favour of the government in the case of QAAH and NBGM, two Afghan Shi'a Muslims of Hazara ethnicity.

The judgement will affect all TPV holders applying for further protection when their three-year visa expires and will also have a direct, immediate impact on 17 litigation cases and 10 matters currently before the Refugee Review Tribunal.

The Department of Immigration currently has 630 applications for further protection from current TPV holders who will now have to prove that they still have a well-founded fear of persecution and therefore still have refugee status.

Ahmadinejad: World is caving in to our demands

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said Iran would soon celebrate completion of its controversial nuclear fuel program.

"With the wisdom and resistance of the nation, today our position has stabilized. I'm very hopeful that we will be able to hold the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearization in the current year," the hard-line president told reporters during a press conference.

Iran's current calendar year ends on March 20.

The hard-line president also claimed that international community was caving in to Tehran's demand for a nuclear program. He did not elaborate.

Fury in U.S. over Olmert's comments on Iraq war

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert drew fire from Democratic Party members Monday by publicly praising the war in Iraq.

Speaking after his talks with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House, Olmert said the American operation in Iraq brought stability to the Middle East.

Politicians from the Democratic Party said they wanted to speak to Olmert about his comments on Iraq before responding publicly, but expressed disapproval over the remarks.


If Olmert planned his comments and intended them to come out as they did, a Democratic official said, then they are not acceptable and can be seen as an attempt to influence the American political dispute.

Bush, speaking after the meeting, called for the world to unite in isolating Iran until it "gives up its nuclear ambitions."

"If they continue to move forward with the program, there has to be a consequence," Bush told reporters. "And a good place to start is working together to isolate the country. And my hope is that there are rational people inside the government who recognize isolation is not in their country's interest."

"It's very important for the world to unite to say to the Iranians, 'If you choose to continue to move forward, you will be isolated,'" Bush said. "One source of isolation would be economic."

The president said if the Iranians want to have a dialogue, "We have shown them a way forward," referring to the American-European demand that Iran halt enrichment. He also said it's important to convince Iran that isolating the country is an international position rather than an Israeli or an American one.

"Iran's nuclear ambitions are not in the world's interest," Bush said. "If Iran had nuclear weapons, it would be terribly destabilizing."

His prescription for dealing with Iran was diplomatic, having the United Nations impose sanctions to force Iran to stop uranium enrichment. Diplomats at the United Nations have been bogged down for weeks trying to agree to a resolution that would place some sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt is enrichment.

Olmert, accusing Iran of "fanaticism and extremism," voiced support for United States-led efforts to impose UN sanctions on Iran and said Tehran must not be allowed to "cross the technological threshold" to develop a nuclear bomb.

Bush and Olmert spoke in the White House for about 45 minutes.

Frank Luntz: 'A Tidal Wave of Change'

IN NOVEMBER 2005, I was asked to make a presentation to the House Republican Conference. In the hallway where I was waiting, a large flat-screen TV played encouraging messages to members from their leadership. In this motivational loop of video, there was one particular piece that stuck in my mind. It was a slickly produced segment that looked like a Hollywood movie preview. It reviewed the last 12 years--how, in every election cycle since 1994, the media and Democrats had predicted "a sea change in the House . . . a tidal wave of change." And after flashing a few newspaper headlines and quotes, the screen would go black until, writ large, a phrase appeared: "They were wrong."

This year, Republicans were wrong. Their leadership was wrong. Their vision (if there was one) was wrong. Their messages were wrong. On Election Night, my firm did a nationwide poll of voters to measure and determine the extent of GOP failure. The results were ugly. This election was more than a message to the Republican personalities that have led America since 1994. It was a vote of no confidence:

* We have always had universal faith and trust in democracy, yet one-third of all voters (34 percent) said they had little or no trust "in their elected officials to do the right thing most of the time."

* We have always been the most optimistic and hopeful nation, yet almost half (48 percent) said they were somewhat or very afraid "for the future of America and where the country seems to be headed."

* We have always reserved our anger for our favorite sports teams and bad drivers, yet more than half (52 percent) said politics in America made them "mad as hell and [they] weren't going to take it anymore."

* We have always believed in inter generational improvement as a core component of the American Dream, yet 57 percent believe "the children of tomorrow will inherit a worse America than what your parents left you."

The last time so many Americans were so angry, anxious, and afraid was in 1974, during a time of genuine political, economic, and military crisis. To call this election a "political correction" is to ignore just how widespread was the feeling of betrayal. Republicans rode into town in 1994 on a wave of discontent. Earlier this week, they were thrown out because of another.

Far too many congressional candidates refused to engage their constituents in a two-way discussion of the challenges in Iraq. Far too few hosted Medicare prescription drug forums to help seniors sign up and save money. Almost no one stood up to demand an end to the one issue that brought these members to power in the first place: wasteful Washington spending.

But within every rejection are the seeds of redemption. As difficult as it may be for Republicans to utter the words "Speaker Pelosi," they still have the White House (sort of) to serve as a check on congressional Democrats--at least for the next two years. If congressional Republicans want and expect to recapture House and Senate majorities in 2008, they have much to learn and do in the next 24 months:

Lesson One: "I was wrong." Those three simple words never came from the lips of any Republican anywhere, and it is one reason so many Republicans were defeated. Voters saw hubris instead of humility, and voting against the GOP was the only way they could send a message of rebuke. The Responsible Republicans of 1994 who engaged their constituents in a mature, meaningful dialogue became the Inept Republicans of 2006 who asserted and demanded but did not listen to the people they served. Sacking Donald Rumsfeld was the White House's way of acknowledging they blew it. Congressional Republicans need to take the same course by replacing those who led the GOP into the wilderness with a new generation of leaders with voices more attuned to the people back home. Voters want a clean sweep. Ignore them at your peril.

Lesson Two: Voters care about the spending of government, not the size. All across America, Republican candidates closed their campaigns with the warning that Democrats would increase government and increase taxes. And all across America, Republicans lost. What Americans wanted from their elected officials was fiscal discipline, accountability, and ethics. But these words simply did not describe a party of bridges to nowhere and congressmen who lined their pockets with cash. In our Election Night poll, we asked voters which issue most annoyed them about the Republican-controlled Congress. Among the Americans who swung from the GOP to the Democrats (Republican Rejecters), "unethical and illegal behavior going unpunished" was number two on the list (behind illegal immigration). For congressional Republicans to return to majority status, they must once again become the guardians of the national interest, the protectors of the purse strings, and the purveyors of honesty. If they don't regain the trust of the people over the next two years, they won't regain Congress.

Lesson Three: Run on reform. Fully 40 percent of the Republican Rejecters and 36 percent of the overall electorate want "significant, bold change in the way America is run." Even 18 percent of Republican congressional voters want a dramatic change in the direction of our country. If congressional Republicans are listening, they will demand new leadership that embraces the cleansing power of reform. Just as the Democratic promise to take America in "a new direction" led them to majority status, congressional Republicans need to set their party off onto a different path--a path toward real, meaningful reform.

Lesson Four: The future must be better than the past. The 1994 Contract With America wasn't a political gimmick. It was a clearly articulated agenda that addressed the day-to-day problems and concerns of average Americans. It was tough on spending, tough on taxes, tough on welfare, tough on crime--tough on all the things Americans wanted less of so that they could have more of what they really wanted: freedom and security. Several dozen members begged their leadership to offer a new Republican contract in 2006 because they sensed, correctly, that the party had lost its focus on the future and was interested only in defending the present. The response? Silence. The next leadership team needs to remember that no vision means no votes.

The mood of this country has changed since 2004, and because of it, some have already written off Repub lican chances for recapturing the House and Senate in 2008. The question Americans will be asking is whether Republicans learned anything from this election. The answers will determine the future of the GOP: that of a phoenix or a pariah.

Frank Luntz is the author of the upcoming book Words that Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear.

© Copyright 2006, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Goodbye to states' rights

THE WorkChoices case is a comprehensive legal victory for the Howard Government. A majority of the High Court rejected every challenge by the states and unions. It is a decision that would have shocked the framers of our 1901 constitution.

The constitution was drafted to establish strong states to work with a weaker central government. This held true for the first two decades of our Federation as the High Court favoured state power and protected state responsibility over areas such as industrial relations.

For the states, the WorkChoices case was lost as far back as 1920. In that year the High Court in the engineers case swept aside the earlier decisions and discarded any idea of a balance between federal and state power. The idea of "federal balance", like "states rights", became a constitutional heresy. Today, they are nothing more than political slogans.

Call for more firepower

VICTORIA Police could be armed with semi-automatic weapons for the first time if Labor is returned to government at next week's election.

Under a radical election policy announced by Premier Steve Bracks yesterday, Labor would provide $10 million for "modern weapons, including Taser stun guns and semi-automatic handguns".

Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon has previously dismissed calls for semi-automatic pistols to replace .38 service revolvers, saying there was no evidence that the current firearm was ineffective.

P.P. McGuinness: Judges' blow for socialism

The majority decided that subsectionxx of section 51 of the Constitution, the corporations power, in practice overrules virtually any other section of the Constitution: in the present case, subsectionxxxv, the industrial relations power. They have thrown a century of legislation and litigation, including countless hours of the High Court's time, out the window.

Although a great deal of this deserves to be trashed and forgotten, it remains that the court has perpetrated a revolutionary act. (The judges have also conclusively destroyed much of the intellectual capital of the huge legal and academic industry devoted to industrial relations; most of those employed in it are largely now unqualified. No bad thing in itself.)

Pity the poor Whitlam government! If only it had known that a generation later the court would consider the referendum on the prices and incomes powers unnecessary, as the powers existed already under section 51(xx).

That the people of Australia time and time again have voted to disallow amendments to one or other of these provisions is, according to the majority of the court, of no significance: "The failure of successive referendums to alter s51(xx) and s51(xxxv) provides no assistance in the resolution of the present matters" (para 135). In other words, the people have no power to alter or insist on the maintenance of their Constitution: that is the power of the almighty High Court.

Of course this will be treated as a great victory for the Howard Government and a huge defeat for the union movement. And in the short term that is the case. The structure of the conciliation and arbitration system (with its quasi-fascist corporatist ideological underpinnings, informed by late 19th-century Catholic social thinking) has no more than historical relevance. The special privileges of the trade unions under it are finished.

Ahamdinejad's plan for the new Persian Empire

IRAN'S plans to install tens of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges should be a "cold jolt" to doubters of Tehran's nuclear arms ambitions, a senior US official said today.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad told a news conference today that Iran's long-term target should be to install 60,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium, saying the fuel was for civilian energy production only.

"That should be a cold jolt to the rest of the world,'' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"What that leads to is an Iranian nuclear weapon, which would be an incredibly destabilising event in the course of Middle East history,'' he said.

Iran has said it is looking to install 3000 centrifuges by March 2007 and ultimately run 60,000 centrifuges - compared to two cascades of 164 centrifuges each it has at its Natanz plant to enrich uranium on a research scale.

Europe is Finished, Predicts Mark Steyn

Second, the Soviet menace during the cold war prompted American leaders, impatient with Europe's (and Canada's) weak responses, effectively to take over their defense. This benign and far-sighted policy led to victory by 1991, but it also had the unintended and less salutary side-effect of freeing up Europe's funds to build a welfare state. This welfare state had several malign implications.

* The nanny state infantilized Europeans, making them worry about such pseudo-issues as climate change, while feminizing the males.
* It also neutered them, annexing "most of the core functions of adulthood," starting with the instinct to breed. From about 1980, birth rates plummeted, leaving an inadequate base for today's workers to receive their pensions.
* Structured on a pay-as-you-go basis, it amounted to an inter-generational Ponzi scheme, where today's workers depend on their children for their pensions.
* The demographic collapse meant that the indigenous peoples of countries like Russia, Italy, and Spain are at the start of a population death spiral.
* It led to a collapse of confidence that in turn bred "civilizational exhaustion," leaving Europeans unprepared to fight for their ways.

To keep the economic machine running meant accepting foreign workers. Rather than execute a long-term plan to prepare for the many millions of immigrants needed, Europe's elites punted, welcoming almost anyone who turned up. By virtue of geographic proximity, demographic overdrive, and a crisis-prone environment, "Islam is now the principal supplier of new Europeans," Mr. Steyn writes.

14 November 2006

Diskin: Gov't must prepare for large-scale Gaza operation

Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Israel's government must prepare for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip.

The Shin Bet chief also said that since disengagement from Gaza, Palestinians have smuffledsome30 tonsof TNT into the Strip.

Diskin said that if the Fatah Party, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, continues to lose strength and lose ground to Palestinian extremist elements, there will be no choice but to take action.

Halloween came late in Washington

Every so often I visit the family crypt of the Wittelsbacher dynasty in Munich's Frauenkirche, to make sure that the former kings of Bavaria are still there. They give every appearance of being dead, but deceased undesirables have a way of showing up at inconvenient moments - for example, former US secretary of state James Baker III. Like King Saul conjuring the spirit of the prophet Samuel, President George W Bush has conjured the undead of his father's administration, namely the Baker-Hamilton "Iraq Study Group". Samuel's ghost told Saul in effect (I Kings 28), "You're toast," and the unfortunate president will hear the same message from his new defense secretary, Robert M Gates, and the rest of his fellow spooks.

The sina qua non of a ghost is that it is condemned for eternity to reenact the delinquencies of its past life. That is just what we should expect from Robert Gates. As chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's Soviet desk during the early 1980s, Gates shared the consensus academic view that the Soviet economy was strong and stable. A prosperous Russia, he reckoned, would respond rationally to management by carrot and stick. Fortunately for the United States, then-CIA director William Casey recruited outsiders such as journalist Herbert E Meyer, and listened to them rather than to Gates. [1]

If the Soviet economy was crumbling, some leftist commentators object, what justified the Reagan administration's military buildup of the 1980s? The answer is that a failing empire is far more likely to undertake dangerous adventures than a successful one. That was true of the Soviet Union, whose 1979 invasion of Afghanistan threatened US power at the moment of its greatest vulnerability. It is equally true today of Iran, which faces demographic implosion and economic ruin during the next generation.

Baker, Gates and their Iraq Study Group will report to President Bush next week. Judging from press leaks and the public record, they will propose a ghastly misevaluation of Iran, identical in character to their misevaluation of the Soviet Union a generation ago. As widely reported, they will propose to "engage Iran"; but for what object should Iran be engaged?

Iran can be persuaded to abandon nuclear-weapons development if it feels secure against external threats, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study that Gates co-authored in 2004 with former president Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. [2]

Never mind that Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the only country to threaten Iran's borders in a generation, has been neutralized. Gates and Brzezinski insist, "Given its history and its turbulent neighborhood, Iran's nuclear ambitions do not reflect a wholly irrational set of strategic calculations." The clerical regime believes it requires nuclear weapons, Gates-Brzezinski insist, because of the threat from the United States. Here is the key paragraph of the 2004 document:

The elimination of Saddam Hussein's regime has unequivocally mitigated one of Iran's most serious security concerns. Yet regime change in Iraq has left Tehran with potential chaos along its vulnerable western borders, as well as with an ever more proximate US capability for projecting power in the region. By contributing to heightened tensions between the Bush administration and Iran, the elimination of Saddam's rule has not yet generated substantial strategic dividends for Tehran. In fact, together with US statements on regime change, rogue states, and preemptive action, recent changes in the regional balance of power have only enhanced the potential deterrent value of a "strategic weapon". [3]

In other words, the Bush administration's threats against Tehran are not a response to Iran's nuclear ambitions, but rather the cause of Iran's nuclear ambitions, according to the sages of the Carter and the Bush Sr administrations. It is a peculiarly self-referential argument, but not a new one, for that is just how the "realists" viewed the Soviet Union in 1981.

It is true that Iranian policy is rational. It is silly to allege that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad makes policy on the premise that the imminent reappearance of the 12th Imam will bring about the end of the world as we know it. Iran's policy is quite rational, but in a very different way than Gates and Brzezinski imagine: facing prospective ruin, it wants to conquer the entire oil belt of the Middle East, from Azerbaijan to the northwest coast of Saudi Arabia. I explained why in Demographics and Iran's imperial design (September 13, 2005).

As noted, the Soviet section of the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence failed miserably in its mission during the Cold War when Gates was in charge. Why the man ever had another job offer speaks volumes about the character of bureaucracies. The Soviet Empire of 1979-82 was all the more dangerous for its infirmity. If Russia had succeeded in breaking Europe's political will and harnessing European industry to its own decrepit industrial machine, the communist economy might have managed its problems quite well. That was the thrust of Russian policy, which sought to intimidate the Germans into the status of vassal state.

Few who were not participants know how close the United States came to losing the Cold War. The point-spread for victory in the Cold War strongly favored the Soviet Union in European salons. President Ronald Reagan's core group of advisers - Alexander Haig, William Casey, Richard Allen and William Clark - believed that one side or another would achieve victory during the 1980s. Either the Soviet Union would intimidate America's allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and emerge stronger, or the Soviet Union would collapse by the end of the decade. Ultimately America's ability to mount a huge military buildup while the civilian economy prospered was the decisive fact.

The 1980s presented an unstable world in which the illusionary equilibrium of the Cold War would come to a crashing end. But that is not how Gates saw it. The US academic consensus, as well as the Foreign Service and intelligence community, could not imagine such a grand rupture of stability. They projected their own desire for stability - the stability of career and social status - on to the world around them, with potentially disastrous results. They swam in the fishbowl of incremental change and petty tradeoffs. Confronted with evidence that great events and challenges lay before the United States, they could not read the writing on the wall, and refused to believe it once the characters were interpreted for them.

Why can't the "realists" make sense of reality, even when it clamps its jaws firmly upon their posteriors? Why is it that the king's magicians never seem to be able to read the fiery script on the wall? Belshazzar's magi could not read the words "Mene, mene, tekel, uparsin"; the king of Babylon had to call in an outside consultant, namely Daniel. By then it was too late.

The answer to the conundrum is that knowledge is existential. That is, we cannot easily imagine a world in which we will not exist because the world has no use for us. Self-styled power brokers of the James Baker ilk have no place in the world when power asserts itself in its naked form and there is nothing more to broker. The realists fancy themselves the general managers in a world of hierarchy, status and security. Replace these with insecurity and chaos, and there no longer is any need for such people.

Reading the confidential correspondence of Europe's leaders just before World War I, one observes that Franz Joseph of Austria, Wilhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas II of Russia could not conceive of the calamity about to befall them. On the eve of mobilization, they remained blind and deaf to the dangers at their doorstep (Why war comes when no one wants it, May 1, 2006). They evinced not stupidity - for they were clever and cultured men - but rather hysteria. The world shortly was to have no use for them, and it was beyond their capacity to imagine a world in which they did not exist. Rene Descartes was misguided to write, "I think, therefore I am." Most of us do not require a logical proof of our own existence; those who do require it have little interest in logic. More relevant is the converse: "I am, therefore I am willing to think." Past the limits of our potential existence, thought will not carry us.

The ghosts of defunct European monarchies mingle with the shades of failed policy in Washington. Who you gonna call? Not the neo-conservatives, whose effort to turn the sow's ear of Middle Eastern politics into the silk purse of democracy has not a shred of credibility remaining. The Reagan administration did not win the Cold War by proposing regime change in Moscow, but by humiliating Russian power to the point that its will to fight evaporated. There is no one to interpret the fiery letters on the wall. For the past five years I have counseled the United States to learn to live with the chaos that it can do nothing to prevent. No matter: Americans will learn, late and at cost, the way they always do.

1. For the CIA's account of the debate over the Soviet economy, click here.
2. Iran: Time for a New Approach (pdf file).
3. Ibid, p 23.

Wanta buy a Global TV network

The vast majority of the TV news pictures you see are produced by two TV news companies. Presented here is a case for how a large amount of money has been used to inject a clear bias into the heart of the global TV news gathering system. That this happens is not at question, whether it is by accident or design is harder to tell.

You may not realize it, but if you watch any TV news broadcast on any station anywhere in the world, there is a better than even chance you will view pictures from APTN. BBC, Fox, Sky, CNN and every major broadcaster subscribes to and uses APTN pictures. While the method by which they operate is interesting, it is the extra service this US owned and UK based company offers to Arab states that is really interesting....

Robert Tait: Iranians outraged as Google redraws map

Google has provoked the wrath of Iran's notoriously suspicious authorities by appearing to question the country's sovereignty over the province of Azerbaijan in an entry on its Google Video website.

In a move tailor-made to wound Iranian patriotic pride and arouse a blizzard of protest, the Azeri provincial capital, Tabriz, is located "in southern Azerbaijan, currently in the territory of Iran". To add insult to injury, the ancient city is listed as being in Azerbaijan, rather than Iran. Tabriz and southern Azerbaijan have belonged to Iran for more than 4,000 years.

The text of a tourist film on the site has drawn accusations that the US-owned search engine is deliberately trying to undermine Iran's territorial integrity by fomenting separatist sentiment in the mainly Turkish-speaking province.

Valiallah Azarvash, an Iranian MP, said: "An Iranian never accepts such slights. Since the second millennium BC, eastern Azerbaijan and Tabriz have never been separated from the body of Iran. How can they now belong somewhere else?"

The information technology ministry has branded the entry an attempt to intervene in Iran's internal affairs and has urged Iranians to flood Google with emails.

Our World: The second-worst option

A week before the US Congressional elections The New York Times published a front-page story which all but admitted that Iraq's nuclear program had been active until March 2003, when the US-led coalition deposed Saddam Hussein. The Times report relayed concerns of officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding captured Iraqi documents which the administration had posted on the Internet.

The documents in question contained Iraqi nuclear bomb designs that could be useful to rogue states like Iran which are currently working to build a nuclear arsenal. The Times article also reported that, in the past, the same Web site had published Iraqi documents relating to nerve agents tabun and sarin. They were removed after their content elicited similar concerns from UN arms control officials.

In response to the Times story an international security Web site run by Ray Robinson published a translation of a story that ran on the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah's Web site on September 25. Citing European intelligence sources, the Al-Seyyassah report claims that in late 2004 Syria began developing a nuclear program near its border with Turkey. According to the report, Syria's program, which is being run by President Bashar Assad's brother Maher and defended by a Revolutionary Guards brigade, "has reached the stage of medium activity."

The Kuwaiti report maintains that the Syrian nuclear program relies "on equipment and materials that the sons of the deposed Iraqi leader, Uday and Qusai… transfer[red] to Syria by using dozens of civilian trucks and trains, before and after the US-British invasion in March 2003." The report also asserts that the Syrian nuclear program is supported by the Iranians who are running the program, together with Iraqi nuclear scientists and Muslim nuclear specialists from Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

The program "was originally built on the remains of the Iraqi program after it was wholly transferred to Syria."

This report echoes warnings expressed by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in the months leading up to the US-led invasion of Iraq that suspicious convoys of trucks were traveling from Iraq to Syria. Sharon's warnings were later supported by statements from former IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who said last year that Iraq had moved its unconventional arsenals to Syria in the lead-up to the invasion.

ACCORDING TO the US Senate's Prewar Intelligence Review Phase II, which studied the prewar intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons program, in 2002, the US had learned from the Iraqi foreign minister that while Iraq had not yet acquired a nuclear arsenal, "Iraq was aggressively and covertly developing" nuclear weapons. The Senate report concluded that Saddam was told by his own weapons specialists that Iraq would achieve nuclear weapons capabilities "within 18-24 months of acquiring fissile material."

In the weeks and months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, President George W. Bush repeatedly stated that America's primary security challenge was to prevent the world's most dangerous regimes from acquiring nonconventional, and particularly nuclear weapons. When Bush's statements are assessed against the backdrop of the apparently advanced Iraqi nuclear bomb designs that were placed on the Web in recent weeks, it becomes clear that the US-led invasion successfully prevented Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In his State of the Union Address in 2002, Bush placed Iraq in the same category of threat to US national security as Iran and North Korea. The three rogues states, Bush argued constituted an "axis of evil" that must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Duck a l'Iraq on the menu

OH to be a fly on the wall at this week’s lunch between George W. Bush and John Howard when they travel to Vietnam for the APEC meeting.

The President’s fondness for the Prime Minister has manifested itself in soppy compliments, lavish White House receptions and personal flights on Airforce One.

Now, however, Bush is on the nose and any cachet attached to hanging out with the President has been greatly diminished.

Having dispatched with the pleasantries, you’d think much of the conversation between Bush and Howard would focus on the mess in Iraq.

Senior Democrats are suggesting a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq over four to six months. This seems absurdly premature—violence in and around Baghdad is worse than ever, and Bush remains committed to “victory”.

Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton’s chief-of-staff and a member of the bipartisan study group set to advise Bush on the war, says committee members “left some of those sessions shaking our heads over how bad it is in Iraq”.

The tragedy of the botched war is there are no easy options. John McCain, the Republican-most-likely to run in 2008, advocates sending significantly more troops, something Donald Rumsfeld plainly should have considered in 2003.

E Timor's youth unite for peace

HUNDREDS of East Timorese youths, including members of rival gangs who fought each other in the streets of the capital earlier this year, have held a rally to promote unity and peace.

After gathering in front of the seaside government office in downtown Dili, they drove through the streets in a convoy of scores of motorcycles and other vehicles calling for unity.

The convoy was heavily escorted by UN security forces from Australia and Malaysia.

Pedro Perreira, who took part in the rally, said that it was a spontaneous rally and not organised by political parties or other organisations.

"This action is aimed at showing our leaders that it is time for the youths of Timor Leste to be united again," he said.

The youths waved national flags and some carried a large banner saying: "Let us enter peace. Long Live a single East Timor."

13 November 2006

Darwin native title appeal begins

ABORIGINES in Darwin are appealing against a failed bid for native title recognition, in Australia's first case involving a large part of a capital city. The Federal Court dismissed the landmark claim in April this year by nine Larrakia families over 575 square kilometres of crown land in Darwin and nearby Palmerston. The court found the Larrakia had not maintained a continuous observance of traditional laws and customs since sovereignty, with "an interruption" occurring sometime between the late 1930s and early 1970s. The Northern Land Council (NLC), representing the traditional owners, immediately sought to appeal the ruling even though the claim was vigorously contested by the NT Government and the Darwin City Council.

Jill Stark: Diabetes 'threatens to wipe out Aborigines'

THE Aboriginal population of Australia could be wiped out by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken to curb a global diabetes disaster described as the "biggest epidemic in world history". International experts will converge on Melbourne today for a three-day crisis summit convened to put pressure on the United Nations to tackle the threat of extinction facing indigenous communities around the world. The so-called "Cocacolanisation" of traditional cultures, with communities adopting Western lifestyles and fast-food diets, has been blamed for a rapid rise in type 2 diabetes. An estimated one in five indigenous Australians has diabetes. Inadequate access to health care means many cases are undiagnosed, resulting in blindness, kidney disease and amputations.

12 November 2006

Khamenei calls U.S. elections a victory for Iran

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday called U.S. President George W. Bush's defeat in congressional elections a victory for Iran.

Bush has accused Iran of trying to make a nuclear bomb, being a state sponsor of terrorism and stoking sectarian conflict in Iraq, all charges Tehran denies.

"This issue (the elections) is not a purely domestic issue for America, but it is the defeat of Bush's hawkish policies in the world," Khamenei said in remarks reported by Iran's student news agency ISNA on Friday.

"Since Washington's hostile and hawkish policies have always been against the Iranian nation, this defeat is actually an obvious victory for the Iranian nation."

The Democrats wrested control of both houses of Congress from the Republicans in this week's mid-term elections, partly because of voter concern over the war in Iraq.

Khamenei, a senior cleric in power since 1989, has the last word on matters of state in Iran's complex system of Islamic rule, while the government, under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in charge of day-to-day decision making.

"The result of this election indicates that the majority of American people are dissatisfied and are fed up with the policies of the American administration," the IRNA state news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Khamenei said military manoeuvres in the Gulf this week in which Iranian forces tested new missile systems showed Iran was ready to face any threat.

First indigenous surgeon an 'accidental hero'

A NSW man has made history by becoming Australia's first Aboriginal surgeon. Dr Kelvin Kong, who completed his final advanced training exams this year, is working as an ear, nose and throat specialist at St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst. The 32-year-old told The Sunday Telegraph he hopes to inspire more indigenous people to pursue careers in medicine and other academic arenas. "I feel like a bit of an accidental hero because I don't like the limelight at all," he said. "The ideal day will be when it's not special – when there are thousands of indigenous doctors." Dr Kong credits his mother, Grace Kinsella, a registered nurse, for inspiring him and his 34-year-old twin sisters to become doctors. Dr Marilyn Clarke (nee Kong) was Australia's first Aboriginal obstetrician, while GP Dr Marlene Kong has just returned from Israel, where she completed a masters degree in public health.

250 hours' work for fake Aborigine

A YOUNG woman who claimed government funding by faking Aboriginality has been released on a two-year community-based order. Emma Louise Tatnall, 22, will have to do 250 hours' unpaid community work after pleading guilty to two counts of obtaining property by deception and two of attempting to pervert the course of justice. The County Court in Bendigo this week heard that Tatnall became a student at La Trobe University's Bendigo campus in February 2002. At enrolment, she falsely declared she was of Aboriginal descent and got others to say they were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. Judge Geoff Chettle said Tatnall made the false declaration on the advice of a family friend - the co-ordinator of the campus's Aboriginal Tertiary Support Unit.

Caroline B. Glick: Olmert's ill-timed Washington visit

Many downplay the significance of the US Congressional elections. It is the six-year slump, they say. But the truth is nonetheless glaring. By all accounts, Tuesday the George W. Bush era came to a close. The consequences of this turn of events on Israel will be dramatic. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that anyone has explained them to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ahead of his scheduled visit to the White House next week.

Across the political spectrum in Washington today there is a sense that after years of wavering, in the wake of the Democratic victory in Tuesday's Congressional elections, President Bush transferred control over American foreign policy to his father's anti-war advisors. The President's announcement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's "resignation" Wednesday signaled the transfer of control over the war against radical Islam from Bush's team to Bush pere's team. Robert Gates, Bush's nominee to replace Rumsfeld, served as his father's deputy national security adviser and CIA director. Gates, who will arrive at the Pentagon from his present position as President of Texas A&M University where Bush I's presidential library is located, is closely associated with former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft and former secretary of state James Baker. He is a member in good standing of the Arabist wing of the Republican Party which dominated the President's father's administration.

In recent years, Gates made one notable foray into the world of international affairs. In 2004 he collaborated with Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor in the Carter administration. Like former president Jimmy Carter, Brzezinski is one of Israel's greatest adversaries in US policymaking circles. It is hard to recall a problem, conflict, crisis or war in the Middle East over the past thirty years that Brzezinski has not managed to blame on Israel.

Uzi Mahnaimi: Hezbollah’s missiles back in Lebanon

FOUR months after Israel launched its onslaught against Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrillas are back in south Lebanon stronger than ever and armed with more rockets than they had before the conflict, according to Israeli intelligence.

During the month-long war, which began on July 12, Hezbollah fired 200 to 250 rockets a day into Israel, killing 43 civilians and terrorising much of the north of the country.

“Since the ceasefire, additional rockets, weapons and military equipment have reached Hezbollah,” said an Israeli intelligence officer. “We assume they now have about 20,000 rockets of all ranges — a bit more than they had before July 12.”

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has confirmed the Israeli estimate. In a recent interview with al-Manar, the Hezbollah television station, he claimed his organisation had restocked its arsenal and now held at least 30,000 rockets, sufficient for five months of war.

Israeli military intelligence has warned the government that renewed fighting with Hezbollah, which it regards as a terrorist organisation, should be expected as early as next spring.

In response, Israeli forces have taken emergency action. They have postponed a plan to reduce the length of national service — currently 36 months for men and about 24 months for women — and are stepping up production of better armoured tanks.

They are also grouping all special forces into a single new division and are developing laser technology, jointly with the United States, to shoot down Hezbollah’s rockets.

On the border with Lebanon it is easy to understand Israeli concerns. A sniper from the Israeli 50th infantry brigade said last week that Hezbollah was active, although its members wore civilian clothes rather than uniforms.

The sniper, a 24-year-old lawyer from New York on national service, watched through his gun sight as a young man carrying an AK-47 assault rifle climbed from a Jeep. “He was walking quickly and all of a sudden he disappeared into a hidden shelter,” he said. “Then the guy went back to the Jeep and back to the tunnel, checking how quickly he could get there. Then he climbed into the Jeep and drove away.

He added: “We feel that Hezbollah are constantly there, though we rarely see any weapons.”

The Israeli military estimates that at least 5,000 rockets are hidden in secret shelters along the border, which it failed to find before the ceasefire came into effect on August 14.

Iranian-made long-range Zelzal rockets, which could reach Tel Aviv, have been stored in hidden locations. “We’re now in a race to locate the new rockets,” said a Mossad source.

Tracking down the Iranian rockets was one of Israel’s few military successes in the summer. According to sources, the Israeli air force destroyed them on the first night of battle. “We believe Hezbollah have learnt their lesson and it will be much harder to locate them next time,” said the source.

Christian charity bans Christmas themed children's gifts

It is a Christian charity bringing Christmas cheer to needy children abroad.

So its decision to ban Jesus, God and anything else connected with its own faith has been greeted with little short of puzzlement.

Operation Christmas Child, run by the charity Samaritan's Purse, sends festive packages to deprived youngsters in countries ravaged by war and famine.

Donors are asked to pack shoeboxes with a cuddly toy, a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and flannel, notepads, colouring books and crayons - but nothing to do with Christmas.

Stories from the Bible, images of Jesus and any other Christian literature are expressely forbidden - in case Muslims are offended.

Yesterday the charity's policy of censoring its own faith was described as political correctness gone mad.

We will blow up the White House, al-Qaeda threatens

AL-QAEDA'S chief in Iraq used an audio message posted on the internet yesterday to threaten that the terror network would "blow up the White House".

"We announce today the end of a phase of the jihad [holy war] and the start of a new one … to usher in the project of an Islamic caliphate and restore Islam's glory," Abu Hamza al-Muhajer said in the message.

"We swear we will not rest from our jihad … before blowing up the filthiest house, dubbed the White House," he said.

The authenticity of the message could not be independently confirmed.

"The location chosen by your mujahideen brethren to set up their state … is but a stepping stone for the leap," Muhajer said, referring to the "Islamic state of Iraq" proclaimed last month.

Elton wants to ban religion

Organised religion fuels anti-gay discrimination and other forms of bias, pop star Elton John said in an interview.

"I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people," Elton said in the Observer newspaper's Music Monthly Magazine. "Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays."

"But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion," he said. "From my point of view, I would ban religion completely. Organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate."

10 November 2006

M15 boss reveals 30 terror plots against Britain

THE head of Britain's MI5 has given a chilling assessment of the scale of the terror threat in the UK.

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller said that the Security Service was dealing with up to 30 alleged "mass casualty" terror plots against British targets in the UK and abroad, according to BBC reports.

Some of them involved plans for suicide attacks and some were being directed by al-Qa'ida.

And she said that MI5 and the police were tackling 200 groups or networks totalling more than 1600 identified individuals in the UK who were "actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts".

Dame Eliza's assessment came in her first public speech since the July 7 terror attacks last year, to an invited audience of academics in east London.

The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner, who was in the audience, said she warned of the prospect that weapons of mass destruction could be used in future terror attacks in the UK.

"Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices, but I suggest tomorrow's threat will include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology," she said.

Dame Eliza told her audience that MI5's caseload of UK-based terror sympathisers - many of them British citizens - had increased by 80 per cent since January, reported the BBC.

She voiced concern that many of those involved were young men and teenagers as young as 16, who were being radicalised by friends and by material viewed on the internet.

She quoted statistics suggesting that there was widespread sympathy for terrorism within Britain.

"If the opinion polls conducted in the UK since July are only broadly accurate, over 100,000 of our citizens consider that the July bomb attacks in London were justified," she said.

Dennis Shanahan: Green jihad a disastrous idea

IT used to be that carrying coals to Newcastle was considered the height of idiocy, a wasted effort without the hope of a financial return. The new height of idiocy is to stop coal going from Newcastle.

The backbone of NSW's second-largest city - a Labor town built on the steel of the BHP mills and the coal from the Hunter Valley - is still coal, despite all the changes the valley has been through.

It is also the undeniable backbone of Australia's domestic energy needs for decades to come and will continue to supply the bulk of the world's energy until 2050.

And this is not the pipedream of a fossil industry but the conclusion of the British Stern report, which urges economic changes to fight greenhouse gas emissions. We can't do without coal; we have to learn to live with it.

09 November 2006

The video made five months before 9/11 attacks

A reconnaissance video shot by Dhiren Barot in New York in April 2001 contained “a macabre prophecy” of the atrocities that would occur five months later on 9/11, Woolwich Crown Court was told.

The key piece of evidence was found hidden on a videotape of the Bruce Willis film Die Hard: With A Vengeance — about a series of explosions in New York. Added to the end of the film was 80 minutes of footage recorded by the terrorist planner and two accomplices.

Barot had enrolled to study communications skills at Mohawk Valley College, New York, and although he never attended classes he was free to travel in and out of the United States. He is known to have made trips in 2000 and 2001.

Posing as tourists, he and two accomplices walked the streets of the city’s financial district and filmed side entrances, security guards and cameras outside the New York Stock Exchange and other buildings.

Bat Ye'or: Europe and the Ambiguities of Multiculturalism

The globalization of our world and the policies that have led to large-scale Muslim immigration, adopted by the European Community from 1973, has introduced into Europe conflictual situations and prejudices common in the Muslim world against non-Muslims that have been documented by Orientalists familiar with Islamic theology, law and history. But the politization of history initiated by Edward Said has obfuscated the root causes of Islam’s traditional hostility toward Jews and Christians from the seven century onward. Edward Said was a Christian raised in Egypt and educated in America; he taught English literature at Columbia University. A great admirer of Arafat and a member of the PLO’s top Committee, he endeavored to destroy the whole scientific accumulation of Orientalist knowledge of Islam and replace it with a culture of Western guilt and inferiority toward Muslims victims. The obliteration of the historical truth that he constantly pursued from 1978 – starting with his book Orientalism – as well as his hostility to Israel, has prevented an understanding and the resolution of problems that today assail Europe and challenge its own survival.

I will examine the relations between Islam and Christianity, Islam and Judaism, Judaism and Christianity and the tensions created by a Muslim immigration into a European Judeo-Christian civilization. I will speak of those issues in that order.

Dick Morris: Defeat for Bush bad news all round

THE 2006 congressional elections represent a serious defeat for President George W. Bush, regardless of whether the Republicans can hold on to the Senate. The result is not crucial for US foreign or domestic policy in 2007 and 2008. The rules in the Senate permit unlimited debate until 60 Senators vote to terminate it.

The result is that Republicans can still stop Democrats from passing legislation in the Senate, even if they lose the majority. And even if Democratic legislation makes its way through the Senate, Bush will stay in office until January 21, 2009, to veto anything he doesn't like.

Democrats, far short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto, cannot do anything other than watch and bear it.

But the impact of the 2006 election on 2008 could not be greater.

With control of the House of Representatives - and perhaps of the Senate - the Democrats will wage a two-year campaign for the White House. Their majority in the House will assure them of key committee chairmanships that bring with them subpoena power and the ability to hold hearings at will.

The result will be a deluge of subpoenas, requests for documents and conflicts over executive privilege. By the time the 2008 elections are held, the country will have been fed a steady diet of Republican scandal, courtesy of the Democratic House committees.

The irony is precious if it were not so disheartening. The Democratic Party, victimised by the excessive partisanship of the late 1990s, will be empowered by the same kind of political zeal in this decade.

Instead of Monica Lewinsky, there will be so-called Republican scandals over the next few years. And the likely beneficiary of this process will be Hillary Clinton, the probable Democratic nominee in 2008, whose husband was the victim of the same partisanship at the end of his term. What goes around, comes around.

Americans have little patience with their presidents. Eight years is too long to hold the public on your side. Especially when your administration gets stuck in a war, there is too little public patience to let the party in power remain potent.

The sixth year record of two-term presidencies is dismal. Woodrow Wilson lost Congress in his sixth year amid the body count of World War I. Franklin Roosevelt failed to purge the conservatives in his own party in 1938 and suffered as a result. Harry Truman failed in 1950.

Dwight Eisenhower suffered huge losses in 1958. Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford faced disaster in 1974. Ronald Reagan lost the Senate in 1986. Sixth years are terrible for US presidents and Bush is no exception.

And what will happen while the partisan food fight is in progress? The US will be stalemated. There will be little mandate for effective executive action. Bush, while nominally commander-in-chief, will be enfeebled by the political dynamics on Capitol Hill. Distracted by investigations, driven crazy by hearings and harassed by scandal accusations, his administration will find it difficult to muster the political capital to act.

Will this make a difference for Bush? Don't bet on it. The President still has total control over the armed forces and foreign policy. Democrats in the House will not dare to use their control over funding to decapitate Bush's Iraq policy.

Bush will dare them to undercut the troops in the field by withdrawing funding and the Democrats will have no option but to chicken out.

So, for the next two years, we will have a President marching to the beat of his own drummer, continuing his drive for victory while disregarding the 2006 election results.

And in the Congress, an increasingly fulminating environment of investigations and hearings all designed to make the case for a Democratic president in 2008.

Divided government in the US is paralysed government. Bad news for Bush. Bad news for America. Good news for the enemies of freedom.

Dick Morris, a Fox News political analyst and former senior adviser to president Bill Clinton, is author of Condi vs Hillary (HarperCollins).

After the Elections

Now that the Democratic Party has taken the House and has an extremely good prospect of taking the Senate it's possible to speculate about its consequences. The Israeli experience probbly provides a good comparison. Faced with the difficulty of a security threat they retreated, some would say, into pacifist fantasy. But the enemy eventually brought parts of Israel under threat and the response, when it came, was still half-hearted. Olmert temporized and another war in Lebanon is expected presently. Is this the fate that awaits America?

Maybe. Not in particulars but in structure. There is now a much smaller chance that the terrorist problem can be resolved at a low level of conflict. There is a greater likelihood that it will be allowed by neglect or paralysis to metastize into a canker which will develop into a catastrophic confrontation in five or ten years time. A likelihood, but not a certainty.

The comparison with Israel fails in that the US is the world's security Central Banker. The sheriff of last resort. Other countries could wobble as long as the Central Banker stood firm. Now the Central Banker itself is wobbling. The UK, Europe, etc could count on America to be the security underwriter of last resort. But where do you go when the reinsurer fails?

If America is lucky then a bipartisan national security consensus can be rebuilt before any catastrophe overtakes. But America's lucky streak has just run out. Two things now have to happen. The Democrats have to start responding to the threats that they will face now that they are in legislative power and they have to resolve the tensions between their left and right wings. In that respect, the election of Lieberman is some kind of proof that not everyone in the Democratic party is a Pelosi-ite. But a whole lot are.

At any rate, it's a new political game. With North Korea, Iran, Iraq on the burner and Nancy Pelosi running the House there will be enormous challenges to simply hold against the threat. The time of easy security is past. Nothing is assured.

The coming months will be ones of great opportunity. Reality provides one very powerful service: it shows what does not work. And it provides clues to what will work. A lot of the effort should consist of thinking out approaches from first principles. One obvious effect will be to shrivel the deadwood -- intellectual and otherwise -- out of the way. We are all free in a way that we couldn't otherwise be without today. That's a good thing and after I finish up for the day, I'm going to drink a beer or maybe have one of Jimmy Joe Shank's mayo and peanut butter sandwiches.