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LETTER FROM THE DEPARTMENT April 13, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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Today I received a letter from the Department. It was dated 11 April 2007 and referred to this matter that took place on 06 February 2007. The letter has been altered only to preserve anonymity.

Dear Mr Ordinary Citizen

I refer to your letter to the VIP concerning your dismissal from XYZ Services.

The Department manages the NSW system and related public enquiry services on behalf of the VIP.

The Department contracted XYZ Services to manage the call centre. Staffing for the call centre is a matter for XYZ Services.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to the VIP’s attention.

Yours sincerely

[Scribble - but mine is worse]

First name, Family name.

Acting Chief almost VIP.

Nice of them to reply, don’t you think? Not just a reply but a thank you to boot. Timely too.

“ORTHODOXY IS UNCONSCIOUSNESS” April 13, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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The following account is taken from a comment thread of The Guardian. I take it to be authentic. I do not understand the jargon.

As many of you may have heard by now, there was a major VBIED that exploded in [redacted]. The amount of explosives within the truck was enough to shake my CHU almost [redacted] miles away.

When we arrived at the scene, it was one of chaos and despair. There are not enough words to describe the carnage and evil that we saw. I saw it again a little later at the hospital. [numbers of Iraqi civilians dead and wounded redacted] I know, because I walked among the bodies to count them for my report.

At our initial stop at the hospital, it was total anarchy trying to get the wounded treated. We had Blackhawk Helicopters Medevac the injured to the hospitals at [redacted]. The less severe were being treated at the hospital [here] and the neighborhood clinics.

The dead were being piled outside in the yard and covered in blankets. Still, stray dogs found their way to the bodies, but Thank God there were enough people there, still with the sense of mind, to chase them away.

When I walked inside the doorway of the hospital there was a commotion going on. As I tried to get a grasp of what was happening, I looked to my left and saw more bodies, covered in blankets outside of the foyer. I asked [my interpreter] to come with me, so that I could document who these new bodies where or when they came in.

As I stepped closer to them in the dark, I realized I was looking at the bodies of small children. Some as young as 12 months old.

As I lifted the tiny blankets, I became numb; one infant had its tiny head missing. Others were disfigured and their bodies broken and mangled. I could not believe what I was looking at.

There was no semblance or the perception of a rough American soldier. I dropped to my knees and started to cry uncontrollably. All of the men, Iraqi Army and police, doctors and nurses all stopped to look at me.I did not care, I was beside myself. My interpreter did not say a word, he also sat there staring at me, but he knows me and understands.

One of the [Iraqi] men came to me and said, in a voice totally filled with compassion and caring, “Why you sad, American soldier?” I looked up at him, and I could not say anything. I got up and wiped myself with my Arabic scarf and rejoined the group of men to hear their argument.

They told me that about some doctors did not show up.I asked them why. They said because the terrorist and insurgents had threatened them.

“Did not you and they take an oath to preserve life at all costs?” I asked them. “Why are you here and not them?”

They said it is a sad day in Iraq when an American soldier will fall on his knees and cry for children that are not American, but our own doctors will not come to help.

I asked them, why not send the Iraqi Army to their homes and force them to show up? The head doctor grabbed my by the elbow and said, “That is why God has sent you and given you a big heart.” I told him that I would do everything in my power to see that it happens.

3 days prior, a suicide bomber detonated his bomb in a market area. Not just anywhere, but outside of a candy store.

These so called freedom fighters, Martyrs and defenders of the faith do not attack Iraqi army, police or soldiers like me, but innocent civilians,and children on top of that. They cannot win against the American fighting soldier, so they have to go to the weakest of the weak to spread their campaign of fear.

I wish people like Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore and the leftist elite in the Media and Hollywood would come here and volunteer their time and talents. Let them try to count and cover the broken bodies of infants.

If the Coalition Forces leave from Iraq this will be an everyday occurrence until one of these groups, who believes they only should exist, takes over through such terror and murder.

If you have children, whether sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, little cousins or your neighbors kids, hug them and appreciate the fact that you will not have to see their life end in such a brutal and cowardly fashion. Pray for these people, for these children, and for all of us.

I attribute the suicide bombing epidemic to the Invasion and Occupation. I cannot believe, similar to the Iraq-Iran War, we can apparently stand-by and indifferently watch this barbarity. World opinion has to be better than that.

Postscript: 14 April 2007

John Pilger relates the story:

The Israeli journalist Amira Hass describes the moment her mother, Hannah, was marched from a cattle train to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. “They were sick and some were dying,” she said. “Then my mother saw these German women looking at the prisoners. This image became very formative in my upbringing, this despicable ‘looking from the side’.”

I would be confident, although I do not know for sure, that this story is as good as any of Herodutus’ stories. Strange, considering his position for somebody such as Pilger to be calling for heroic individualism. To be fair the heroic individual in this sense is the person of courage and moral integrity, but for most of us our socialization and experience does not equip us. Our sympathy and imagination might be equally engaged by the lookers-on as by those that are suffering, for we might well see ourselves.

In Iraq, as the story goes, many of the remaining doctors do not show up at the hospitals to treat the victims of the bombings because they were afraid. Were the German women looking from the side afraid or had they allowed themselves to be indifferent?

The suicide bombing continues, as daily reports testify,  four years after “shock and awe” wrought it murderous reign, as it ended the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. There does not seem to be any shortage in the volunteers for suicide bombing, who may see themselves as religious heroes, martyrs, resistance fighters or soldiers in a grand cause, or patriots but not as democratic citizens. By contrast, there does seems to be supply problem for those who wish to advance the overt purposes of great democracy, whose integrity cannot, it seems, stand the test of conscription for its defence.

SO THE JIG IS UP IN IRAQ? April 13, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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Well it is, if you consider my prediction, made some time ago and reasonable, that when there were repeated bombings in the Green Zone the end of the American occupation was neigh. The BBC reports that a suicide bomber has set off a bomb in a parliamentary cafe killing at least two MP and injuring at least 15 other people.

The security around the parliament building and around the whole of the Green Zone is extremely tight, so it is very hard to see how a bomb could have been smuggled in there, says our correspondent.

The bomb went off 10 minutes after the parliament had adjourned for lunch. It exploded in the cafeteria on the first floor where the deputies, their staff and parliamentary officials were taking their break. Windows were blown out and there was chaos and confusion. One witness said there were many casualties, but most telecommunications were disrupted and no clear figures were available. “We heard a huge explosion inside the restaurant,” a parliamentary official at the scene told Reuters news agency. “We went to see what was going on. We saw lots of smoke coming from the hall, with people lying on the ground and pools of blood.”

There was recently reports of rocket attacks on the Green Zone, which I had expected on the basis of what had happened in northern Israel. The occupiers have not been fully effective in reducing the numbers of Iraqis in the American occupation zone. They had been employing Jordanians. Still it is the sight of the Iraqi Parliament. Given some many parliamentarians chose to be out of the country, it may prove difficult to pass any legislation, let alone the proposed oil investment bill.

Earlier, Juan Cole was noting that getting numbers for a quorum, and for the government of prime minister Maliki was becoming problematic.

Of course the response along the lines of “stay the course” are predictable from the Bush Administration and the Howard Government. The propagandists will seek to deny the report from the Red Cross that living conditions for Iraqis are now disparate. They will arque that the “escalation”, which is really a concentration of forces combined with extended combat duty, will take time to work. The Occupiers have had four years and they want more time.

An earlier report on the bomb on the Sarafiya Bridge , described by the BBC as “one of the main arterial bridges in Baghdad . . . was partially demolished by a huge truck bomb.”

The American Administration has never listened to the Iraqi people, and doubtless it will continue on it present course. However, the possibilities for Iraqi democracy have been seriously, even fatally, injured by this bomb. Democracy requires an open society and a generous measure of civility, rather than fear and repetitive metal detection searches. with or without sniffer dogs.

It is long past the time when the needs and desires of the Iraqi people have to the priority, not the vainglory of American Imperialism.

Robert Scheer and the commenters have a field day at Common Dreams. Bottom line and long story short: money trumps human suffering every time.

Update: 13 April 2007

Juan Cole has a report on the bombing in the Iraqi Parliament, raising matters that somehow get past a distracted media:

Security is clearly getting worse in Iraq, not better. Although the Green Zone has frequently taken mortar fire, bombings have been extremely rare (one previous successful one?). It could only have happened if persons who look to the Americans as though they are loyal allies were actually smuggling in components and working for the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement.Kyra Phillips is saying that a lot of security checking coming into the Green Zone has been turned over to the Iraqis or over to private security firms. “Someone is obviously not doing their job,” she observed.

As I understand the situation, the full story has not been told. My understanding was that a sweep of the building showed the existence of other bombs in situ. The significant point is the Green Zone is not the secure piece of Baghdad it used to be. Invite the UN Secretary-General and his presentation is likely to be interrupted by an exploding katusyha rocket.

Postscript: 14 April 2007

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent. The report has previous bombing attacks tagged on to its end. As if , we did not know, so who is really running Iraq and the Green Zone? Oh, it is not the Iraqi Government, even when the bomb occurs in the Iraqi Parliament.

The sensitivity of the US and the Iraqi government to the breach in security was apparent because all television cameras and video tapes showing the immediate aftermath of the blast were confiscated and handed to US authorities.

Now that question has been sorted.

US CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT April 11, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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A D Lindsay in his William J Cooper Foundation Lectures, The Essentials of Democracy given in January 1929 at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania draws attention at one point to the scale of American Democracy and the wonder that it can work at all. With a population in excess of 300 million, the United States is larger now by far than it was at the time of Lindsay’s lectures.

The genius of intent of American Democracy does not lie solely in the system of institutional and constitutional checks and balances, including the intention that the States might act as experimental laboratories for new legislation and initiatives, but also in the Russian doll effect of devolution of power that allows Vermont Town Hall Meetings, as we have heard recently, to call for the impeachment of the president. Of course , the effectiveness of these protests against the might of the concentration of executive power reinforced by the economic power of special interests, who surely share political power, whose accumulation of power is strengthened by the supposed exigency of war, however spurious, is not even moot.

Still the Congressional elections of last November have by changing the party political composition of the House and the Senate, changed the status quo by activating the curiosity of Congressional committees whose effect on the current administration has not been fully felt, and may have full effect before the next presidential election. Congress can check executive power by reverting to impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanours”, but that as in other matters such as overriding presidential vetos of legislation requires a two-thirds majority, and we are told that is unlikely.

The clockwork of the US Constitution seems not to be running true. Anyway, Pierre Tristam is on balance pessimistic:

The damage a presidency like Bush’s is inflicting isn’t temporary or policy-specific. It’s institutional. It cuts at the heart of the nation’s original designs. Like global warming, its effects will be felt long after measures to counter the damage have been embraced — if they are.

Tristam may have got to the root of the issue when he observes:

And when certain factions become conglomerates — insurance, oil and defense industries, Big Media, the religious right — Madison’s idea of factions as a check on government looks more quaint than the Geneva Conventions beneath Alberto Gonzales’ boots. The more so when a junta within government uses its power to scheme on behalf of some of those factions, rather than to represent and regulate them, as the framers intended. So we get the novel form of divided government we have today: Congress, the judiciary, the White House press office — going through the motions of democracy. And the one the Bush junta has created speaking the language of democracy while freely enacting the methods of dictatorship and patronage.

It might be more simply said that when big business runs and funds government, combined with monopoly media control, democracy is made redundant, it is mere appearance and not reality.

I am quite sure that the war making powers and authority of the president were given so he could act when the United States threatened with invasion and occupation, not for when the United States sought to invade and occupy other countries.

References:

Pierre Tristam, Recipe for the Republic depends of Diluted Power, not Bush Rule, The Daytona Beach News Journal, (10 April 2007) , via Common Dreams.

United States Constitution, Cornell Law School. (Otherwise I actually would not know what Article I or Article II and so forth were. Now perhaps I will stop confusing the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution)

FEMALE SUICIDE BOMBER April 11, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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I noticed the following sentence in the Reuters report, quoted by ABC Online, of the most recent firefight in Baghdad:

North-east of Baghdad, a female suicide bomber strapped with explosives under her traditional dress killed 17 recruits outside a police station in the town of Muqdadiya, police said.

I suppose because all the 911 hijackers and the London bombers were male, I just assumed that suicide bombing a male activity. Possibly I was not paying attention, but I have not seen reports of females suicide bombers in Iraq before. I had it stuck in my head that recruiters of suicide bombers, fundamentalist and “tafik” would select males for the task.

The fact that this suicide bomber attacked a police station may mean that she was a Sunni. She killed seventeen people! There is no way of knowing, I further suppose, what proportion of the suicide bombers are Iraqis and non-Iraqis.

I am astounded that the Sunni resistance movement would have stand-up fight with the Americans. The fact that the insurgents hit two helicopters and put them out of action, regardless of what is said, is significant. At least in the immediate term, the urban counter-insurgency strategy runs the risk of intensifying sectarian conflict and bloodshed. Political negotiation rather than police action may lead to less gruesome results, and furthermore may have been an option if not just for the bubble universe, but the closed minds of the leadership in Washington. What does the American Government have to gain from sectarian conflict?

Postscript:

I really do try to listen to the msm, but they drive me nuts, so I write what I think may be the case, then look around for further informed judgments for clarification and analysis.

Background (Internet Sources)

Institute for Counter-Terrorism (Israel), Countering Suicide Terrorism(23 February 2000).

Wikipedia, Female Suicide Bomber.

National Geographic Channel, Female Suicide Bombers: Dying to Kill (13 December 2004)

Spinwatch, Embedded Academics and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq. (7 December 2005)

Thomas E Ricks, US Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set, Washington Post, 21 February 2006.

MARGINAL SEAT POLLING April 11, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The Australian has a Newspoll suggesting that Labor is ahead in the marginal seats across the country, perhaps including WA. The Rudd honeymoon we are told continues.

Byran Palmer discounts the possibility that these polls are voting intention barometers, which common sense would also suggest.

The government still has all the advantages of incumbency, and given the life cycle of government, perhaps all the disadvantages as well. I suppose it is necessary to look at the factors that will work for the government, bearing in mind those things that it has no control over such as interest rates. My guest would be that even talk of interest rate rises, as there has been, would be a negative for the government.

People get wise to magicians after some time, and start looking at the slight of hand rather than the trick. John Howard will not be able to reinvent himself. Perhaps, the use-by date of this government has come and gone. Labor might be now looked at as a serious alternative.

My suggestion seeking to explain the public opinion polls is to reflect on the fact electors in Australia have two votes – they vote for the House and the Senate. The effective government majority in the Senate meant that the Work Choices Legislation was not subject of scrutiny, and it has meant that the Estimates Committee has lost its oversight, transparency and accountability role. The irony is that of this situation, which I propose runs counter to the democratic mind of the Australian electorate is the cause for the perception the government is arrogant, has been blamed on the government, although it cause was the preference flow of the Labor above the line vote.

This theory, which may be wrong, predicts that the disenchantment of public opinion is firmly entrenched, will persist, and will higher in Victoria. Contrary to expert opinion, my guess is that a significant proportion of the electorate is engaged in the democratic and political process. I would speculate that the decline in union membership has similar causes to the decline in party membership, which has other sources of socialization, including the media.

SMALL DEMO IN NAJAF! April 10, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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flag-dancing-najaf.jpg

Juan Cole has the overview of the demonstration, protest rally on Sunday:

Tens of thousands of followers of young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rallied in the Shiite holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad on Monday, protesting the continued presence of US troops in Iraq. They burned US flags and held up posters saying, “America will fall, will fall.” Chillingly, some of the demonstrators appeared to be soldiers in the Iraqi army. Although the Iraqi government tried to spin the demonstration as a celebration of the fall of Saddam, it was in fact an ironic denunciation of the US for not withdrawing from Iraq after the demise of the Baath. Sadr City residents in Baghdad also supported the demonstration by flying Iraqi flags. Iraqi authorities appear to have been terrified of Muqtada’s street power, and they imposed a curfew on the capital.

And there are photos as well, from Iraqslogger, above and below:

najaf-iraq-april-9.jpg

Looks impressive to me. And it appears to be more than political protest, more like an impassioned call for American withdrawal. I am not convinced that such demonstrations are evidence in themselves of a democratic spirit.

Tim Dunlop and the commenters at Blogocracy seem to illustrate the truism that one person’s spin is another’s truth. Still the Najaf demonstrators are carrying what I take to be the Iraqi flag, so this demonstration may be less sectarian than it is nationalistic. In this sense having both the Shia and Sunni united in their intense anti-Americanism may be something not possible under Saddam.

Perhaps in this instance, as in most others, truth is multi-dimensional.

FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL RACE April 10, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.
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The French Presidential Campaign seems to have been going on for sometime. Easter is the official beginning. I am surprised that voters in France have a choice as to registering to vote. Compulsory registration is so ingrained that it becomes an assumption I do not think about. Getting people to sign onto the electoral rolls, is a reason for starting the campaign early. There are twelve candidates, with three having a realistic chance of succeeding, according to Deutsche Wella.

Unlike the Americans, we can always learn how others run their elections. Amongst other things all the candidates get access to television, which as reported is not an unqualified merit:

Broadcasters are also now legally obliged to spread coverage of each candidate equally around the clock, strictly dividing interview time and reports on their campaigns.

 

In an editorial, the French daily Liberation warned the rules were based on “a neutrality that is as hypocritical as it is fictitious” and had “no chance of clearing the record levels of indecision that is the hallmark of this 2007 election.”

 

“The 12 candidates will have the same space to develop their ideas, when only three of them — Sarkozy, Royal and Bayrou — have any chance of applying them as president.”

 

The paper also complained that the rules would make the “television campaign about as sexy as reading the telephone book.”

The presence of Segolene Royal in the race, as much as the candidacy of Hilary Clinton in the US, will attract attention because of gender politics. Electoral systems come into play. If my memory is correct the Chilean system is modeled on the French,  and  Germany and New Zealand have similar systems. My sense is that Ms Royal is not travelling well.

BLOGGING RANDOM THOUGHTS April 10, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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Ken Parish and team do a job in keeping up with Ozblogistan. There is more to the blog(o)sphere than dreamt on my blogroll. As somebody said, and it is true for me with time to burn, I have other (less important) things to do, and when not done seem to attract unusual attention.

It is to me interesting to reflect what political conversations work best, on what blogs, and why? My impression is that there are two essential conditions: a comments policy and active moderation. Kim, and the commenters at Larvatus Prodeo (http://larvatusprodeo.net/2007/04/09/civility-20/#comments) have some thoughts on this subject.

The book reading on ABC is Orwell’s 1984, reminding me that my enthusiasm for the new leads me to ignore other, and possibly darker, possibilities.

SUPER 14 April 8, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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I do not have pay TV, so I do not get to see the matches, but it seems to me that Queensland’s eight straight loss to the Sharks (Durban) was more significant than the large loss of the Western Force in Christchurch.

The Force, at least, have the excuse that they were playing away from home. I get the impression from the scoreline alone, that the Force must have played badly for whatever reason, but when there is eight consecutive losses the thought is that the Queensland cannot play well.

Have the four Australian teams drained the available talent, or have talented players not been well apportioned to the different franchises? If the later, then there is an administrative problem, which is always inimical to achieving consistent results.

Today the Brumbies play the Waratahs.

. . . no worries the Brumbies win convincingly, leaving the Waratahs and the Reds on the bottom of the table.

And Bangladesh defeat South Africa at the Cricket World Cup.

(My apologies to anybody who clicked on here thinking that I might have something to say. I am in the same position as you. This is supposed to be a hint for somebody to take up that challenge. Sometimes these incantations appear to work, and sometimes not. I  hope for more success than my appeal against spam.)

THE SOCIAL UTILITY OF BLOGGING April 8, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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I know it is a tired old argument, often spun out by people who do not know what they are talking about, but quoted by the msm as persons who should. Bloggers, with few notable exceptions, so it goes, are people with personality dysfunctions, notably they are narcissists, because they presume to do what only the media can do, provide commentary and analysis on news and other matters.

The latest example of what I regard as foolishness at first sight comes from The Guardian, which might be expected to provide a better analysis than to rely on a supposed expert.

Andrew Keen, a former dotcom entrepreneur and the author of the forthcoming book Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, says that though it is enticing to believe that online diaries are empowering, the hype is dangerous.

“It’s seductive in the sense that it convinces people to think they have more to say and are more interesting than they really are,” he said. “The real issue is whether it adds any more to our culture. Most of it is just so transient and ephemeral.”

. . .”But generally I don’t see a social benefit. It’s just a great vehicle for next-generation media personalities. Why do I want to know what some guy sitting on the west coast of America thinks about Iraq? Would you pay to listen to this person?”

One answer might be that in a democracy what some guy sitting on the west coast of America, Australia, or anywhere else might be thinking, provided he addresses himself to” the public meeting”, which may be large or very small depending on the the blog. I would like to believe that no one is intimidated from commenting here. Blogs can be used to share opinions and arguments, and to test them by seeking out the informed people. That requires diligence. We can be wrong, but democracy requires difference to work – the sic et non of the dialectic.

I have always believed that people who take the time to be informed about any topic, so that they can speak, or even write about, informally in a small group have added value to the democratic society as a whole. My memory goes back to specific instances. I remember a man expounding the virtues of a second chamber for New Zealand at Arthur’s Pass as a recall so that people in the back blocks, the isolated areas could have a voice in proportion to what he claimed was their economic contribution. He was prescient to the extent that the electoral status quo did change in New Zealand, one of the most remarkable developments in modern history, an event that usually requires war or climate change. I remember as the sun was setting leaving a red sky over the flat and sparse landscape of the West Australian wheat fields , the wheat farmers standing around the yard on trucks condemning wharfies for striking. Our views are perhaps always shaped, and limited by our place in the system of production and consumption. When I was working on the wheat bins there was an Italian who asked: What is your political opinion from fascism to communism? That impressed me because I realized that the Italian Parliament has that spectrum of opinion, world views, which encourages the man in the street to think politically in those terms. When I was part of a prospecting team out the back of Carnarvon, we would come across the odd individual who had detailed knowledge about mining companies beyond their on the ground operations. Of course, I also remember Winston Smith asking in 1984 the old man what it was like before the Revolution, and being somewhat dismayed by trivial recollections.

Now I agree that addressing yourself to “the public meeting” is another matter, even if we have made the democratic assumption that everybody might have something of value to say, and that we should exercise the discipline to listen, and be of a mind to hear. This idea predates newspapers and the media machine. It goes back to Athenian Democracy and to the enthusiasm of the Puritans. For me, at least addressing the public meeting, illustrated by example by Letters to the Editor, expresses the notion of the active, responsible citizen. I think it is the case that many of us, through lack of education in rhetoric as distinct from writing have not been able to fulfill. While I count my blessings, as I value the comments I get here, we can see the problems with comment threads elsewhere. But that is OK. Social learning is going on, which others might call, communication, a very human thing to be doing. While perfection will never be, who can argue with a straight face that the appropriation by the Media of citizenship is not profoundly flawed, if still useful?

Blogging is an adventure. It goes beyond private letter writing, which after all lead to novel writing and novelists. The private and the public, as in setting out my ideas and developing an opinion, are merged by blogging in an amorphous way, with significant variations in scale, which may range from mass readership to narrow-casting with variations within the range. To the extent that blogging is an adventure in democratic citizenship, it might, or has social utility.

But let us too not despise the exchange of information of what might be thought be more mundane matters.

Postscript: 09 April 2007

Not everybody is happy with the information and range of opinion provided by the Media, specifically television companies. Modulator draws attention to The Truism of the Day, in which the media follow their own narrow agenda, and not the interest of democratic society frame, filter and distort opinion and information. Pharyngula thinks that we are part of the problem. We should be doing something about it. So more blogs, and other forms of public political behavior, not less?

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – THE PLEASURE OF RAIN April 7, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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The topic of climate change is in the air. Extreme events it seems will become worse. Still we have reached that part of the year when we can sometimes feel the chill in the evening or early morning. And we managed to get through the summer without bush fires. We had plenty of days with rain, which can be a mixed blessing.
At one moment the rain falls like the quality of mercy, then it comes down heavily, and then it goes away. I seem to pick the wrong moment to take Sasha and Dexter out. They do not seem to mind, and to even understand that “four legs good, two legs bad” applies when we are going down the potentially slippery paths – or more exactly that is what I imagine.

Here is a short chronology of the past week for Sasha and Dexter:

Avoiding the bikes. 30 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Someone afoot. 30 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Creating a middle path. 01 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

A cheerful outlook. 01 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Taking shade. 01 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Off the track. 02 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

 

Covering both directions. 03 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

One view of the world. 04 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

“I will just enjoy myself”. 04 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Flash vision. 04 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Dexter finds a stick. 04 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

Cooper: On the road again. 06 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

[Cooper comes around for a visit while I sweep leaves and bottle brush flowers, while Dexter in particular guards his territory.
I call to Cooper to get off the road,which he does, and then he hears voices and decides it time to, he runs home.]

It may be raining , but we are out. 06 April 2007.Posted by Picasa

We will again this week seek to board Friday Ark#133 at Modulator and catch the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings.

BOSTON UNDER WATER April 6, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth.
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The Boston Globe has an interactive graphic showing the effect on the rise on sea level due to natural causes and global warming will have on that coastal city.

Perhaps it could be useful for us to look into the future in a similar way. I cannot but think that the reality of global warming as it closes in on us will play havoc with property insurance.

IRAN HOSTAGE RELEASE April 6, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East.
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Personally, although the situations were very different, the capture of the British service people in Iran, evoked memories of the American Embassy hostage event. The event turned out somewhat differently this time. British PM Blair was able to declare that “no deal had been entered into”, and Australian PM Howard provided some type of commentary on events, which managed to be neither informed or perspective. In that he is not alone. Doubtless, the msm will produce the usual level of serious commentary almost designed to leave us uninformed and ignorant, or at least comfortable and relaxed in some self-serving paradigm (hopefully I might be proved wrong).

What to do? Well, it is possible to listen to the relevant section of Late Night Line heard last night. David Wearing has an interesting analysis at his Democrat’s Diary today, supported by numerous links. His analysis has points of agreement and contrast with that proposed by Michael Rubin. Najmeh Bozorgmehr,Tehran Correspondent, for The Financial Times points out the British, for historical reasons, are hated in Iran.

I recommend David Wearing’s post.

IRAQ AND VIETNAM April 4, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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The leaving of Iraq will not be like the leaving of Vietnam, or if it is, it will be a greater strategic disaster and loss of reputation for the United States. The leaving of Vietnam was left too long resulting in unnecessary deaths, and the same can be confidently said for Iraq. Underlying both situations is the stubbornness that if the US just holds out it will prevail. It could be argued that the stakes are higher in Iraq than they were in Vietnam. I suspect that the Iraq occupation cannot be sustained, and the point has now being reached where the costs, material and immaterial, tangible and intangible, clearly outweigh the benefits. One legacy will be the alienation of the Arab and greater Islamic World.

Still the situation is paradoxical. The US Administration will argue that withdrawal, or even a timetable for withdrawal will signal a victory for terrorism, and that victory may be unavoidable. If the terrorists win a victory it will be due to the US overstretch. A timetable is the best option to signal the withdrawal of the US presence and the assumption of full political authority by the Iraqi Government. A timetable would be far preferable to a collapse and retreat as experienced by the Russians in Afghanistan.

The specific differences of Iraq and Vietnam are interesting to consider.

The professional army has been undermined in Iraq, whereas in a conscript army largely fought the Vietnam and generated widespread protest led by the most affected target population. In this respect the spectre of Vietnam hovers over Iraq, even as it is written out of the story. The organizational culture of the army designed for intelligent decentralization has been infected by heavy-handed top-down control, the lowering of entry standards, and the use of highly paid, mercenary contractors.

In Vietnam there was a broadly united resistance movement closely aligned to the North Vietnam government. Withdrawal meant the unification of Vietnam which was nationalist purpose which had grown out of colonization. The Vietnamese army was subsequently able to overthrow Pol Pot and fight a border war with China. By contrast in Iraq the invasion and the overthrow of the existing government has fragmented the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, which has the potential to cause wider fragmentation and conflagration in the Middle East. Following a withdrawal, the chances of neighbouring countries sending military forces into Iraq is almost pre-ordained. The Turks are unlikely to tolerate the existence of an independent Kurdist state. The Saudis will be concerned about their minority Shia population, and the Iranians may stand ready to support their co religionists. Such complications did not exist in Vietnam.

The Neo-Cons might have been able to lie about oil as a reason for invading Iraq, but access to oil will be a major liability should the US be forced out. Vietnam was largely a strategic non-entity. The withdrawal of US forces did not result in the loss of strategic leverage.

Background – Google Links:

Leslie H. Gelb and Richard K. Betts, We are not fighting to Lose, The Washington Post (14 January 2007).

David Kaiser, The Truth in the Details, History Unfolding -Blog-(01 April 2007.)

Juan Cole, How to get out of Iraq, The Nation (5 April 2007)

Arno J Mayer, Bush Bashing and the Empires Onward March, Counterpoint (7/8 April 2007)

FLYING TRAINS April 4, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
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The French trains are moving these days somewhat faster than in the days of coal and steam while staying on the rails. The high speeds were achieved between Paris and Strasbourg. The BBC reports:

A French high-speed train (TGV) has smashed the world record for a train on conventional rails by a big margin, reaching 574.8km/h (356mph).

The previous TGV record was 515km/h (320mph), set in 1990. The record attempt by a modified TGV took place on a track between Paris and the eastern city of Strasbourg. The absolute train speed record was set by a Japanese magnetic levitation train – Maglev – in 2003. It reached a top speed of 581km/h (361mph).

Too fast for me. I would prefer to travel from Paris to London.

POLL WATCH April 3, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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pollchart-aggregated3.pngBryan Palmer’s aggregated polling, via Missing Link at Troppo, suggests that the Federal Government is in trouble, as a matter of priority needing to stem the erosion in first party preferred votes. Once supposes that Kevin Rudd’s honeymoon will start at some point to lose its shine. The significance of this aggregated set of polling results is that they reflect the Burke bucket and the subsequent events.

I think that these polls illustrate at least two conclusions. The risks of appealing to swing voters before the base for fully energized and committed to the program. Secondly the government is tired and has run out of ideas, clodded as it is by mediocrities. The result in NSW comes to mind where Carr stepped down, as if he had other things to do with his life, but perhaps that is easier at the State level.

Update:

Rudd and L:abor have marginally lost ground in the latest Newspoll, published by The Australian. The ABC reports this morning that the polls would at this stage be following the pattern from the last election cycle.

THE DAVID HICK’S STORY April 3, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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David Hick’s experience in Afghanistan, his incarceration in Guantanamo Bay and charging was featured on Four Corners. The program transcript can be read here There is useful background information that I might read here.

The program argued that Hicks was illegal regime of incarceration, which preordained his guilt despite the evidence he had offered to the Australian Federal Police, and that the process, involving torture, was simply a show trial conducted for political purposes to provide a superficial legality. The question is why? Is it true that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Gonzales effectively proposed the abandonment of the rule of law?

The guilt or innocence of David Hicks has not been established by a properly constituted legal proceedings. Admission of guilt is par for the course for show trials, as this one, including the plea bargaining, appears to have been.

Lawrence Wilkinson observed:

I have actually had military officers whose views I respect tell me that we have gotten virtually nothing out of the interrogations at Guantanamo. And that is just damning, if that ever comes out, that we really didn’t get very much meaningful intelligence from these people.

Compared to other detainees, Hicks was fortunate, but not as fortunate as his three colleagues in Afghanistan who seem to have escaped or else were released by the British Government once secured back to the UK.

John Bellinger explained the difficulty with which the United States was faced:

That’s really what’s so difficult here, is that – I think, now that we all look back in retrospect, we find that there were gaps in our laws both domestically and even internationally, and we have all had to scramble to fill in those gaps, but I don’t think that we should simply say “Well, it’s too bad, looking back that on September 11, that we didn’t have enough laws on the books and that therefore these people who all trained in acts of terrorism” ought to just go free.”

As Michael Mori said “you can’t create an offence after the fact”. The application of the laws of war and the definition of terrorism, not least the charge of material support for terrorism, with which Hicks was charged after the delayed charges previously laid against him were dropped following the decision of the US Supreme Court, become vague and non-specific. Lawrence Wilkinson expects other detainees will be less likely to get plea bargain opportunities, with derelict standards of justice, until the facility is presumedly closed in disgrace:

With people like David Hicks, I think they’re going to have considerable difficulty as they move through these people and have more and more corrupted evidence trails, less and less proof of their guilt, and less and less – and this is very important – less and less political pressure, as in the case of David Hicks, to plea bargain.

Kevin Drum set off a surge of comments by suggesting that “under normal circumstances we’d all be well advised to cut the administration some slack”. What is with these people insisting on the rule of law and due judicial process?

Postscript:

The US Supreme Court has declined to intervene in the proceeding at Guantanamo Bay or to provide for habeas corpus on the basis that the detainees are not US citizens and that Guantanamo is not part of the US.

The UN Commission on Human Rights did provide a report supporting legal and human rights for detainees.

The Miami Herald, via CommonDreams, pretty much summed up the case in its editorial published on 09 April 2007. It was a political deal rather than a conviction, Hicks would admit to anything to get out, the prosecutors were not involved in the plea bargain, and nobody will believe in any future Guantanamo conviction for terrorism or anything else, and so it will be far better to get back to the established procedures and principles of the Uniform Military Code. It would be even better, to have established international law to deal with terrorism in the absence of the appropriate metropolitan courts. Hicks should have been tried within an appropriate time in Afghanistan, and if not possible there, in Australia in accord with international standards, procedures and precepts. All of which supposes that he could credibly be charged with war crimes or terrorism in the first place.

DO EDITORIALS MATTER? April 2, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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They may be taken as a change in the political climate. Relatively few people read editorials compared to those that watch cable television. The New York Times headlines their recent editorial: The Rovian Age. They conclude:

The investigation of the firings of the United States attorneys seems to be closing in on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who should have been fired weeks ago. But Congress should bring equal scrutiny to the more powerful Mr. Rove. If it does, especially by forcing him to testify in public, it will find that he has been at the vortex of many of the biggest issues they are now investigating.

As influential as Karl Rove may prove to be, he is not behind all the moves of the Bush Administration. The fuller picture requires the inclusion of Richard Cheney, and previously Donald Rumsfeld to explain the establishment of Guantanamo Bay and the use of military contractors, such as those employed by Blackwater, in Iraq.

Does the expression of support for Congressional oversight, and democratic accountability, make any difference? I doubt it.

VALUE AT THE BOSTON GLOBE April 1, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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The Boston Globe is one of those newspapers on my regular bloggers circuit, if I have the time. Not only is it the home of columnist James Carroll, notable to pointing out to me that the concept of Western Europe was significantly defined in terms of the other represented by Islam, it runs a pretty good editorial and other interesting columnists.

I understand the pundits in Washington are suggesting that the Democrats back off purgegate. Read the Globe’s editorial and then consider whether or not this exercise of congressional oversight it absolutely essential.

I know from first hand that socialism works. The demonstration effect is stronger for me than any ideological argument.  There is a model for success in the US and in American football, as referred to by Derrick Z. Jackson.

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