Monday, June 30, 2008

In The Ashes And The Dust

Thanks to WP for keeping it real.

The Corporatocracy Has Taken Over Teh Olympics

Why I Wont Have The Slightest Interest In Teh Olympics:
A little-known Yale School of Management program for company chieftains offers four days of business mixed with pleasure from Aug. 9 for $32,395 a couple. The package includes speakers such as Stephen A. Schwartzman, Hank Greenberg, Peter V. Ueberroth and possibly the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi. The pleasure part: "Category A" tickets (that apparently means they’re good seats) to Olympics events, with the use of cars approved to travel in Olympics-access lanes...
Etc etc.

As if the drugs in sport issue was not bad enough already. China should never have been awarded these Games, and we should all turn off our TVs in protest.

Give Them A Clear Choice, Obama

What Arianna Huffington says:
"By running to the middle in an attempt to attract undecided swing voters, the Obama campaign is making a very serious mistake. Tacking to the center is a losing strategy. It didn't work for Al Gore in 2000. It didn't work for John Kerry in 2004. And it didn't work when Mark Penn convinced Hillary Clinton to do it in 2008."
Damn straight.

The Ballad Of Chicken Loser

Great stuff from FireDogLake, who I do not visit half as often as I should (*):
With that, Wimpy Chimpy leapt to his feet, still clutching a frog.

"AIR ASSAULT!" he bellowed as he charged off down the path ahead of Chicken Loser and Windsey Lindsey. "An' Ah got Saddam's pistol!"
* Well, actually, I never visit her, but I obviously should!

US Media Set To Turn On Bush?

We saw it happen in Australia in the lead-up to the last election: scenting blood, the media hounds began circling John Howard's carcass. In the aftermath of his election defeat, a bloodied and bowed former PM limped off to the US lecture circuit, while the media back home came to terms with just what a criminal disaster his 11 year administration had been (generally ignoring their own complicit role, of course).

This L.A. Times story could be just a taste of things to come in Teh USA: How does President Bush lie?
George W. Bush knowingly lied to the American people in selling his case for a war that has directly led to the deaths of more than 4,000 Americans. They are deaths brought about by his lies, deceit and deception. It is an American atrocity of monumental proportion, followed closely by the heinous fact that no one has held him accountable. Where is the outrage?
PS: Don't worry, George. Just keep your head down for a few months after January, and everybody will soon forget about you.

Be Afraid

The central bank of central banks says we are at a tipping point:
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) says global markets may still be set for severe economic down turn.

The BIS also said in its annual report that the current market turmoil in the world's main financial centres is without precedent in the post-war period.

The Swiss-based central bank for central banks says fears that the global economy might be at some kind of tipping point are not groundless.
So it's not just all in my imagination, then. And all those rich and powerful people who have long been saying that everything is just hunky dory are LIARS AND FOOLS.

So what now? This long Mike Whitney interview with Michael Hudson (Dennis Kucinich’s Chief Economic Advisor ) provides some ideas:
Obviously, the more regressive the tax system is, the more poverty and inequality there will be. And as Aristotle said, democracy is the political stage immediately preceding oligarchy. That's what the economy is now evolving into...

As the Roman Empire polarized, the economy and its political wrapping were beyond saving. All that Christianity was able to do was provide charity on an individual basis. It could deal only with symptoms, not root causes. When the point has been reached where you can deal only with people who have slipped through the cracks, the long-term game is lost.
It's tempting to say "Good riddance!", but first we have to get through this mess, and put a better alternative in place. It won't be easy, and it won't be fun. Strap yourselves in, folks.

MUST READ: How The FBI, The US Government And The US Media Turned The 2001 Anthrax Attacks Into A Circus

And you thought the Australian government's fixation on Dr Haneef was bad! Check out this gut-churning L.A. Times piece on the athrax attacks of 2001:
When Hatfill, now 54, landed a government-funded university job, the Department of Justice forced his dismissal. Ashcroft and FBI officials testified in the lawsuit that they knew of no precedent for such intervention.

Investigators also questioned orders from their bosses to share confidential information with political leaders, a departure from normal procedure. The security of information within the probe was so lax that FBI agents found news helicopters racing them to the scenes of searches...

On Oct. 15., 2001, Mueller assigned the anthrax investigation to Van Harp, a veteran FBI official. A photo editor in Florida had already died mysteriously from anthrax about a week earlier. But the onslaught of biological terrorism was not recognized until an aide to the U.S. Senate majority leader opened an envelope Oct. 15 on Capitol Hill, unleashing a plume of powdery material and a wave of national fear.

Harp learned that this investigation would not follow FBI procedures for strict confidentiality. For starters, Mueller instructed him to brief U.S. Sens. Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.), then the majority leader, and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Each had been intended recipients of anthrax letters.

FBI officials wanted to assure the senators that the bureau was "very aggressively investigating the case," Harp testified. Nevertheless, sharing confidential investigative information was, he said, "an unusual step."

By the end of October, two Washington-area postal employees had died. In New York, a hospital supply worker also succumbed. On Nov. 21, 2001, the fifth anthrax victim, a woman in Oxford, Conn., died...

On Jan. 4, 2002, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof began goading the FBI. "I think I know who sent out the anthrax last fall," he wrote, describing the unnamed suspect as "an American insider, a man working in the military bio-weapons field."

On May 24, Kristof called for lighting "a fire under the FBI" and described the suspected American insider in more detail. Later, the columnist wrote that he was referring to Hatfill...

Hatfill was cooperative throughout, they testified. He told the investigators he would welcome a search of his apartment.

But as Hatfill was signing a search authorization June 25, 2002, at the FBI office in downtown Frederick, Roth spotted a media helicopter heading "right toward Steve's house." Within minutes after Hatfill had signed, droves of Washington and Baltimore-based camera crews and reporters descended on his apartment.

"How many people knew in advance that you intended to go to talk to Dr. Hatfill and try to get a consent to search?" asked Hatfill's lawyer, Thomas C. Connolly, during a deposition.

"It was probably several hundred," Roth replied, including the mayor of Frederick...

When the FBI searched Hatfill's apartment a second time, on Aug. 1, 2002, the media helicopters and the van loads of camera crews were there again...

At one point, Roth and other FBI officials tried to trace who was accessing the central computer file in which all investigative interviews and other developments were stored. Roth said the file was "an open book," used by "a huge group of people."

... [FBI Director Robert] Mueller resisted when an official recommended a criminal probe of the leaks, with mandatory lie-detector tests for the anthrax investigators, Roth testified. The FBI director raised a hand and said, " 'I don't want to do that. . . . It's bad for morale to go after these people,' " Roth said.

Mueller testified that he did not recall the episode. He said he had backed at least one other leak investigation but did not know if any action was taken.
Mueller's role in all this has to attract suspicion. Did he know who was responsible for the anthrax attacks? Is that why he was happy to turn the whole investigation into a media circus?

Why did he instruct agents to brief Senators on their investigations? And why were only Democrat Senators targetted anyway? Did someone want to keep powerful politicians living in fear for their lives? Could it be that the whole thing was just a follow-up scare campaign to 9-11? Could it be that the same perpetrators were involved, with the same top-level protections in place?

Is that why the media was given unprecedented access to this bogus investigation? To keep revelations about the 9-11 attacks off the front pages?
Bloodhounds were brought in to seek any scent of anthrax in Hatfill's apartment and places he frequented.

On Aug. 12, 2002, Newsweek magazine reported that the dogs "immediately became agitated." An unnamed law enforcement source was quoted, saying the bloodhounds "went crazy."

But FBI tests found no traces of anthrax, and investigators concluded that the dogs' excitement was useless as evidence. Harp and Roscoe C. Howard Jr., then the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., acknowledged in testimony that they had confirmed details about the bloodhounds to Newsweek before the article was published.

In addition to the searches, a caravan of FBI agents photographed and videotaped Hatfill seven days a week for months. An FBI employee drove over Hatfill's foot, prompting Washington, D.C., police to ticket him for "walking to create a hazard."
Can you believe it? They drove over his foot and then charged him with walking the wrong way!

Next time somebody calls you a Crazy Conspiracy Theorist, just run that one past them.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Murdoch Is Against Protecting Consumers

The ACCC is today hearing grievances against EBay's plans to force users and sellers to use PayPal as the only transaction method. The Murdoch WSJ editorializes:
EBay is an Internet company that has found a way to make money by offering a product -- its online auction platform -- that hadn't existed before. So quick, someone fetch the antitrust regulators.
WSJ says consumers Down Under have "plenty of choices of where to trade their goods online". Like what? The Trading Post does not cater to regional areas, and charges ridiculous fees for posting ads. WSJ also lists "an offshoot of telecommunications giant Telstra, Gray'sOnline Auctions, Oztion and several other smaller operators". Not exactly big competition for Ebay, is it?
The Commission's investigation smacks of a basic misunderstanding of how market competition really works.

The Commission's draft finding is also anti-innovation, since eBay's experiment with a new business model is also at stake here.
Bullshit. EBay is building a comfortable monopoly in the Australian online trading space, and getting greedy to boot.

The ACCC sat twiddling its thumbs while the current financial crisis unraveled. It has proved ineffective in combating relentless oil price gouging. Finally it does something to justify its existence... and Murdoch jumps on it? Gimme a break.

Bill Clinton Luvs Him Some Bruthaz

As long as they don't git too uppity:
"A senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton has revealed that he recently told friends Mr Obama could "kiss my ass" in return for his support."
Of course, that's being reported in the Murdoch press.... etc.

Apparently Clinton's angry because the Obama camp called some of his comments racist. Never mind all the shit Hillary and Bill threw at Obama!

See, that's the key to power, isn't it? You can only really catapult the propaganda 100% effectively if, somewhere deep down, you actually believe it. Like Winston Smith said in 1984, you gotta luv Big Brutha.

What If China Just Turned Democratic Overnight?

Pioneering Chinese City Offers a Peek at Political Ferment:
Local Communist Party leaders have drafted a reform plan that would soften key aspects of China's Leninist political system, authorizing expanded powers for the local legislature, direct elections for some local officials, a more independent judiciary, and greater openness and accountability within the party.

The changes advocated by Shenzhen's municipal party committee, published last Tuesday in its official newspaper, show that beneath the ice cap of Communist rule in China, debate about democratization is quietly bubbling. Even if they are never put into practice, the suggested reforms also provide insight into the kinds of changes that China is likely to adopt nationwide if the party ever decides to liberalize politics the way it decided in 1978 to liberalize the economy.
Is this just a trick to make people shut up till the Olympics are over? Is the CPA ready to disband now that the Cold War is over? Or are Chinese politicians just embracing clever Western media spin tactics?
"Do you think anyone in the party really wants to reform?" a local retired official said. "Of course not. They are making a lot of money. They don't want to change."
Hmmn. That sure sounds familiar...

Black Hawk Clowns

When news broke today about an unreported Black Hawk helicopter crash in East Timor, the Opposition defence spokesman Senator Nick Minchin said:
"This is the first I've heard of it so I think I'd be pretty safe in saying there was nothing done by the Howard government to suppress any report of this incident."
A few hours later his own party leader admits he knew about it:
He denies it was kept quiet because it was politically sensitive.
Total secrecy was just Standard Operating Procedure. Because of Teh Terrrrsm, you know.

You have to wonder what Robert Hill never told Nelson when he handed over the Defence portfolio.

Hot Air On Planet Rupert

Part-time Champion Of Middle East Peace Tony Blair emerges as a Climate Change Hero, conveniently forgetting (again) that he has been a major part of this disaster (too) for the past decade. But who cares about credibility when Teh Planet is in danger!
Here the high price of oil and continuing concerns over how supply will meet demand in the future helps.
Thanks, Tony! So that's why you invaded Iraq - pushing up the oil price to help fight climate change! What a visionary leader!

Meanwhile, Greg Sheridan sucks up to the head of the World Bank. When it comes to brown-nosing big fat arses like Robert Zoellick, Sheridan benefits greatly from having had his head so far up his own arse for so many years:
Long and lean, he is the ultimate global insider... Robert Zoellick - notoriously one of the brainiest people in Washington... you could imagine him as secretary for virtually anything in a McCain administration. He is part of the permanent global governing class.
Is that enough to make you vomit? Or laugh out loud? OK, then, what about the next para:
A workaholic and a long-time friend of Australia, and of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Zoellick embodies the traditional core Republican value of competence in government.

Zoellick doesn't want to admit that insane GOP policies, fully endorsed by him and his Big Money friends, have lead directly to the current global food and oil crisis. He is still pushing poor countries to drop export bans on agriculture, despite the obvious risk of famine this entails. But of course, he too is part of the Global Elite Climate Change Hero (TM) team, with an important warning for the world's poor:
"Combating greenhouse gases could become an excuse for protectionism."
Just sign on the bottom line and nobody gets hurt, m'kay? Sheridan concludes:
These matters are dizzy in their complexity, and this writer remains sceptical... But the world is fortunate there is a small category of Zoellick types at the top of these global governance institutions trying to put the pieces together...
Yeah, right. We are so damn lucky to have the same people who created these problems now in charge of finding the solutions. We are so damn lucky that they all still refuse to acknowledge their errors. And we are so damn lucky that we have sniveling toads like Sheridan still reporting the mess:
The World Bank has had its problems in recent years... But it has the great advantage of already existing.
Yep, just like the "permanent global governing class", including Uncle Rupert and all his friends. Where would we be without 'em, hey?

Yes There Was A Postwar Plan

The US Army has written its own report into the continuing disaster that is Iraq and concluded - surprise - that it was a lack of post-war planning that caused all the trouble:
"I can remember asking the question during our war gaming and the development of our plan, 'OK, we are in Baghdad, what next?' No real good answers came forth," Colonel Thomas Torrance, the commander of the Third Infantry Division's artillery, says in the report.
If I were a cartoonist, I would draw a picture of Bush and Cheney being asked this "What next?" question. Little thought bubbles would come out of their heads: "We grab the oil!"

The question would be repeated, and then Bush and Cheney would say: "Err... Don't you worry about that. We've got it covered."

Throbbing Dick Is Itching To Shoot

Anyone who hasn't yet seen Seymour Hersh's latest piece about covert US military operations inside Iran is not paying attention:
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials...

“Everybody’s arguing about the high-value-target list,” the former senior intelligence official said. “The Special Ops guys are pissed off because Cheney’s office set up priorities for categories of targets, and now he’s getting impatient and applying pressure for results. But it takes a long time to get the right guys in place.”
Dick Cheney is a psychopath. Take a look at these images of daily life in modern Iran and ask yourself if military action is really such a good idea.

Meanwhile Ron Paul argues that Cheney's relentless military pressure on Iran has been helping to drive up the cost of oil. Duh! The president of OPEC agrees. The real question has always been whether this is just hawkish talk designed to drive up the cost of oil for Cheney's Big Oil friends, or whether he's really insane enough to start a war with Iran. Hersh's piece strongly suggests the latter.

The 19th World Petroleum Congress opened in Madrid last night:
Held every three years, the World Petroleum Congress brings together thousands of delegates from around the world. Among those participating are OPEC's President Chakib Khelil, its Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency Nobuo Tanaka, the European Commissioner for Energy Andris Piebalgs and several ministers of state.

They are to be joined by the bosses of major international oil groups including Total's Christophe de Margerie, Shell's Jeroen van der Veer, Rex Tillerson of the US giant ExxonMobil, and Fu Chengyu of China's CNOOC.
Ask yourself, what does the USA, still the world's biggest oil consumer, bring to that table?

A gun.

It's all they've got.

We are all going to hell in a corporate-sponsored handbasket.

Pussy Cat Blogging

See if you can spot the pussies:

More here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Historia De Mi Vida

The first, long, rambling paragraph of Cien Anos de Soledad is one of the great gems of 20th Century literature:
"... The world was then so young that many things still did not have a name, and to talk about them you had to point to them with your finger... Jose Aureliano Buendia, whose wild imagination always went far beyond the genius of nature, thought that it would be possible to use that invention [magnets] to extract gold from the earth. Melquiades, who was an honourable man, warned him:" It's not for that." But at that time Jose Aureliano Buendia did not believe in the honour of gypsies, so he swapped a mule and a pair of goats for the two magnetized ingots...
Buendia's wife Ursula tried to talk him out of buying the magnets, to no avail. He took a team of men all over the region, even dredging the bottom of the river, and all they found was an ancient suit of armour, with a skeleton inside, and around the skeleton's neck was a keepsake with the image of a woman's face.

That's just the first paragraph!

Who will write the literature of the 21st century? Will we even have something called "literature" any more?

Winning The Endless War

But Dick loses a battle:
During an off-the-record session with a group of foreign-policy experts this week, Vice President Dick Cheney got a question he did not want to answer. "Vice President," asked one of them, "I understand that on Wednesday or Thursday we are going to de-list North Korea from the terrorism blacklist. Could you please set the context for this decision?"

Cheney froze, according to four of the participants at the Old Executive Office Building meeting. For more than 30 minutes he had been talking and answering questions, without missing a beat. But now, for several long seconds, he stared, unsmilingly, at his questioner, Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, a public policy institution.

Finally, he spoke: "I'm not going to be the one to announce this decision," the other participants recalled Cheney saying, pointing at himself. "You need to address your interest in this to the State Department."

He then declared that he was done taking questions, and left the room.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Anthrax Answers?

Here we go again. This anthrax case is shaping up like the Valerie Plame story, but with some potentially even more explosive outcomes. A judge just ordered the reporters involved to reveal their souces:
Five journalists must identify the government officials who leaked them details about a scientist under scrutiny in the 2001 anthrax attacks, a federal judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the reporters to cooperate with Steven J. Hatfill, who accused the Justice Department and FBI of violating the federal Privacy Act by giving the media information about the FBI's investigation of him.

The reporters named in the opinion are Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek, Allan Lengel of The Washington Post, Toni Locy, formerly of USA Today, and James Stewart, formerly of CBS News.
Remember Judith Miller's.. err.... "principled stand" on that?

I'll be watching for Winter Patriot to post something about this: he has done a lot of background work on this story and is probably not at all surprised that the lead suspect was just awarded $5.8 million damages for being falsely accused. A few more things worth noting for now:
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was among the first to disclose Hatfill's name in 2002.

The targets were all journalists and prominent Democrats (two of whom were credited with holding up the PATIOT act).

The attacks were sent to targets in New York, DC, and Florida (the hanging chad state).

The first round of attacks were postmarked 18 September, 2001, meaning that the preparation of the material must have begun before 8 September, 2001.

The strain used was traceable to the US military.
And the DoJ which pursed the case has been deeply politicized by the GOP. And the whole sorry saga to date has successfully buried a shocking story, about a WMD terrorist attack on US soil which killed five people seven long years ago.

I wonder what they found when they drained that pond a few weeks ago?

The Farce Of Modern Democracy

Today, Robert Mugabe is holding a new election in Zimbabwe, to replace the election he lost. Why does he bother, when he knows - and the whole world knows - that it is just a farce?

Really, why does he bother? Why not just rule as a dictator and forget about elections?


Because we demand it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poem For The Damned

Half of my administration is gone, and I have let
The polls slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my Party, to build
Some tower of hype with lofty profits.
Not Condi, nor Rummy, nor the fret
Of restless Scotty who would not be stilled,
But Cheney, and a gun that almost killed,
Kept from me crimes he may accomplish yet;
Though, half-way out the door, I see Iraq
Plaguing my sleep me with its death and violence, --
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking oil wells, soft targets, and gleaming resources, --
And see before me on the front page
The condemnation of reality thundering from the streets.

(inspired by Thers)

Mission Accomplished

Here's Dennis Kucinich recently:
"In March of 2001, when the Bush Administration began to have secret meetings with oil company executives from Exxon, Shell and BP, spreading maps of Iraq oil fields before them, the price of oil was $23.96 per barrel. Then there were 63 companies in 30 countries, other than the US, competing for oil contracts with Iraq.

"Today the price of oil is $135.59 per barrel, the US Army is occupying Iraq and the first Iraq oil contracts will go, without competitive bidding to, surprise, (among a very few others) Exxon, Shell and BP."
If the secret plan was to drive up oil prices to record levels, Cheney's mission is accomplished. Who cares if the Iraqi oilfields are not producing at full strength, as long as the USA still controls them and Big Oil is raking in profits.

Kucinich didn't mention the million dead Iraqis, or the wounded, the displaced, the traumatized, and the orphaned...
A survey conducted in Iraq last month found that 46% of young men said they were "angry all the time".
If the secret plan was to create a new global enemy to maintain the military industrial complex in the post-Cold War space, that mission is also accomplished.
Norine MacDonald, the lead Senlis reseacher, said the resentment of the Muslim young had exposed a "structural weakness" in the American-led campaign to quash Islamic-based terrorism.

"The unstable and increasingly angry populations of these countries need to hear why they can live in a stable and prosperous future," she said. "Otherwise they are very vulnerable to violent recruitment by violent groups."


Condoleezza Rice's special adviser for Iraq, David Satterfield, echoed the Senlis call on Baghdad to start spending the tens of billions of dollars it receives in oil revenue to improve the conditions of its people.

Then he went and played golf.
Actually, I just added that last para myself. But you get the point, I'm sure.

People think the Bush 43 administration has been the most incompetent in history. But it has only really been incompetent about things that simply do not concern it, such as the welfare of Hurricane Katrina's victims, or the economic plight of the world's poor, or the USA's lost global reputation as a beacon of freedom and democracy. On matters that truly concern them, the Bush team has been quite ruthlessly efficient.

As seen in Fahrenheit 911, Bush told a roomful of millionaires and billionaires early in his presidency that they were his true base:

He has been true to them, and they remain loyal to him. The Chimp may never be able to walk the streets of New York City without a massive police escort, but he won't have trouble getting a seat at the bar of any exclusive gentlemen's club. His grandchildren's grandchildren will still be rolling in money.

Isn't it funny how he and John Howard and Tony Blair all share a similar personality trait? Behind the sneering bravado, the pompous little puffed up chests, and the darting, scared or squinting eyes, they all elicited a cringing need to win the respect of those they deemed important. Unfortunately, we, the citizens they ruled, were not the ones who were important to them.

No, they craved the approval of the Big Business elite, the boys with the big yachts and private jets. They wanted to join that club, and they have made it.

Mission accomplished.

Now watch this drive...

Kev, Nick And Mark Go To The Cricket

Not a good look:
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has defended his use of a government VIP aircraft to take his sons to the test cricket in Melbourne.

Mr Rudd said he simply acted on the basis of the normal practice of past prime ministers...

The trips to the cricket for Mr Rudd and his two sons - Marcus and Nicholas - cost $10,400, according to documents tabled in parliament on Thursday.
Howzat? More on pollie travel costs here. The number of MPs who spent more than my entire yearly wage on travel alone is quite sickening.

Supreme Injustice

Greg Palast on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill:
I met with Exxon's US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, "Admit it; the oil spill's the best thing to happen" to the Natives.

His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it and wait twenty years to get even the pennies. Exxon is immortal - but Natives die.

And they did. A third of the Native fishermen and seal hunters I worked with are dead. Now their families will collect one tenth of their award, two decades too late.

In today's ruling, Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote that Exxon's recklessness was ''profitless'' - so the company shouldn't have to pay punitive damages. Profitless, Mr. Souter? Exxon and its oil shipping partners saved billions - BILLIONS - by operating for sixteen years without the oil spill safety equipment they promised, in writing, under oath and by contract.

The official story is, "Drunken Skipper Hits Reef." But don't believe it, Mr. Souter. Alaska's Native lands and coastline were destroyed by a systematic fraud motivated by profit-crazed penny-pinching...

It's Funny Because It's True

Maybe it wouldn't be so funny to me if I didn't have three kids and two cars, including a diesel van I bought when all the Greenies were saying biofuels would save the planet.

Cartoon by Moir.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bye bye Brendan

Crikey ! calls time on Brendan Nelson. Hard to argue with that.
His replacement, Malcolm Turnbull, is said to want Alexander Downer as his Treasurer (Turnbull has been planning his frontbench since he lost the leadership contest in November), but Downer will presumably let him down and use the winter recess to resign and join Ian Smith and Nick Bolkus’s Bespoke Approach Consulting, which officially starts next week.

It's Time To Boycott Big Oil

This should be the lead story on every TV news bulletin tonight, around the world. The GOP-stacked US Supreme Court just gifted Exxxon $2 billion NEARLY 20 YEARS AFTER THE ORIGINAL SPILL!

ht The Huffington Post.
First-quarter profits at Exxon Mobil Corp. were $10.9 billion. The company's 2007 profit was $40.6 billion.
Is it time we stopped paying for oil? I mean, I just read this from a comment on AlterNet, you know...
How about this as a practical form of civil disobedience:

Next time you fill your tank with gas, just drive away without paying.

I saw this rather strange little idea in a local paper's editorial the other day. I was kinda surprised, because the paper is normally right-wing. Were they just trying to stir up trouble? Why?

The more I think about it, however, the more I think that a widespread campaign like this - or even just a spontaneous outbreak of individual actions - could actually be quite effective. Of course the local fuel retailers would complain that THEY are the ones being targetted, not Big Oil. If the campaign became widespread, the local retailers would have to either shut down or push up prices, triggering even more consumer anger.

If you accept that it is oil speculators who are currently responsible for high oil prices, then would this sort of pressure not have a net negative effect on such speculation? Wouldn't speculators be scared off? Wouldn't Big Oil be pressured to cut prices? Wouldn't politicians be inclined to criticize those who break the law, but also be under pressure to express sympathy with public anger and search for ways to resolve it?

Just to be clear: I am not personally advocating this sort of civil disobedience (yet), just wondering what other AlterNet readers think of the idea.
The crazy thing is that $2 billion is chump change to Exxon.


What will Hillary do?????

Civilisation hangs on a knife edge etc.


What's That Noise Up In The Lobby, Darling?

Suppose you are the CEO of a major international oil company, or a bank, or even an arms dealer, and you want to put an idea into Kevin Rudd's head, or maybe even make him an offer he can't refuse. How do you go about it?

Sure, you could call the Lodge and wait for someone to take you seriously. You might even have Kev's personal contact details, but that's really not a good look, is it? Especially if the media get hold of the phone records or transcripts.

So what you do is call someone like Sandra Eccles. She's the head of Canberra lobbying firm Government Relations Australia (GRA). The former head, David Epstein, is now Kevin Rudd’s chief of staff.

Oh, and Epstein just happens to be married to Sandra Eccles.

How do I know this? Because I read Christian Kerr's article, which has lots about GRA and other lobbyist firms, their operatives and their clients, as seen on the new list at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website.
As for the client list, well, even a one-time Crosby-Textor heavy gushed. Microsoft, Bluescope Steel, coal-to-liquids project Monash, energy, construction and infrastructure giant Bilfinger Berger, OneSteel ... and more up on the web. All to be regularly updated.
Why isn't this story front page news? Because it's old news, darling. That's just how things work these days. We all know that, right?

Remember, Rudd's older brother Greg sold his lobbying business, Open Door Consulting, to avoid any perceived conflict of interest. But it doesn't really matter, does it? These days the links between government and business are as good as seamless.

In the UK, on the other hand, The Independent today leads with this explosive story, Exposed: the arms lobbyist in Parliament ('We'll ask the questions that you can't, without your fingerprints,' he tells clients):
A senior arms lobbyist is gaining access to ministers, MPs and peers inside Parliament using a research assistant pass allotted to a member of the House of Lords who benefits financially from one of his companies, The Independent has learnt.

Robin Ashby, who is chairman of a defence consultancy firm that offers to ask questions of government on behalf of its clients "without your fingerprint being evident", includes among his acquaintances the Defence Secretary, the Chancellor and the Chief Whip.

Mr Ashby's firm, Bergmans, lobbies on behalf of more than a dozen large defence and aerospace companies including BAE Systems, Northern Defence Industries, UK Defence Forum, Boeing and Rolls-Royce, which has been criticised for its past links to the Burmese regime.

Mr Ashby's name features on an official staff list that was published by the House of Lords for the first time last night following pressure from media outlets including The Independent.
Democracy is alive and well in the UK, it seems. Australia? Not so much.

Have At You!

I love it when learned professors like Juan Cole just drop the pose and let rip. Today he echoes NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen's call for the CEOs of the oil majors to be put on trial for obstructing efforts to stop global warming and for misinforming the public about the issue.
Could we also try the Board and Staff of the American Enterprise Institute, which is the "think tank" weasel that Exxon Mobil used to muddy the waters on the science of climate change.

Note too a very suspicious set of coincidences. Lee Raymond, CEO of Exxon Mobil until 2006, is the vice chairman of the AEI board.

The AEI was the major cheerleader for the war in Iraq.

So it looks like the Oil Majors are multitasking. Their "think tank" is giving out money to bribe scientists to deny global warming. And it gave out a lot of advice about how to go to war in Iraq.

My own suggestion would not be so much trial as exile. I think the American Enterprise Institute should be removed to Fallujah, where their expertise is so needed. And where they can get a taste in the summer of what real heat is.
See the link for more, including video of Hansen's testimony.

And this little story from the comments is worth noting:
BP boss Lord Browne was forced to quit yesterday after lying about a gay affair with a lover less than half his age.

Lord Browne, 59 - who worked for the oil giant for 41 years and was due to retire in just two months - misses out on a £15million pay-off.

He resigned after he lied to a court about how he met his lover of four years, Jeff Chevalier, 27. Lord Browne was trying to stop details of his affair being made public. Chevalier told how the tycoon discussed meetings with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown during pillow talk...

Chevalier is believed to have revealed how during "pillow talk" Lord Browne told him details of sensitive private chats with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown...

Tony Blair knighted him in 2001 and his relationship with No10 grew so close the firm was dubbed Blair Petroleum.
Hmmn. It's a tabloid story and they slip the name Blair in wherever they can. WaPo is more cautious but also more detailed:
The article also described Browne's apartment in Venice; conversations Browne allegedly had with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about Blair's plans for when he steps down from office; a conversation Browne allegedly had about E.U. policy with Peter Mandelson, the E.U. commissioner, and bodyguards Browne allegedly took on a pair of business trips to Libya.
The UK Times has more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kev's Australia: Still Relaxed. Still Way Too Comfortable.

Australia is a weird country. I mean, like, totally weird. To think that just two hundred and ... um... something years ago, we were just a scruffy bunch of bearded blokes with a flag, landing on a beach in Botany Bay. And now - WHOA!!! Millions of us, all over the place. AWESOME!!! Roads and schools and farms and factories and stuff, it's like, totally radical. I mean, it's like that scene in the Matrix where the hybrid spawn takes over the valley and then moves from city to city, destroying everything, until that guy with the haircut has to take them all out with nukes. Right?

What, that wasn't the Matrix? OK, never mind.

But still, you get my drift, right? I mean, what a pace of change this country has seen, especially considering as how the Aboriginal people who lived here for 40,000 years never really got the whole agricultural revolution memo, or even the Iron Age one. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, my mate Kazzo has dreadlocks and he plays the Didge and sometimes we go camping in the National Park. So don't get me wrong.

But it's like a dream, isn't it? When you step right back and think about it. Million years and then suddenly - BANG! - Kylie Minogue is shaking that thang on 16 massive plasma screens in Martin Place. and the Aboriginals are barely clinging to life on the fringes of society, and you can't even go fishing without a f***ing permit. How weird it that?

But it's not just us, right? I mean, sure we are a special case, but the whole world is just changing at this incredible pace nowadays. We've got oil wars and globalised labour and that whole Greenhouse thing threatening the Ozone layer, and people who were living on farms for thousands of years are suddenly looking for work in shoe factories in Bangladesh and Bangalore.

It's all very weird.

I showed my Nan my homework the other day and she didn't understand a word of it. You were supposed to be a council planner submitting a development application to the State government, and you had to justify the cost expenditure on a needs basis per capita or something. Nan said it wasn't like that in World War Two, when she was born. You just went out and did things. My grandpa had a cordial factory at Mudgee and later he owned a pub in Bangalow and then he worked the railways a bit. He had eight kids and they are all still alive except my Dad, who died of lung cancer from the cigarettes, and his sister Margaret, who fell down one day and was gone just
like that.

The other day I was out in the boat with Kazzo and we played some drums then smoked a bit and then I just lay down and looked at the stars. There were millions of them twinkling up in the sky like that. And then I realized that some of them were moving. In fact, they were all moving. It was a bit freaky, but I went with it, you know. Everything moving. Even the boat was moving. And then my heart was beating, and the water was lifting and dropping us, and all that. And you know, nothing stays still, everything changes, right? Even mountains slowly collapse under the weight of the rain.

Sometimes I look around me and see all these people rushing around in their cars and stuff, wearing suits and stuff, and I feel like I have just stepped out of a movie and it's not real, any of it. Like, all these people think I am in some kind of dream but actually THEY ARE THE ONES IN THE DREAM. Coz it's all gonna change so fast, really soon, they don't even know it. Even the politicians and the business leaders and the rock stars and the mega-mega wealthy, they don't even seem to have any idea.

After Dad died the social worker said that forgetting was an important part of healing, nothing to be ashamed or worried about. But you know what? Um... Wait, I forgot what I was gonna say.

Sometimes that happens. Nan says it's the weed. But I think maybe it's just like survival mode or something.

Why Is It So?

Gas could fall 50% in 30 days if US Congress outlawed speculators. But they won't.

Bush's approval ratings are now down to 23%. But they still won't impeach the bastard.

Meanwhile, the rich are still getting richer:
According to a survey by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, in 2007, the number of Australians with financial assets of at least $US1 million ($A1.05 million), excluding their home, rose 7.1 per cent to 172,000...

The Australian Bureau of Statistics put Australia's population at 21.181 million people at the end of 2007.

That means that about one in every 123 Australians is lucky enough to call themselves a millionaire, or a "high net worth individual (HNWI)", as they are technically called.

Global sharemarket turmoil ensured that growth in the number of Australia's rich in 2007 was lower than the 10.3 per cent recorded in 2006...

Not surprisingly the United States, which is the world's biggest economy, has the most rich people, with 3.03 million millionaires in 2007.

Across the entire globe, the number of HNWIs grew by 6.0 per cent to 10.1 million in 2007, compared to 8.3 per cent in 2006.
You say you want a revolu-u-u-tio-o-o-on, we-e-ell you know...
We'd all love to see the plan.

Spreading The Blame

Feel sorry for me, pleads Douglas Feith:
“You wind up having the first, second and third drafts of history shaped by the first set of leaks. You can imagine, from my point of view, that is grim to see.”
BWWAAAH!!! It was all Rummy's fault!
Rumsfeld so hated leaks and leakers, Feith says, that the Pentagon team allowed themselves to be Swiftboated by the forces under Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and CIA Director George Tenet.

“It caused enormous damage to me personally,” Feith said. “I wasn’t in a position to contradict false and damaging things said about me.”
Yes but now you are, you dickwad, and you still cannot deliver a credible version of history. Instead you are just blaming everybody else involved:
“What I find interesting is that they chose to not take on the strategic questions in the Situation Room when they had a chance,” says Feith. “If Powell or Tenet, or somebody like that, wanted more meetings, more debates, they could have had them.”

Instead, State and CIA sulked and pouted and refused to collaborate, effectively sabotaging post-war planning, Feith says.
Look who's sulking and pouting now, baby.

History Wars (US Edition)

This is from a professional NYT columnist:
"Bush was at his worst when he was humbly deferring to the generals and at his best when he was arrogantly overruling them. During that period in 2006 and 2007, Bush stiffed the brass and sided with a band of dissidents: military officers like David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and outside strategists like Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and Jack Keane, a retired general.

Bush is also a secretive man who listens too much to Dick Cheney. Well, the uncomfortable fact is that Cheney played an essential role in promoting the surge. Many of the people who are dubbed bad guys actually got this one right.

The additional fact is that Bush, who made such bad calls early in the war, made a courageous and astute decision in 2006. More than a year on, the surge has produced large, if tenuous, gains. Violence is down sharply. Daily life has improved. Iraqi security forces have been given time to become a more effective fighting force. The Iraqi government is showing signs of strength and even glimmers of impartiality. Iraq has moved from being a failed state to, as Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations has put it, merely a fragile one.

The whole episode is a reminder that history is a complicated thing. The traits that lead to disaster in certain circumstances are the very ones that come in handy in others. The people who seem so smart at some moments seem incredibly foolish in others.

The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home.

But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can’t admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact. "
Hail to the chief! Of course, as we are now learning, there was another little surge going on at the same time. This explosive story is also from the NYT:
"The shift appeared to accelerate in 2006, under then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, with two aides on the screening committee — Michael Elston and Esther Slater McDonald — singled out for particular criticism. The blocking of applicants with liberal credentials appeared to be a particular problem in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which has seen an exodus of career employees in recent years as the department has pursued a more conservative agenda in deciding what types of cases to bring."
They actually used the word "illegal" in the first para. See, kids? Now that's fair and balanced reporting. Here's Winter Patriot's take on the DoJ scandal:
Think of it this way: if you lived in 1950s Russia and you had a chance to work -- even in some dim capacity -- for the Politburo, or any of its "political" organs, would you list Adam Smith among your influences and laissez-faire capitalism among your passions?

Well, you could, but you wouldn't get the job, would you?
And if you wanted to be a top columnist at a prestigious 1950s Russian newspaper, you wouldn't have missed an opportunity to praise Joseph Stalin either. But be warned! Power is but a fleeting dream!
His daughter Svetlana recalls the scene as she stood by his death bed: "He suddenly opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance. Then something incomprehensible and awesome happened. He suddenly lifted his left hand as though he were pointing to something above and bringing down a curse upon all of us. The next moment after a final effort the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh."


Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that Beria had, immediately after the stroke, gone about "spewing hatred against [Stalin] and mocking him", and then, when Stalin showed signs of consciousness, dropped to his knees and kissed his hand. When Stalin fell unconscious again, Beria immediately stood and spat.

In 2003, a joint group of Russian and American historians announced their view that Stalin ingested warfarin, a powerful rat poison that inhibits coagulation of the blood and so predisposes the victim to hemorrhagic stroke (cerebral hemorrhage).
Heh - "warfarin"! Rat poison! That's pretty funny, isn't it? Sic transit etc.


Another one bites the dust:
Witnesses said the officer fell from a roof after shooting himself. He was 100 meters from Sarkozy's plane.
Daryl Mason thinks it was an assassination attempt. How cynical is that? I mean, the Israeli police said it was a suicide, er... I mean an accident, and the media reported it that way, so what's Daryl's problem that's what I'd like to know. F*** crazy bloggers.

19 Years Ago

When it finally happens, people power is a very beautiful and inspiring thing.

Julia Meets Dick

To discuss "security issues", apparently. But there's nothing to tell the media. The Fairfax story that carried the photo above didn't even mention Cheney till the last para. Murdoch meeja has only a little more substance:
Her comments came as she met US Vice-President Dick Cheney yesterday for the first time, in his West Wing office. While remaining tight-lipped on the meeting, she noted the discussion centred on national security issues, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

She said she also raised with Mr Cheney in her opening remarks Kevin Rudd's recent proposals on a nuclear non-proliferation commission and new Asia-Pacific unity pact - comments she admitted elicited no further discussion with the Vice-President.
The body language in the photo kinda says it all, doesn't it?

Who Could Have Predicted... ?

This is from the top story in The Age today, subtly titled US BANKING SYSTEM IS DOOMED:
The US banking system as it exists now will not survive and its death throes will be painful. Details of its demise are in evidence everywhere you look. The fall of Bear Stearns, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and rumours circling the future of market super-heavyweight Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch attest to the end of the broker-dealer form of banking that cannot survive without securitisation, a system essentially built on kickbacks, big bonuses and the movement of money dressed up as industry.

Increasingly, people are wondering what these companies do (or did), other than pass around paper and pocket vast sums. Could they have been engaged in a massive heist dressed up in complicated terminology signifying nothing?

How can companies such as Bear Stearns, worth more than $US70 a single share, be found to be insolvent and worthless?
Now they tell us! In the mainstream media, no less! You mean it's not just another Crazy Conspiracy Theory???
US banking, as it has evolved, is now passing from a deep Darwinist phase, the survival of the fittest, or the cannibalisation of the weakest, to something more explosive.

Christopher Whalen, of Institutional Risk Analytics, sees the US banking system as rather like a poisoned aquarium, where some of the fish are dying and others, like Goldman Sachs, are feasting. But the system is poisoned. "They (companies like Goldman) are very adept at staying afloat by pushing their colleagues back into the water," he says.

Perhaps, inevitably, he compares them with dinosaurs: "When the volcano erupts, all the dinosaurs will die." But he adds: "They are very nimble. The buy-side investor is withdrawing from the Bear Stearns, Lehman and Goldman Sachs crowd and fleeing to the apparent safety of the universal banks. A fool's gambit, but what else shall they do?" Regardless of daily swings in the financials, Whalen, whose associates are in that poisoned aquarium, believes the inhabitants are doomed.

The US, like all of us, conditioned itself to believe in economic cycles and the inevitable bounce. But each correction has seen the creation of a new and less stable bubble.
So what happens to the global commodities bubble now? And who's to blame for all this?
Increasingly, independent analysts like Whalen and Hudson are blaming deregulation, especially the repeal of the 1930s Glass-Steagall Act that was passed to prevent a recurrence of the practices and results we are seeing today, and repealed by Bill Clinton, leading, as Hudson observed, to insufficient, or non-existent, oversight.

The hard hand of the regulator must be evident and constant. In these difficult days, we look to a new leader to emerge, for that is democracy's birthright and its meaning.
Clinton! Blame Clinton! Yes!

Ah, yes, let us cling desperately to the comforting certainties of a false political dichotomy. Speaking of which, this little comparison from Eschaton yesterday gives you an idea of how the two major US parties plan to deal with this crisis:
Obama: If we don't get a handle on our energy policy, it is possible that the kinds of trends we've seen over the last year will just continue. Demand is clearly outstripping supply. It's not a problem we can drill our way out of. It can be a drag on our economy for a very long time unless we take steps to innovate and invest in the research and development that's required to find alternative fuels. I think it's very important for the federal government to have a role in that process.

McCain: Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences. You've been a supporter of climate-change legislation that would essentially impose a penalty on the use of fossil fuel.
Fix the problem, or start more wars. What was that bit at the start, about "the movement of money dressed up as industry..."?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Different Perspectives

Talk about the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The man who was once in charge of the Hanoi Hilton says John McCain is lying about his alleged war-time torture. But he says he would vote for McCain anyway:
"I can confirm to you that we never tortured him. We never tortured any prisoners."

Mr Duyet reminisces instead about how he often summoned the future US presidential candidate to his private office for informal chats.

"We used to argue about the war - about whether it was right or wrong," he says.

"He is a very frank man - very conservative, and very loyal to his country and the American ideal.

"He had a very interesting accent and sometimes he taught me words in English and corrected my accent. I have followed his career since he left prison."

So is Mr Duyet implying that that Senator McCain lied about his treatment at the Hanoi Hilton?

"He did not tell the truth," he says.

"But I can somehow sympathise with him. He lies to American voters in order to get their support for his presidential election."
Remember, the USA "does not torture" either. Even though McCain voted for it.

Is Mark Bahnisch Teh Evil?

I don't think so, but he does quite a good impression when his face turns red and steam is coming out of his ears.

UPDATE: Like a dog attracted by the smell of excrement, Tim Blair comes sniffing round... You know, I was just waiting for him to wade into this one. So predictable. The guy must be very, very f***ed up. I wonder what his childhood was like. I'm thinking lots of emotional neglect.

The Psychology Of Big Dick

Atrios today:
What's amazing about all of this bomb Iran talk is that there doesn't seem to be any genuine (if crazy) military goal as commonly understood. Sure there's talk of bombing the nuclear program, but basically the bombing talk is about bombing for its own sake to prove that we can and to demonstrate that people still listen to John Bolton. I suppose there's some sort of tiny penis psychology going on here, such that the point of bombing them is to prove to the world that we do have a big swinging dick and then those silly Persians will be so awed by it that they'll do anything we want.

But this is, you know, morally obscene and criminal.

Cucumber Sandwich Munchers Agree

Anyone who doesn't like cucumber sandwiches is not quite right.

Now tell those damn kids next door to be quiet, Marge. I'm trying to do Teh Politics!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Support Winter Patriot

Winter Patriot gets a weird email from Jerome Hauer:
Jerome Hauer, whom I have described as a 9/11 suspect awaiting indictment, sent me email last night. He says he enjoys reading my "nonsense" and that his friends send him my writing as "a source of great laughter."
Now why is such a man, who comes from a long line of Zionists, who is now the director of the US Office of Public Health Preparedness, who was also director of Office of Emergency Management under New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, which had its offices in the World Trade Center, but which was having a FEMA drill on 9-11 so the office was empty, why is such a man leaning on my friend WP? Has it got anything to do with West Nile virus and Anthrax?

PS: WP has also shut down his comments section and closed down his latest blog. Nothing to worry about, he assures me. Just not giving the bad guys opportunities to cause trouble.

Of Course The %$*& System Is Broken

Crikey's Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane says Australia's political system is broke. The story focuses heavily on the media's role:
Management of the media cycle replaced proactive policy initiatives...

And the size and structure of Australia’s media doesn’t help. We have the disadvantages of oligopolies with none of the advantages. We’re too small to support a diverse media...
I guess that's Crikey! speaking from experience, though some might question the profit-oriented Crikey! practices which lead them to such a conclusion. And just what are the unspoken "advantages" of oligopolies (markets with few sellers) anyway? Maybe we'd find out if Stephen Mayne was part of the oligopoly?

Meanwhile, Kim at LP blogs about those evil News Ltd bloggers! Yeah, LP is suddenly big on bagging Murdoch. Strangely, my own comments remain in moderation [UPDATE: Still being deleted, actually].

If the Austalian political system is %&*$ed, so too is the Australian blogosphere's capacity to effectively mobilise against it. Gosh, I wonder why?

Bond. Alan Bond.

Corrupt fat rich bastard Alan Bond - convicted in 1997 of the biggest corporate fraud in Australia's history, $1.2 billion, and after serving just three years in jail before returning to #157 on our nation's rich list - just lost a defamation court case against News Ltd and journalist Paul Barry. Here's the story he was trying to kill:
Back in 2003, a South African mining engineer, Michael Smith, and a West Australian tax fugitive, Robert Nelson, were sitting in London's Carlton Towers Hotel foyer.

They were trying to figure out how to find enough money to prove that their abandoned African diamond mine was worth reopening.

In bounced Bondy, whom Nelson knew from Perth, and bingo, the problem was solved. Bond agreed to raise the money, in return for a 25 per cent share.

Soon after, Smith and Nelson asked for Bond's help on another juicy deal - a massive oil prospect in Madagascar. Once again, Bond picked up a big stake in the project as a reward for raising the dough.

Since then, to the dismay of his original partners, Bond has somehow managed to deal himself a far bigger share of the action.

Today, his grubstake in the two deals is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And if things go right, it could be worth a billion. So, what exactly is he sitting on?

Bondy likes to call it, "My diamond mine in Africa" - and that's roughly half-true.

The Kao mine is in the Maluti Mountains in Lesotho, three hours from the South African border, and it can be reached only by helicopter or four-wheel-drive vehicle.
It all sounds a lot like Mark Thatcher's foiled coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, doesn't it?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blame The ARABS!

Perhaps because I don't often pick up a printed newspaper these days, I noticed something strange as I flicked through a couple of papers my Mum bought. In fact, it jumped right out at me as I flicked from one page to the next, without going much deeper than the headlines.

There is a lot of community anger about the high price of oil. And the media is now putting the blame for that on the wealthy elites in the Middle East, including the Saudis in particular.

I think this is going to be a big new meme going forward to November 2nd. Blame the ARABS!!!

UPDATE: On the same day, I got a chain email from a bloke I hardly know, showing a dozen gob-smacking pics of an Arab Emerites sheik's luxury home, and saying "next time you fill your car with petrol, blame these guys for the cost"! Of course, that ignores the fact that the West has been backing "these guys" with huge military deals over the last 50 years, and replacing anyone (the Shah, Saddam, etc) who doesn't play the game. It also ignores the culpable role of the obscenely wealthy in our own societies.

Is this just a new Aussie media meme (as Bukko suggests in comments)? The GOP-Dem blame game in the US media drowns out everything else. I found this lead editorial in The UK Independent:
The Saudis will make their own counter-demands when oil producers and consumers meet at an emergency energy summit next weekend. One such requirement might be for Western governments to play their part in adapting to the higher prices by relaxing their domestic taxes on fuel. This represents a considerable shift from Saudi Arabia. Up until now, the country's rulers have blamed the soaring oil price on speculation in Western financial markets – a phenomenon driven, they say, by a false perception of a shortage of global capacity. There is little doubt that speculation is playing some part in pushing up the price of oil to an unprecedented $140 a barrel. Yet the fact that inventories have been at normal levels suggests this is not the driving force behind price rises.

Growing demand is the far more likely culprit. It is often asserted that Saudis still have vast oil reserves. But there is no independently verified proof of this. We have no choice but to rely on what they choose to tell us. If the kingdom really thinks the present price is the result of a speculative bubble driven by misinformation about its reserves, it ought to open up its oilfields to independent inspection to dispel the doubts. Of course it will not do this.
Hmmn. "Demand" is not "growing" at the same pace as the oil price. And China last week raised the cost of oil 20% overnight by cutting the government subsidy. That's the kind of drastic move that triggers riots in other countries. But it's sure to cut "demand". Will the oil price drop 20%? I don't think so.

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman just said in Jeddah that "speculators" are not forcing up global oil prices. But is he choosing his words carefully here?
"There is no evidence that we can find that speculators are driving prices," Mr Bodman told a press briefing ahead of an oil summit, which will be attended by Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, in the Saudi city.

There are a lot of players in this game. I'm wondering who started up that chain mail? An oil company exec? A racist Zionist? Or a Kevin Rudd backbencher?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Yes Yes Yes

Thanks to Tobias for this link to a new Possum guest post.
How does it apply in Australia? Well, our right-wing think-tanks may be slower of wit and less weighty in terms of policy development than their US colleagues, but who needs them when you can work the Overton window in the Murdoch papers and the blogosphere? Let’s take the Bolt/Blair/Albrechtsen axis, for example. On issues like the stolen generations, climate change, feminism and the “war on terror” they articulate positions that are pretty far removed from mainstream opinion (if election results and polling are any indication). But their rhetorical style and the prominent platforms they enjoy mean that they can run lines that make slightly less OTT positions from the Liberals seem like the soul of reason.

In a variation on the Overton, they also work hard at simplifying complex debates and shift the ground in a debate. “Name just ten”, “global cooling?” and “Rudd is spin not substance” are lines they all run in various forms that aren’t just out-there death-beastery, but active distortions of the topics under discussion. They also selectively misrepresent whole categories of their opponents - academics, artists, bureaucrats, the “guilt industry”, Greens, Left-wing journalists, NGOs - by presenting radical positions taken by misguided individuals as the norm, or taking isolated remarks out of context and treating them as the core of the opposing argument.

The aim is not really to win any substantive policy debate (think of Blair’s blogging style, and you’ll realize it’s simply not geared for that purpose). Rather, the focus is smearing and discrediting opponents, throwing doubt on established premises in policy debates, shifting the goalposts through simplification, and most importantly of all, keeping the conservative base on-message.

How To Lose Friends And Not Influence People

Proceed as follows:

1. Start a blog.

2. After a few years, close the blog. Say goodbye to all your readers.

3. A few weeks later, start blogging again.

4. After another year, stop blogging again. Say goodbye to all your readers.

5. Start blogging again.

6. Start a new blog.

7. Then another.

8. And another.

9. Then stop blogging again. Say goodbye to all your readers. Delete all your links. Change email addresses.

10. Start blogging again.

11. Stop blogging. Say goodbye to all your readers.

12. Start again.

13. Stop. Say goodbye to all your readers.

14. Start a new blog. Change email addresses.

15. Etc.

Repeat ad nauseum. Wonder why nobody understands.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Where the *John Howard* is that link Gandhi promised?

OK, it's here. Stop your bitching, people. Get a life.

I'll even give you a blockquote:
My goal is to have a cluster group of all-stars with high quality interaction with upper class undergrads, grad students and bringing in writers from outside that we care about. The interactions with the news organizations would have to be close and early. We wouldn’t dump it on their lap at the last second.

Newsrooms are being substantially shrunk, and the ones who are left are ready to jump out a window because they have too much to do and too little time, or they think they’ll be fired next week. Those newsrooms desperately need content, and the students would be thrilled to have those clips.

The goal isn’t to have the students be the mainstream media’s outsource mechanism — that’s not what I’m trying to do. What I’m trying to do is investigative journalism that has resonance with hopefully hundreds of millions of people. The web can do that with the wonderful viral effect, but if I can utilize the old-fashioned transition media, then I’ll get the best of both worlds and get people who are on the web and those who aren’t.
Say "thank you gandhi".


UPDATE: Maybe co-opting unpaid undergraduates for content is a good idea for a startup but you will have to move from there to full-scale professional operations pretty quickly if you wanna keep the dream alive. You gotta take them grads with you! And that might be kinda hard if Obama wins the White House, right?

I mean, stocks in are gonna sink damn fast. Those grads will be looking at and pretty fast. You gotta compete for their attention, which is notoriously short. Damn kids! I blame the parents!

UPDATE: Even more from that link:
The gatekeeper model has deteriorated very badly. We still have elite media that did not get the memo about not being gatekeepers anymore, and still try to control stories. We still have Scott McClellan’s book ending up on page A19 of the New York Times. The idea of a press secretary to the president of the United States dissing his president about a war and his truthfulness was not deemed important enough for page 1 of the New York Times… That is beyond ridiculous but it is also not surprising.

We are at a very strange time in history where the gatekeeper is eroding and will morph into some other form that will be influential with news organizations down the road, but there are tens of millions of other places you can get information.
Oh really? Where? This blog, for instance? I can't do it on my own!!!

Prediction Time

Based on what happened in the leadup to the 2006 mid-terms, I would expect the price of oil to start falling in the next few months and keep on falling steadily until the 2nd of November. Saudi Arabia's recent decision to increase output was just the start. Wall Street will have to get heavily involved, Big Oil will have to absorb some losses (i.e. less-than-obscene profits) for a while, and big money-holders like Goldman Sachs and the Federal Reserve will all have to do their part. Otherwise McCain's GOP is f***ed for good.

It's only June, and we probably wont see prices at the local pump coming down till August or even September. The public have notoriously short memories: there's no point dropping prices yet unless you just need to relieve some short-term pressure.

This time, however, there is another big problem, and that is the price of food. And that is part of the commodities bubble, which includes oil. So the solution might be tricky for the Bush-McCain-Big-Business backroom boys.

Here's a simplistic view of the past 20 years: Reagan's trickle-down economics (duly pursued by Bush 41 and 43) fed increased wealth to the already wealthy, creating the I.T. bubble, followed by the housing bubble, and now the commodities bubble. It's all a question of where those with too much money park their spare cash. Those with money in commodities now wont take it out until the bubble bursts or a new one comes along.

So, from a McCain perspective at least, it would be a great time for a new bubble to come along. But what might that be? I don't know.

Green Energy /Alternative Fuels would be a good idea: it would resonate with the public, create a media and investor "buzz" and trigger that all-important "feelgood factor". But the McCain-Bush team have way too much already invested in oil, so it could be a non-starter.

Emerging Markets is already a buzz term for investors, and maybe it's got possibilities as a bubble phenomenon if it can be packaged and marketed in a way that Wall Street approves. But that's a very big IF. Sure, you can bribe dictators and law-makers, but still it's hard to find a whole country full of people you can really trust. And all those extra US dollars floating out of the system creates a new headache. This one's also probably a non-starter.

Another I.T. Bubble would be good fun for the media and pretty easy to engineer. All you need are a few new buzzwords and lots of stories highlighting startups with clever ideas which most people today have never heard off. Throw a few million at them and - voila! - you have a new social phenomenon as well as a new news meme. Again, however, the problem is that a lot of this new technology is coming from outside the USA. This one's also problematic.

Sunny Iraq could be a fantastic new world of opportunities for US investors, particularly if all the profits could be channeled straight back to Washington. Now that everybody is happy and violence is just a distant memory, it could be time to start the new gold rush in the USA's latest client state. If only big money investors were that stupid, and Iraq was that peaceful. A definite non-starter. Gee, what a pity.

Any other ideas?

Yes, Virginia, It Was All About The Oil!

Lot's of excited chatter on the intertubes about US-based Big Oil finally getting a slice of the Iraqi pie. The buzz comes from a NYT story quoting oil company execs and a US diplomat. It says a no-bid deal giving very limited contracts to Shell, BP and ExxonMobil is due to be signed on June 30. Paymnets will not be in cash, but in oil. Whoo hoo. Mission accomplished and all that.

Believe it when you see it. Even if the deal does get signed, unlike all the other much-hyped coming deals which have hit "last-minute stumbles", it will make little difference on the ground in Iraq. It's all about getting a foot in the door, of course, but even then you have to make sure you don't get your toes cut off.

Those Who Desire Change

Apparently 80% of US citizens now think their nation is heading in the wrong direction. They want change. By an amazing coincidence, the Democrats Presidential candidate is promising just that - change. How lucky is that???!

Here's Lao Tse:
The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.
Hollow, like caves.
Opaque, like muddy pools.

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfillment.
Not seeking fulfillment, they are not swayed by desire for change.
See, it's OK to hope for change, and maybe even "desire" it, as long as you are not "swayed" by it. A nation of 300 million people is about to be "swayed".

Taking The Piss

When I get really, really bored, I go take the piss out of the fools at AWH.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One For The True Believers

It sounded too amazing to be true:
"Senator Obama exited the limousine with two hundred fifty dollars ($250) I had given him and returned a short while later with an “eightball” of cocaine which he gave to me. I did ingest a couple of lines of cocaine, and shortly thereafter Senator Obama produced a glass cylinder pipe and packet of crack cocaine from his pants pocket and Obama smoked the crack cocaine. I performed fellatio on Senator Obama in the limousine during the time Senator Obama was smoking crack cocaine, after which I had the driver take me to the my hotel..."
And it was (not that that will stop the McCain team from pushing it every chance they get).

When Larry Sinclair stepped off the press conference stage at the National Press Club today, he was arrested. You have to wonder why they didn't arrest him BEFORE the presser, but never mind.

The thing is, his arrest came about thanks to a bunch of bloggers. Go see the Mitch And Nan Show for the whole story, including this:
"To the good people of Mitchandnan,

Never in my life have I been put through what “he I shall not name” has put me through.

I have always trusted in the goodness of people and thus posted info I found from other sources to rebut the attacks against Obama....

4 bloggers have saved my life and so too have you all. I will not name the 4 helpers as I wish they be free of ”he I shall not name’s” attention. I lost hair and weight and nearly my love of life. Now while being sued I have come to understand more about our legal system and I am no longer fearful, but maybe angry at the outrageous abuse, and open warrants that were not served; if they were, this never would have occurred..."
You can make a difference. If you try.

UPDATE: The British are very good at taking the piss, and this reporter who was at the presser does just that:
He took the stage looking both a little nervous and a little like Martin McGuinness. That, of course, is not a crime.

What is a crime, as Mr Sinclair was only too happy to relate, are the acts of deception, cheque and credit card fraud to which he has confessed and for which, in at least one instance, he has served jail time. He is still a wanted man in the state of Arizona.

Mr Sinclair had in tow a lawyer called Montgomery Blair Sibley. The grandeur of Mr Sibley’s name was matched only by the grandeur of his attire. He was resplendent in a kilt, not exactly a common get-up in these parts.

The clothes were rather more impressive than Mr Sibley’s legal credentials. His license to practice has been suspended in both Florida and the District of Colombia.

Monty Python could not have done justice to the moment when Mr Sibley, a man hired presumably to lend credibility to the occasion, chose to explain the presence of his kilt with reference to the size of his manhood, which we were given to understand is too substantial to be shackled by the cloth of conventional underwear and trousers.

“I don't know why men wear pants,” he said. “It's a function of male genitalia. If you're size normal or smaller, you're probably comfortable. Those at the other end of the spectrum find them quite confining.”

At this point the pent up tension dissolved into open laughter among reporters...
But of course:
There is a very serious point to all this. Mr Sinclair became visibly unsettled and irritable when questioned about the source of his funds.

He said he has had no contact with any Republican groups and that he would release his financial records. But this was one of many things he promised to make available in the future –his medical records were another since he is suffering from a brain tumour—and you would have thought he would have presented them himself if he were genuinely expecting to make anyone believe him.

Would he release the details of his donors? Yes. But not their names. It is not clear how that constitutes releasing details of the donors.

There remains the lingering suspicion that attack groups will pay people like Mr Sinclair to keep their allegations in the public eye and Mr Obama out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
As I predicted earlier, this is the beginning of the end of the GOP. Not that that will matter much. Those who have controlled the GOP for the last 20 years or more have already moved onto the world stage. And nobody is waiting to arrest them when they get off.

International Law As An Election Prop

Pretty funny. Obama says that the USA should be careful not to make Osama a martyr, assuming they can catch or kill him. Maybe he was confusing the names "Osama" and "Obama"? It's been known to happen, I hear.

Get this: Obama invoked the Nuremberg trials as a way to deal with Bin Laden. No, seriously:
Obama, who has sharply criticised the use of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba to hold suspected terrorists, talked of the Nuremberg trials set up after World War II to prosecute Nazi war criminals as an example of how justice could be administered in keeping with a "universal set of principles".
One assumes that Obama made it clear to reporters that any discussion of Kucinich's impeachment moves was off the table. Let alone War Crimes trials for Bush and Cheney - ha!

I remember Kevin Rudd talked about using the International Criminal Court as a way to bring Mugabe and the Burmese generals to justice too. How's that going, Kev?
At first light we started to walk along the desolate beach facing the open sea toward the village of Aung Hlaing.

I walked away from our small group, to where the tide had deposited bodies at the top of the beach.

They lay on their backs, mouths open, their skin bleached by the sun and seawater. Most of them were recognisably women and children; they had been less able than the men to swim or cling to something solid when the water surged over their heads.
Never mind, it helped you get elected, right? Now let's build US spy bases in WA instead.

Meanwhile, ordinary citizens can push on with their simple dreams of international law:
In international law, it is a war crime intentionally launching an attack ‘in the knowledge’ that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment –‘which would be clearly excessive’ in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated. War crimes are defined under the International Criminal Court Rome Statute Part II Jurisdiction, Admissibility and Applicable Law Article 8, 2, (b), (iv).

Accordingly, the Brief Of Evidence alleges John Winston Howard violated this statute by intentionally launching an attack ‘in the knowledge’ that such attack would cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment –‘which would be clearly excessive’ in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated’. The violation at law occurs if the person ‘with the authority’, takes the decision, ‘knowing the impacts’ and ‘knowing the impacts will be excessive’.

The Brief Of Evidence alleges, the violation at law did actually occur because the person ‘with the authority’, John Winston Howard, took the decision, ‘knowing the impacts’ and ‘knowing the impacts will be excessive’. It alleges, not only did John Winston Howard have this knowledge, he was formally warned by the world’s most eminent legal experts, of the excessiveness of the attack and the severe impacts in human carnage.
We can still dream, can't we? Or is that a crime now too?

Wise Men

Look who's on the short-list for Obama's Foreign Policy team:
* LEE HAMILTON - The former Indiana congressman co-chaired the blue-ribbon commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks and was a lead author of Iraq Study Group report that offered recommendations on Iraq to President George W. Bush in 2006.

The Exclusive LP Cucumber Sandwich Club

ALL of my comments at Larvatus Prodeo are now being deleted. Fascism is alive and well in the relaxed and comfortable suburbs of Australia, where even the supposed "leftists" embrace it.

First I am labeled an anti-Semite, then I am not allowed to respond to that allegation, then I am told to calm down, and now I cannot comment on any thread about anything, not even a thread that is specifically designed for people to express outrage!

How ridiculous.

Mark Bahnisch, if you want informed readers to get involved in lively discussion of important topics, this ain't the way to do it.

Murdoch Is Teh Evil

Today's Murdoch Media Wanker Of The Day is Greg Sheridan:
Of course, the very use of the term neo-conservative normally indicates a commentator is about to speak dishonestly. Often enough the term neo-con has betrayed a kind of low-wattage anti-Semitism with, as one wag put it, con standing for conservative and neo standing for Jewish.
If we had an Australian version of Media Matters, somebody would go back and look at all the times Sheridan and his War Criminals friends have used the term "neo-conservative". And somebody might note the original dishonest commentators:
The term neoconservative was originally used as a criticism against liberals who had "moved to the right"... The first major neoconservative to embrace the term was Irving Kristol, in his 1979 article "Confessions of a True, Self-Confessed 'Neoconservative.'"
I know, I am shooting fish in a barrel here. But why isn't anybody else doing it? Has criticising the Murdoch media become as taboo as criticising Israel?

I mean, here we have the top political editor of possibly Australia's most influential newspaper spouting totally preposterous nonsense, such as that the USA responded to the attacks of 9-11 by "by tripling its overseas aid budget" and keeping its military budget "at normal peacetime proportions of its national wealth". Oh really?

Even if your definition of "US military budget" does not include Star Wars, Veterans Affairs, maintenance of nukes, or payments to mercenaries like Blackwater, and even if you redefine US military and economic support for puppet governments as "overseas aid", you still cannot make such an argument with a straight face. The only way you can do it is if - like the Bush/Cheney administration - you exempt the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (funded through supplementary spending bills outside the Federal Budget). And even then, you still need to ignore things like the black budget and military-related spending by the CIA, the FBI and other agencies.

In short, it is totally misleading B.S. So why is the senior political editor of a major Australian newspaper peddling such propaganda?

More importantly, why is nobody calling him on it?

PS: You won't find any anti-Semites at News Ltd! Today's O.O even pimps the new advertising campaign by Frank Lowy's Westfield shopping centers, complete with helpful website links. Did I mention that Frank Lowy is a "prominent Jewish Australian businessman"?