JUSTICE OR DISASTER? March 15, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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Nancy Pelosi famously said that impeachment was not on the table. Well then, perhaps it should be now back on the table. Rolling Stone rounded up a panel of experts to take their reading as to what is likely in Iraq and the wider ramifications. It is not solely that the invasion was criminal, murderous and immoral, it is likely to have wider ramifications that without exaggeration are frightening.
“The war in Iraq isn’t over yet”, observes Rolling Stone, ” but — surge or no surge — the United States has already lost.” They see a conflagration, which at the very best might be restricted to Iraq, but at worst will broaden into a wider Shia-Sunni conflict possibly taking in the Islamic populations of Europe. What could be the circuit breaker?
General McPeak(Ret) observes:
This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country’s international standing has been frittered away by people who don’t have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.
Stupid at George Bush, may or may not be, the people who were behind the the invasion of Iraq are not ignorant. Bush is the fall guy, and his occupancy in the presidency was not, as McPeak suggests, an experiment. It might be argued that the World does not work, and that is the problem.
Still the impeachment of Bush and Cheney would be a start, but why should their criminal indictment be subject to the expediencies of American domestic politics when the consequences of their actions are global? Similarly Blair and Howard should be included for their complicity in the crimes. Legal action might be the only thing to stop what conceivably is a greater, more immediate global calamity than global warming?
SILENT BLACK BOX March 14, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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So maybe I have become disenfranchised. The television sits in the corner of the lounge room as a silent black box, a metaphor for consciousness for the Martian who will come down to earth turn it on needing to know that it is a remote receiving device, like a telephone, that cannot be fully understood from its bits and pieces. Sure, I turn it on to watch Miss Marple or rarely a DVD but otherwise it sits silently without complaint as a decoration, the way some books might be. (to be continued)
AUGMENTATION SURGE AWRY? March 14, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Iraq Policy.
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Six months, depending on the whim of the Prime Minister, will be about the time for the Australian Federal Election, or at leas the beginning of the electoral campaign, and it will also be the time by which the measure of the “surge” in Baghdad will be measured. The election cannot be delayed, but perhaps the accounting for the Iraq invasion and occupation can be, or might be deflected by some manufactured fear campaign, now in the planning.
But could the Surge spin out of control like a Senator Santos Santoro donation to charity, lobby group? According to anecdotal evidence and historical precedent of Red Coats in the suburbs, H D S Greenway writing in The Boston Globe believes it is could and is likely to do so.
Political genius, John Howard, looks like he will be tested as much as great white hope, Kevin Rudd, as to whether Howard is to be the Don Bradman of Australian Prime Ministers. Black clouds on the horizon suggest that heavy rain could stop play, and end the innings.
Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
March 13, 2007
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The Senator Santos Santoro affair raises a question: To whom are ministers responsible to the Prime Minister or the Parliament? So I find myself ignorant of what was once upon a time to be a basic principle of parliamentary democracy.
I may be wrong but I suspect that ministers are responsible to Parliament on the basis as pointed out by Walter Bagehot that Cabinet is a committee of the Parliament, and the Prime Minister, in a manner of speaking, is the chairman of that committee. Furthermore, if we assume that ministers are accountable to parliament it makes sense to assume that Question Time was important, and not the farce it has become. So, on the assumption that ministers are responsible to parliament, it would not be sufficient on this theory of parliamentary democracy and practice for Senator Santoro to report his indiscretion to the Prime Minister, and for him in turn to wave it away as “inadvertence” (where do these words come from?).
In these matters I appreciate that practice and theory are often different things, but that does not mean that theory should not be a guide to behavior.
( I will dig around on Google and see what I can get.)
The doctrine of ministerial responsibility appears to refer to the matters related to the policy and operation of the department which the minister is charged. The following is taken in reference to Canada, but I surmise the same principles apply in theory in Australia:
Individual ministerial responsibility has two components – a resignation component and answerability one. It is extremely important to distinguish between these two components because emphasis on the first component to the total or relative neglect of the second explains in large part the view that the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility is dead or at least severely weakened. . .
The resignation component requires that each minister answer to Parliament, in the form of resignation, for serious policy or administrative mistakes made by the minister personally or by his or her public servants. Ministers bear a “vicarious” responsibility for all of the acts of their department, even if they have no personal knowledge of these acts. . .
The answerability component of the doctrine requires that each minister answer to Parliament, in the form of explanation or defence, for all the actions of his or her department.
Dierdre McKeown has written a paper for the Parliamentary Library(Australian Parliamen) , “Codes of Conduct in Australian and some overseas parliaments”. There are two documents that Senator Santoro might have to consider. Firstly, there is the Prime Minister’s statement, “A Guide on Key Elements of Ministerial Responsibility”. These are the Prime Minister’s standards, and it seems he can apply them as he see fit. Then the Senate has a register of pecuniary interests.
The House of Commons SelectPublic Administration Select Committee (2005 -2006) concluded that “the Prime Minister must judge what the right course of action is, and account for it to Parliament”, and that “an independent investigatory’ procedure would not undermine the Prime Minister’s authority while promoting public confidence.It is interesting that the committe thought the Prime Minister should account for the indiscretions of ministers and not the the individual Minister.
Of course, there is the related doctrine of “responsible government” which has conventional force can than legal or constitutional force. Somehow, or other, all of this is supposed to add up to parliamentary democracy. That’s right we have elections every three years for the House of Representatives, and these maters are in the forefront of electors minds.
The fuller story is told by the commenters at Blogocracy. There seems to be a strong prejudice against the positions and postures of John Howard – perhaps the polls, and thereby public opinion, is a stronger force in politics than I had realized.
It seems there is a direct link between the Burke bucket and the Santos Santoros affair. Senator Santoros is the treasurer of the Queensland Liberal Party (?), and he gave the profits from his shares to a lobby group( via cs at Troppo) . Now it seems it is not just any lobby group, but “a worthy non profit” as noted by fatfingers at The Road to Surfdom. As the plot thickens, the vortex accelerates. “Urgent, Urgent, Spin Control can you hear me?”.
OPINION POLLS March 13, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The AC Neilsen poll was out today and it shows the Kevin Rudd is the most popular Opposition Leader ever and that the ALP leads the Government on a two party preferred basis of 61 to 39.
Public Opinion is somewhat of a mystery. Apparently, the public did not give two cents for the Burke bucket beat up, and more particularly whether Kevin Rudd was fully frank in what he said about his meetings. To my mind that would seem to indicate that the public are choosing to ignore the underlying questions related to lobbying – transparency and accountability. I think the ground has moved, and there are a number of top of the mind issues that are not running for John Howard. Iraq might be one. As suggested elsewhere, the midterm elections in the US may be having a flow-on effect. Then there is David Hicks, and indication of attitudes may be suggested by the way the Major Mori is greeted as in the anecdote by Mike Carlton. Then as also suggested elsewhere there was the Obama gaffe by Howard. To these matters might be added the unfair dismissal of Ian Campbell, with echoes of “work choices”.
My understanding is that these polls are based on telephone polling, which means that the people who are contacted have fixed lines, excluding mobile only users, and ignoring the effects of message banks and answering machines. The polls may be more problematic than they seem, and I suppose one has to look for consistency across different polling organizations.
Still the pressure is now on the Government. Howard has declared that they are going to continue their marginal electorate swinging vote campaign with personal attacks. I look forward to the mother of all fear campaigns. They must be looking for “a hit, a palpable hit”, but at the same time they must achieve a swing back to them.
Otherwise something has happened that the politically well-versed have not observed. Perhaps the voters have simply recognized that the use-by date of the Government is up. Labor can ride the wave. The Government will have to identify what is going on.
SHADOW TOURS March 11, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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President Bush’s tour through selected destinations in Latin America is being shadowed by President Chavez of Venezuela. Bush bounced from Brazil, where he predictably triggered counter demonstrations, to Bolivia via Uruguay, to Columbia, then Mexico and finally home where is odds on to win a popularity contest with the Dixie Chicks. Chavez is holding public meetings in adjoining countries. Deutsche Wella has a report.
And here are the DC’s at New York’s Madison Square Garden:
This thing could catch on. John Howard flies to Tokyo, unnamed Pacific leaders flies to Beijing. And it is, and could be, quite fun.
POLITICAL PAPER TRAILS March 10, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The Burke bucket started it. Now it has been supported by the “Mokbel link”. It appears to be the politics of framing combined with attack research is intended to create a sense of fear about the political opponents of the Government. The ascent of John Howard, aside from his personal political skills – his ideological intensity, his debating skills, his perseverance in the face of adversity, and others – has been associated with the “professionalization” of the Liberal Party organization, which has gone beyond polling, focus groups, advertising and other marketing techniques to embrace methods that on the borderline of democratic behavior. The “whatever it takes” doctrine practitioners may be blind to the risks, raising questions, as other matters have, not so much of the experience of the Government, but their lack of ethical standards. Now in such political issues, in my view, we should step back and look at them as a development in the polity, not as a partisan point scoring exercise.
Kelvin Thompson, the former Labor Shadow Attorney General appeared to have been both foolish and careless to give a reference to a person he apparently did not know but to attribute to his behavior “guilt” as Samantha Maiden and Imre Salusinszky do in the article in The Australian seems somewhat of a stretch. Once journalists investigated and reported on missteps and misdeeds of public figures, now they are content to take on the dirt digging of political operatives and merely colorfully report them. So far Kevin Rudd, the great white hope of Australian politics, has been content to go along, showing obeisance before the media monster – and that troubles me. The writers of the article acknowledge:
Liberal sources confirmed last night that they had been aware of the allegations for some time and had been seeking documentation.
But strangely no mention of the existence of the Liberal dirt machine. Their job as political journalists (I assume they are) is not to lift the curtain hiding political machinations but simply with mock horror to report the shadow play.
The sentence from The Australian reminded me of Peter Costello’s attack on Lateline relating to his alleged dealings with the Lobbyist, and former Premier of WA, Brian Burke. I was struck by his use of written records, and I thought that is the way lawyers do things. The wedge was that Rudd could not admit now he is leader that he was politicking for the job, if not overtly, at least as a possibility at the back of this mind.
We can expect more of the same. The test on Rudd is now to respond to expose his opponents methods, rather than follow them, and focus political discourse on policy.
FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – CAUGHT IN A STORM March 9, 2007Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Yesterday I was out with the dogs, heard thunder and decided to keep going and not head home. – big mistake. When a bolt of lightning explodes in front of you, then hear the load thunder clap almost immediately, there is a need to know what to do. And I did not. I thought I might seek the protection of the trees – but that is not the right thing to do. Sasha and I were frightened. Not much frightens Dexter which is good and bad rolled together. We ran home as best I could, and most of the way we were very exposed. What you should do is crouch down on your heels, but not lie on the ground. The storm passed over in about 30 minutes.
We will seek to follow the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings and board the Ark#129 at Modulator.
DAVID HICKS ET AL March 9, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
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As I understand it, David Hicks arraigned before some form of US military judge, after over five years incarceration at Guantanamo Bay. The Prime Minister is claiming this development is due to his intervention. Time limits vary, but arraignment of US domestic prisoners is usually within 48 hours. Then they would be guaranteed natural justice, to which Hicks, and the other detainees, have been denied.
Meanwhile a judge in the Federal Court has not struck down the case brought by lawyers for Hicks. The court ruled that the case raised important constitutional questions and should be heard before a full bench of the Federal Court. Lawyers acting for Hicks made several statements according to ABC Online:
One of his solicitors, John North, says that Hicks’s scheduled arraignment hearing will not deter them.
“The court date in the US is another matter, we still say he is being put in front of a commission that is flawed and we don’t want him to go in front of that, and we are trying to put that strongly to the Government that they should still request their American allies to repatriate David,” he said.
Another of Hicks’s lawyers says the decision to allow a case against the Commonwealth to proceed to a full hearing could have a big impact on the Guantanamo Bay detainee. David McLeod says a full hearing could see the Government told to change the way it is handling the Hicks case.However, he also says it could delay Hicks’s trial.”I think there’s little doubt that this will result in further delays, but if justice is to be seen to be done then that is the price it pays,” he said.
There is a further report, I am not sure of the reliability or the liklihood, that Congressional Democrats want the Guantanamo Bay facility to closed down and its inmates transferred to military prisons in the US. They would then be tried in the US District Court system.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL IN PLAY March 8, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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As far as I know in an unprecendented move, and not before time after 700 years, the House of Commons in London voted 337 to 224 in favor of a 100% elected House of Lords. Some traditionalists, according to The Guardian would have done so as a ploy to sabotage the project. It is far from a done deal.
Yet in New South Wales, where we will be having an election on 24 March, we will also be voting for helf the members of the Legislative Council. Members are elected by proportional representation with the state forming one electorate.
If the Opera House was built in part by running a lottery, the same can be said for the composition of the Legislative Council:
Whilst the quota for election remains at 4.55%, recent elections have seen two candidates elected with less than 1% each of first preference votes and another candidate elected with only 0.2% of first preference votes. On the other hand, another candidate with 50% of a quota was not elected. This was result of the preference flows agreed to by various parties and groupings, and the flow of those preferences as excess votes are distributed after quotas are achieved.
As a result, the 42 members of the Council from extremely good to extremely average. There have been repeated calls for its abolition, and yet it is claimed that it plays an important role as a house of review and in the maintenence of responsible government in the State.
To the extent that anybody can bear to be interested in the State Election, the focus of attention is on the Legilative Assembly from which the next State Government will be formed. Most of us will go to the voting booth recognizing the similarity of the ballot paper to that for the Senate with above the line voting and vote according to party without regard for the deals done between parties and no knowledge of the candidates.
Oh, what is the connection with the House of Lords. For one thing, first impressions:
The colour scheme is one of the many traditions that the Parliament inherited from the Westminster system of the British Parliament in London — in this case the red of the House of Lords. Most second chambers in two-house Parliaments throughout the world, including the Australian Senate, have red as the dominant colour scheme. There are a variety of accounts as to the origins of this colour scheme, but use of red for the House of Lords (the Upper House of the British Parliament) is documented at least back to the beginning of the fifteenth century and seems to arise from the traditional use of red or scarlet as royal colours.
The Legislative Council was the first legislature established by the British Paliament in Australia in 1823.
Much like local council elections, in my case, voting for the Legislative Council does not suffer from a lack of democracy but a lack of information.
MANIFESTO FOR A DUCKPOND March 8, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth.
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LIBBY CONVICTION March 7, 2007Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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News is fickle. It comes and goes. As Paul Keating noted the other day:”The dogs bark and the caravan moves on.” Such is the news cycle. Even though the “blogs” are out of sync. The David Hicks story was buried by the Burke influence peddling allegations, and tonight these have overshadowed by the Jogjakarta air crash this morning in which 22 or 49 people were killed. Still at Catallaxy, Skepticlawyer is attracting a stream of comments following her post on International Law. Chris at Troppo suggests the Burke bucket was dropped on Rudd to divert attention from the alleged misuse of money by Liberal politicians. And I noticed today a letter sent here requesting emergency help for the victims of the Sumatran floods.
Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post are headlining the Grand Jury Indictment of Lewis Libby for “perjury in relation to events leading up to the Iraq War”, and the exposing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Libby’s lawyers are insisting on a new trial. However, if the conviction stands he could go to prison for 25 years. According to one of the jurors, the belief they had was that Libby was the fall guy for Vice President Cheney. There is a belief that Bush will pardon Libby before leaving office in two years.
The Guardian in its editorial, or as they like to say “leader”, observes that even Americans might have lost track of the case, but believes that it is significant for two major reasons:
The first concerns the ethics of the administration of which Mr Libby, as top aide to Dick Cheney, was such a senior member. George Bush came to the White House in January 2001 pledging to “change the atmosphere in Washington DC”. . . . The Bush administration has been ruthlessly partisan, fuelled by enmities worthy of the Nixon era. The outing of Mrs Plame was a criminal act against the wife of an administration critic. Mr Libby lied about it. He presumably did it to protect Mr Cheney, who wanted to punish the Wilsons. Mr Libby’s conviction therefore raises very direct questions about Mr Cheney’s own position.
The second reason is because, at bottom, Mr Libby’s lies concerned Iraq. . . Mr Libby lied to protect not just his boss but his boss’s unjust war. That’s why yesterday’s verdict matters. This affair is not over yet – not by a long chalk.
I suppose this means that Congress may take up the matter.
ENERGISING THE BASE March 6, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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My opinion is that Howard’s actions relating to Burke, Campbell and Rudd was not just an own goal but it should have energized the ALP base.
Now I think that people begin to perceive there is a real chance that Labor can win with Rudd. He is not perfect. Nobody ever is. Nor should we ever expect otherwise. He is ambitious, and good for him if he has the talent which is the impression that I am getting. It was very, very refreshing to hear somebody, any political leader say after ten years of the narrow view of possible, that they had made a mistake. Actually, I do not think he made much of a mistake. After three meetings that was far enough – good judgment. The more I see of Rudd the better he looks, and I cannot say that of Howard.
I have doubts about the depth of talent of the people has around him. Then again take a look at the Government.
In retrospect, I anticipate that making a play for the swinging voters this far out from the election was a strategic mistake due to the pressure of being consistently behind int he polls and hubris. Howard thought that with his Greek chorus of media hacks he could destroy Rudd. It is like young football players launched into a test match. Those blessed with the talent and the temperament not just do well but do better.
Howard and his little mate, the tip of an iceberg, have done the nation and the ALP a great service. Too bad for Ian Campbell – that was gross arrogance. I suspect as much as anything many swinging voters pick winners. The ALP may well be on a roll – the timing could not be better. Get it going now before the mass of public advertising and electoral bribes, which may smell of further panic and non-core promises.
Expect Rudd to kick some goals in the coming months. Rudd has yet to prove himself.
And I agree with what Marian Wilkinson said about lobbying register available on the internet to make the process transparent, and saying something as well about parliamentary accountability and ministerial responsibility.
The honeymoon metaphor or analogy does not work for me. I think the football team analogy is better.
I cannot help but feel residual misgivings about the Labor, and for that matter the Liberbal, Party and the concentration of power in the leader and the executive. I would prefer a more collegiate system of cabinet responsibility, with a more vigourous and independent parliament. Elections do not change systems; they merely reinforce by changing the brand name.
Here is the Costello case against Rudd on ABC Lateline – the written record, in this case emails sent by Burke, do not match what was said. Rudd started it by attacking Howard’s contack with the leading businessman, and former Liberal Party Treasurer, Ron Walker.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Howard is now saying the issues related to Rudd and his alleged dealings with Burke eighteen months ago transcend the polls.
Mr Howard said Mr Rudd’s accusation that he was abusing the office of prime minister showed an “extraordinary” double standard. “This is a new variant of the Westminster doctrine: thou shalt not as prime minister criticise the leader of the Opposition. It’s the new 11th commandment of Australian politics.”
If there were ten commandments of Australian politics, I would be surprised.
There are reports that the Federal Police have raided the offices of three Queensland Liberal members in regard to the misappropriation of electoral expenses. In this as in every other case those involved are entitled to the presumption of innocence. The shadow of corruption can fall over members from any political party.
ESTONIA VOTES, ONLINE March 6, 2007Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.
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Setting a precedent 10,000 of Estonia’s one million voters exercised the option to vote online. In a narrow election the Reform Party defeated the Centre Party, and so far nobody is calling for a recount. It seems to have worked. The report is carried by Deutche Wella.
I may say if it were allowed here, and our next election will be on March 24, I would miss the social outing of walking down the street to local primary school going in, voting and checking out what the kids are up in school these days.
GOTCHA AND POLITICAL LYING March 6, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Firstly there is nothing new about lies told by politicians. And why would that be? Generally we do not check the public record and we forget details. The media then to focus on the story and not the underlying public policy issue, and despite what The Sydney Morning Herald was saying in their editorial on Saturday they rarely do their job. Say what you like about The Washington Post, for example, they have a track record of breaking significant, investigative reports, the most recent being the story on Walter Reed.
Then parliament does not work as it should, and in saying that I am not casting aspersions of parliamentarians, but reflecting, in particular the House of Representatives, the dominance of the Executive. The whole ruckus concerning Rudd meeting with Burke, followed by the forced resignation of Campbell emerged from Question Time, which was once, and now laughingly, called the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy.
And as we observe here and elsewhere, the executive through the application of public relations, spin doctoring and framing tied to targeted focus groups, marginal voter strategies, has an ability to dominate and control portions of the media. When the case studies are carefully examined (which I have not done), the media outlets seem to affect the belief that they do not know what is happening so caught up are they by the sensational story line.
Then, so it seems, and sympathy please, politicians do not realize they are lying, as in the Prime Minister claiming that Senator Campbell was not sacked but voluntarily resigned. I am sure that Ian Campbell wrote his own resignation.
Of course, as an analysis this is too general, but the responsibility does not lie with others. It lies with ourselves. And yet democracy needs its institutions, systems and processes, with imperfections that arise intrinsically and from the behavior of people, individually and en masse.
About twenty years ago, in other words I cannot quite remember when, I was on the same plane flying to Perth as Brian Burke and Kim Beazley. They flew first class. Burke with his cigar and wine was a striking image, bringing to my mind a scene that could have come out of Animal Farm.
LOBBYING March 4, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Sometime during the K Street scandal that afflicted the former US Congress, the comment was made that American citizens had less influence on public policy decisions than the well-heeled influence peddlers. As The Sydney Morning Herald notes in its editorial, hence the long extract, lobbying works, and it seems to work better when ex-politicians are involved:
The West Australian Crime and Corruption Commission hearings, which began this whole affair, have shown how lobbying can influence government decisions. Three Labor ministers have been sacked because of their closeness to Mr Burke, who was able to gain access to cabinet discussions and control ministers’ votes. Mr Burke’s influence and ability to manipulate are extraordinary, and by no means all lobbyists are of the Brian Burke type. The electorate may not like it – indeed is rightly suspicious – but many companies employ former politicians or political staffers to present their case more effectively to governments. The number of former politicians who have stepped straight from public office into well-paid private employment as advisers on government relations shows that lobbying by former insiders works. Victoria is working on rules to regulate lobbyists’ contact with serving politicians so the process is more transparent. It is a worthwhile objective, but it may be defeated simply by the nature of lobbying itself. Lobbyists work by meeting and talking to people they already know. That is all. Talk is not easily regulated. In the end, the public has to rely on the ethics of politicians, and its own ability to detect malfeasance and punish it at the ballot box. A free and probing media can help, but nothing guarantees absolutely that lobbyists will not gain some unfair advantage.
And what the Herald fails to observe it that Rudd is in Opposition not Government. Ian Campbell was a minister, but I think it is a travesty for purely politically expedient reasons, rather than on principles of accountability, for him to be forced to resign. Nor is it clear to me, that Brian Burke has done anything wrong. It is interesting that the Herald trumpets the role of the media, but the lobbying of governments, seems to me, to be very much an underground industry that the Herald and the other media and media commentators have just latched onto because it is currently a Government talking point.
I will be on the look out for alternative opinions on this matter, which for its Politics 101 features does not exercise my mind.
It seems to me if it is not Brian Burke it will be somebody else, and it would be surprising if Burke were to be Robinson Crusoe. No doubt, as an ex-premier Brian Burke is a public figure, so his case is different from other private citizens similarly engaged. While Burke has been to prison, he is still entitled to make a living, and he still has a public reputation to protect, nor should his livelihood be taken away from him on the basis of allegations made in parliament or allegations of The Corruption and Crime Commission. Here, of course, I am tracking along the path suggesting abuse of power, perhaps executive power or at least parliamentary privilege, which through the House of Reps is governed by the Executive.
The problem is the issue of lobbying is seen purely in partisan terms. The prime minister seems to have a circle of mates with access to policy decisions, not available to others. It seems that the local paper seems to have ridiculed Geoff Gallops ban on dealings with Burke. Lobbying should be conducted in a transparent and accountable way, particularly in regard to payments and other favors.
John Howard and his little mate have done the public a service. They have opened up a whole arena of influence plying and money dealing that should be subject to public scrutiny.
Postscript: 06 March 2007
Gary Sauer-Thompson in response to my comment suggests Burke is alleged to have been engaged in corrupt practice using his influence within the ALP. I presume that Crime and Corruption Commission can make recommendations for legislative changes as well prosecute under existing laws. If true, this wholly different from rorting travel expenses.
Here is an account from the ABC 7.30 Report (06 March 2007) of the Burke/Grill lobbying in action from various business sources. I have no brief for business, but based on limited experience, I can understand the difficulty of dealing with government departments.
THE POLITICS OF DESPERATION. March 4, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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We are not there yet, but we may soon begin to see the Howard Government unfold. Their stunts are failing in spectacular ways.
David Hicks, we learn form this morning’s The Sydney Morning Herald, will be set free provided that he pleads guilty to “material support to terrorism”, a crime that the “illegal tribunal” could not have determined since it did not exist when he was incarcerated. Some days ago Howard and others were saying that Hicks had to be given the opportunity of a trial, carelessly ignoring questions relating to a fair hearing. And it would be a political trial because the invaders of Iraq had political capital invested in its outcome. So now it seems in this tortuous Orwellian world it will be OK by the invaders if Hicks pleads guilty, leaving aside the question as to whether he is now fitto make sensible decisions after years of systematic deprivation and torture. The behavior of the Australian Government, in this and other matters, has been repugnant, casting a shadow of shame over over what Howard in his vanity might regard as his legacy.
It seems that the great pretender, Peter Costello, over played his rhetorical hand in Parliament concerning Kevin Rudd’s meeting with the convivial Brian Burke. Rudd doubtless was playing the part of Cassius, for that is what competent political aspirants do, and Burke for his part was seeking to open doors in the future, for that is what political lobbyists do. No doubt, as a lobbyist, Burke was playing both sides of the street. Now, for meeting with Burke for twenty minutes, Ian Campbell has had to resign from the Ministry. I suppose we should celebrate this action, as prior to this occasion resignations on principle and because of ministerial responsibility have, to my immediate memory, being non-existent.
I suppose in fiction there might be the general question as to what is more important: character or plot? I come down on the non-individualist side. I tend to think that circumstances test and determine us more than what we can bring to the moment because the external and intrinsic forces at play are greater, which I think can be suggested without believing that individuals are powerless. So I tend to think it is more important to think about political processes, of which the electoral process is part, than to see the players without scripts.
(I always wonder when I attempt to make this, or a similar, proposition, as to whether I have contradicted myself, and if so, how that contradiction can be resolved.)
FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – MARCH INTO AUTUMN March 3, 2007Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -, Environment.
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For North Americans, I believe, Autumn is Fall. The leaves of the deciduous trees, such as those of my neighbours do not even look as if they are about to fall. For some reason, in this part of the world, the seasons begin from the first day of the month, and not for example the twenty-first, the soltice. We seem to be applying a European calendar in an arbitrary ways. We are out of synch with our environment.
Anyway it has been raining lately, most of it falling as downpours in thunderstorms, which is typical. So the upshot is that taking the dogs out, which I try not to miss, is patchy. Sometimes the rain does not amount to much.
The photos are somewhat patchy as well. I suppose I have to realize that I can only drop it so many times before the camera starts packing up on me.
Dexter and Sasha are intending to join the Carnival of the Dogs again this week at Mickey’s Musings, and of course they hope to catch Friday Ark #128 at Modulator.
THE POLITICAL PROCESS IS DIMINISHED March 2, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Gary Sauer-Thompson describes Barry Jones’ account pf the political process published in The Sydney Morning Herald as “bleak but realistic”. Public debate is reduced to propaganda, to framing and spin. Parliament is reduced to a stage-managed question time. The Public Service is partisan and managerial. Television is infotainment – although nothing in Australia compares to the “fair and balanced” Fox News. And so it goes. Here as much as elsewhere.
Barry Jones suggests:
In this view, the “old normal”, where decisions might have been based on evidence, analysis, reason and judgement, using techniques refined by the Enlightenment of the 18th century, had come to an end on September 11, 2001. The “new normal” depends on instant decisions based on “gut”, “instinct” and “faith”.
Open society, rational politics and a sceptical media have been largely crippled by 2001 and its aftermath. It is both difficult and painful to persuade citizens that they have an obligation to participate fully in the way their countries are run, and an even higher obligation as humans to contribute to the common concerns of our species, Homo sapiens sapiens.
It is essential not to confuse democratic forms with the democratic ethos: remember that Jesus lost a vote to Barabbas and Hitler won a free election. Democratic processes often produce inflammatory results. I want the political process to be revived. This will not just depend on parliament, political parties and voting. There must be a balancing process, with countervailing forces and creative involvement by intermediate bodies – for example, business groups and trade unionists, churches, environmentalists, a fearless judiciary, universities and other research communities, stronger and more diverse media.
Australia must make a commitment to restoring the primacy of reason, rejecting a paranoid view of history and “telling truth to power”. As he lay dying, Tolstoy reaffirmed his commitment to rationality: “Even in the valley of the shadow of death two plus two does not make six.” (which for some reason reminds me of 1984).
The new normal has been declared to be so by that noted philosopher Richard Bruce Cheney.
So what can political bloggers do? We might be optimistic. Cheney, Howard and O”Brien are destined for the rubbish bin of history, and their imprint on human events will be as permanent as that of Ozimandias.
Foucault’s conception of truth is we might imagine not singing from the same songlines as Plato. :Foucault argues that each society creates a “regime of truth” according to its beliefs, values, and mores. Foucault identifies the creation of truth in contemporary western society with five traits: the centering of truth on scientific discourse, accountability of truth to economic and political forces, the “diffusion and consumption” of truth via societal apparatuses, the control of the distribution of truth by “political and economic apparatuses,” and the fact that it is “the issue of a whole political debate and social confrontation.” “Truth,” is the construct of the political and economic forces that command the majority of the power within the societal web.
So truth is power. O’Brien lives.
COMMUNISM CONTROLS CAPITALISM? March 1, 2007Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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Well perhaps not. It seems that the panic that spread around the world’s stock markets began in China as a result of rumours or actions of that government to prick the bubble on the Shanghai Stock Market.
The contagion of global stock markets is not new. The panic in 1987 was deeper because the loss of value from stocks was greater, but what is different is this time the seismic centre was China, and that is new and significant.
The irony of the Friedmanite Revolution is that global capitalist system has to be controlled by the actions of the Central Banks, and it seems that the Chinese Government was pulling the levels and pressing the buttons with the rest of the world following – Japan, Europe and the US.
The commentator at The NY Times says it will take time to work out what really was happening. No doubt in short order other economists will fill the void.
Postscript: 01 March 2007
Al Jazeera reports details of the continuing turbulence in global financial markets.