Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This kind of crap infuriates me!

Here's a story from the Central Coast Express Advocate:

Look after post box or lose it


Australia Post will remove post boxes that are repeatedly attacked by vandals.

Look after your nearest post box or you will lose it, warned Australia Post after one at Umina Beach was destroyed by fire for the second time this year.

Australia Post spokeswoman Sheridan Beattie said in extreme cases they would relocate or remove boxes repeatedly targeted by vandals.

"Obviously it is an inconvenience to the community if a post box is out of service due to vandalism,'' Ms Beattie said. "But clearly it is not in the community's interests for Australia Post to maintain a box in which mail may not be safe or the public's safety is at risk.''

People who posted mail in the box outside the Umina Beach Post Office between Friday and Sunday are urged to check it arrived.

Post boxes cost $1000 to replace and this box was also attacked in June.

Ms Beattie said it was important people called police if they noticed any unusual activity around a post box.

With the rise of identity fraud, Ms Beattie said the situation was a concern.

"Although most of the damage inflicted on post boxes can be attributed to petty vandalism, the damage can sometimes be from would-be thieves attempting to access the mail inside,'' she said.

"Look after your nearest post box." How the hell are people supposed to do that? With round-the-clock vigilante patrols? By posting a sentry at the box? It's not the public's responsibility to protect post boxes or to act as law enforcement officers.

How about some policing? These morons vandalise much more around the area than just the odd postbox. How about the courts giving appropriate sentences to the brainless cretins whose level of intelligence is such that they think vandalising a post box is entertainment? How about Australia Post building post boxes into Post Office walls instead of as free-standing units? How about fixing the problem, for Christ's sake!

No, not to the bureaucratic mind. To them it's much simpler. If their paying customers are inconvenienced because their post box has been destroyed, the answer is to remove the box and inconvenience them permanently.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Save us from politicians!

The obvious first steps to solving long-term water problems are recycling what we use and storing what we currently pipe out to sea.

We have to be given alternatives to using pure drinking water to clean our cars, our footpaths, to water our gardens. And we have to store the rainwater that doesn't fall in the cachement area, which we already harvest but channel to the wrong place.

So what does our Premier come up with?

Here's what the Express Advocate reports:

Pipedream or saviour?

An artist's impression of what the new Tillegra dam will look like when completed. **

A BOLD and far-sighted rescue plan or gigantic political stunt?

Opinion was divided after Premier Morris Iemma's pledge on Monday to build a $342 million dam to help secure the Central Coast's water supplies.

Mr Iemma said the giant 450billion-litre Tillegra Dam, near Dungog, would service the Lower Hunter and Central Coast.

He also announced the expansion of the Hunter pipeline to the Central Coast. The Hunter pipeline will be finished early next month and capable of pumping 27 megalitres a day.
Monday's announcement will mean the allocation will jump to 35 megalitres or half the coast's daily needs by next December.

The Premier's long-term solution, however, will see water flowing from Tillegra Dam by 2013.
The cost of the ambitious project for Central Coast residents remains unclear.

Mr Campbell said funding for the project would come from new development and developer contributions. A quarter of the projects funding will come from a $20 levy to be paid by Hunter residents from 2009.

The remainder will be recouped by Hunter Water's sale of water to the Central Coast or through commercial arrangements with the Central Coast water authority.

Construction on the dam is expected to start by mid next year, with planning approval taking up to five years and another three to five years for the dam to fill.

"This will not only secure supply for Hunter families, but will ensure the crisis on the Central Coast will not happen again,'' Mr Iemma said. "With the Central Coast's dams standing at only 15 per cent full, and no long-term recovery in sight, now is the time for bold and far-sighted action.''

Brilliant! If it rains, we'll have enough pure drinking water to wash our cars, clean our footpaths, water our gardens...

** My asterisks. Two words Mr Iemma.



Suppose it doesn't rain as you would like it to? The dam isn't going to look like the artist's impression is it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

When all else fails...

...execute the dictator.

So says River in her brilliant record of life in Iraq as it really is, rather than as our leaders would like us to believe it is.

Please read her posting, here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

No 'resignation', the sheikh must be removed. Now.

According to press reports, the mad fanatic al Hilaly has asked to be placed on 'indefinite leave'.

That is not good enough.

The Muslim community is being hugely ill-served by the Lebanese Muslim Association, owners of Lakemba mosque where the crazed addresses are being delivered.

They must demonstrate clearly that his views are repugnant to mainstream Muslims and remove him. Immediately. With no further discussion or dithering.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Hand wringing and complaining about Muslim-bashing is feeble, weak, if they won't take this action to promote the true story. They have the opportunity to demonstrate to the non-Muslim community that these stone-age opinions are those of a tiny minority of fanatics. That they are not the opinion of the vast majority of Muslims. That they are not a correct interpretation of Islam.

They can do that by removing permission for him to use the mosque. With immediate effect. Do not allow him to 'resign' or take 'indefinite leave'. They must no longer allow him to use the mosque. By doing so they demonstrate their rejection of the madman and his extreme opinions. By not doing so they encourage Australians to believe they agree with his views, that his views reflect Islamic thinking.

That is as insane as the mad sheikh's ravings!

The wider Muslim community leaders must get together as a matter of extreme urgency and dismiss him as Mufti of Australia & New Zealand. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that such a meeting is being discussed, but discussing it is simply not good enough.

Even worse, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association is quoted as saying: "This will take time to resolve and we are not going to be rushed or pressured into making a decision. The Mufti's comments are embarrassing and we regret that he made them, but the issue of his future standing has to be worked through."

No, no no! The issue isn't in any doubt. His views are unacceptable to the Australian community, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. He must be removed, he must be seen to be removed. At the earliest possible moment.

From that strange parallel universe...

They live in a different world don't they. A strange parallel universe where black is white, wrong is right, it's all someone elses fault.

We've just had BushW again repeating his mantra "The US doesn't do torture" for example.

Now Karl Rove, the man known as 'White House political guru' and 'presidential adviser'...in other words the brains behind BushW (pause for hysterical laughter)...has come up with another doozie.

According to reports: "...Karl Rove blasted Democrats for even suggesting the US withdraw from Iraq, saying the US can't leave one of the world's largest oil reserves in terrorist hands."

Dontcha just love it!

Who the hell caused the terrorists to go into Iraq! Who jeopardised the oil reserves! Terrorists weren't there until the invasion and the monumental cock-up of the situation since.

Take a bow Mr Rove. Acknowledge your key role. You were a vital part of the cabal that caused the disaster.

He went on to say: "More sacrifice is going to be required." The report doesn't tell us exactly who he's volunteering to do the sacrificing. But you can bet your life - like too many literally are - that Mr Rove and his cronies aren't about to be doing much personal sacrificing.

By the way, the same report gives more support to my firm belief that the US is rapidly moving to 'declare victory and withdraw' (which I posted on Wednesday).

A statement yesterday from BushW and Iraqi Puppet Prime Minister Maliki outlined three goals: speeding up the training of Iraq's security forces; moving ahead with Iraqi control of its forces; making the Iraqi government responsible for the country's security.

Declare victory and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Mission Accomplished and anything that goes wrong after that is the fault of the Iraqis.

That's the plan.

The full AP report is here

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Declare victory and withdraw"

It seems quite clear to me that the US is planning for Iraq what Senator George Aiken urged President Johnson to do exactly 40 years ago.

In October 1966 the Senator urged Johnson to “declare victory and withdraw” from Vietnam.

The noises now coming from various US politicians seem to be suddenly moving in that direction.

In spite of reports that the training of the new Iraqi army – America having disastrously disbanded the original army! – is going well enough to hand over to them, a report by Lt. Col. Nick Demas paints a very different picture.

The colonel’s soldiers, most of them inexperienced reservists from Maryland, had been tapped to serve as advisers to the Iraqi army. Bush has touted such advisory teams as key to the US strategy for stabilising Iraq and bringing American troops home. Lt Col Demas and his troops expected some of the best instruction the army had to offer. His report says: " In my 28 years of military service, I have never seen such an appalling approach to training. Nowhere else in the army system would this have been acceptable." His soldiers received only a few hours of instruction in Arabic, Iraqi culture and advising foreign forces.

However, whether the Iraqi army is ready or not, victory will be declared, Bush and his poodles Howard and Blair will claim they stayed the course, saw it through until the job was done, didn’t cut and run.

They will wash their collective hands of the devastation they have caused, the civil war, the ongoing carnage, the likely break-up of the country into three.

The Iraqi government will then be blamed for what happens in the future.

Foreign forces need to be withdrawn, of that there is no doubt. But to leave without taking responsibility for causing the disaster is dishonest in the extreme.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

W's parallel universe.

President Bush yet again proves that he lives in some strange parallel universe.

He pushes through a law that allows non-American citizens to be detained indefinitely, to be subject to harsh interrogation, for CIA secret prisons to be operated overseas, for people to be labelled enemy combatants and outside the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

Then comes the surreal "As I've said before, the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values."

Mr President, you've just passed a law that makes it one of the US' values. That brings it within your laws.

What you've done, yet again, is to change the things the US has traditionally stood for.

And he went on: "This bill spells out specific recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes in the handling of detainees so that our men and women who question captured terrorists can perform their duties to the fullest extent of the law."

Alleged terrorists, Mr President. Alleged. You've declared them guilty before they've even been detained.

Note "can perform their duties to the fullest extent of the law."

The law has been changed to cover what they've been doing. Do something illegal, change the law, now it's legal.

This is not what America should be about.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

David Hicks

Just reading an update on David Hicks, held in Guantanamo now for almost five years without trial. It isn't new but I was reminded again about the non-existent link with justice in the whole sorry issue.

I fully supported the international, legal decision to invade Afghanistan and remove the Taliban, because of their practical support for terrorists. (The lack of planning what to do after the inevitable victory is another story altogether).

However, the Taliban were the government of the day - Hicks was captured fighting for the government of the day against invading armies. That makes him a prisoner of war and he should have been treated as such. As the awful Ruddock and Howard have said on several occasions, he committed no crime under Australian law.

But in the surreal, bizarre world the current American regime has created, Hicks, a prisoner of war, is charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes and attempted murder.


The UK and Australia, to their neverending shame, go along with this and the rest of the world looks the other way.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Clinton lashes out at Fox News...and more.

Have you caught up with Bill Clinton's interview on Fox News?

It was supposed to be about his Global Initiative but was, as you could have guessed, a political ambush. The old neo-con smear that Clinton did nothing about Bin Laden was rolled out yet again, that the disasters we have thanks to BushW are actually all Clinton's fault.

This time though Clinton hit back. Copies of the interview naturally found their way onto the 'net, but then they disappeared from YouTube - apparently a DCMA complaint was filed by Fox News Network, L.L.C. against the YouTube web site and the 'offending' videos removed. They are now back on the site.

It really is a video worth watching and you can find it here.

It's provoked a huge amount of comment, amongst which is one that I think is quite remarkable.

On his Countdown programme on MSNBC TV, Keith Olbermann really lets go at Fox and BushW.

"...a past President, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back."

"The nation's freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do as much damage as Al Qaeda."

"The nation's marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would have quit."

It really is a remarkable attack and you can watch it on the programme's Special Comment segment.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Live animal export should be stopped.

A report in today's Sydney Morning Herald is headlined "Death ships: anger grows as sheep export toll hits 40,000

It reports that 40,000 sheep died on sea voyages in 2005, up from 30,000 which died in 2004.

Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran, saying the report showed 99.17 per cent of sheep arrived at their destination alive, went on: "The percentage of stock losses is the best measure of the performance of the livestock export industry, as they put the numbers into perspective."

I have to agree with The RSPCA's president Hugh Wirth who responded that the mortality rate should not be the only measure of animal welfare.

It really isn't acceptable in the twenty-first century that this animal cruelty is allowed to continue. Humane slaughtering and export of chilled meat is very obviously what we should be doing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Inland desalination plants!

This is madness. Utter stupidity.

From the Central Coast Express Advocate Where's the briny?...

ONE of four controversial desalination sites proposed in the Gosford area is more than 10km from the ocean...The site, along with two others, fronts estuarine water, not the ocean...The Gosford-Wyong Joint Water Authority will meet today to discuss the recommendations made by its technical advisory group.

Tecnical Advisory Group? They sound as competent as other advisory groups and consultants who've come up with unbelievably stupid reports in the past. The Haven project was another doozy. They had to keep us safe from falling rock - which was so solid they had to dynamite it.

I can't believe that even a council and its advisors can be this stupid or ill-informed. They must be taking the piss, surely.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Religion the cause of conflict?

The only comment I'll make is that I agree totally with this post from our fellow blogger Farrukh Naeem:

Not in God's name...

People have, in the course of history, committed heinous crimes in God's name and continue to do so - most of us are just too lazy or ignorant to challenge their distortions and lies.

Does any religion teach imperialism, greed and aggression? Or are the teachings of religions being twisted by the power hungry for material gains?

Jesus (peace be upon him) taught that you should turn the other cheek when someone hits you, and that you should love your enemies. Why don't the war-mongers ever quote this? Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught that killing one innocent human being is like killing all humanity. He prayed for those who stoned him till he bled from head to toe. Why don't the terrorists emulate this? I am sure Buddha, Sri Rama, Zarasthura must have taught tolerance and forgiveness too. Why aren't these teachings ever quoted by politicians and terrorists and war-mongers and the hate brigade?

Do religions support imperialism and political conquests? Should we take this answer from modern day conquerors, politicians and terrorists or should we go back to the teachers' lives?

Jesus (peace be upon him) did not have a roof over his head when he walked on this earth. Moses (peace be upon him) wandered homeless with his people for ages. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) left Makkah, his home city, fleeing the persecution of polytheists. His household used to starve for months on end, and they did not even have enough means to light a lamp the day he passed away. Sri Rama from India lived for 40 years in a forest, giving up his kingdom for his principles. Buddha was a prosperous prince who renounced his riches in search of the truth.

If we lived like these people, taking little, giving much, would we dropping bombs on each other, occupying foreign lands, killing, pillaging, destroying each other? I don't think so.To people who say that religion is a cause of conflict, I say it is not. The ignorance of religion is.

If all of us understood the true teachings of religions, there would be no one left to support those who attack humanity in God's name.

posted by Farrukh Naeem

Farrukh is worth reading. You can find his blog here Who wrote that

Double standards

The (London) Daily Telegraph reports that YouTube is showing videos of American soldiers being shot and blown up, in a piece headlined Website attacked over propaganda videos of soldiers' deaths in Iraq.

As you would expect, "Outraged relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq are now calling for the videos to be removed, or the website shut down."

The father of one of the victims said it was "deplorable" that YouTube was allowing such videos to be posted by its members.

"It's a propaganda tool, a recruiting tool and putting it on the internet like this is rubbing it in our faces," he said."It just infuriates me. Watching it was horrible. My son was hanging in there but he died eight hours after the explosion. He was only a kid."

I agree one hundred percent. Without question. Such images should not be shown.

Regardless of the nationality of the victims.

I well recall seeing on mainstream public television, film of Iraqis being killed. One that sticks in my mind is a man in a pick-up truck, jumping out and trying to hide from a helicopter gunship. We even had the voice-over of the aimer as the chopper hunted him down, then we saw the rocket fire hitting the road in front of him, he looked up startled, then was cut to pieces.

I read no outrage about that. I heard no-one demand that the tv station should be shut down. We didn't hear what his father thought about his son's death being broadcast on television around the world.

Double standards. Them and us. It's permissable for one side but not for the other.

No family should have to see film of their loved ones being killed. No family. American or Iraqi. Or anyone else.

By the way, the report includes the line: The videos, made as propaganda by Islamist extremists... Using the same logic, wasn't the film I'm referring to 'made as propaganda by the US military'?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What an outrage!

The government is guilty of huge water wastage. It's avoidable, it's common sense not to do it, in fact it will soon be a matter of life or death, but there's no doubt the wastage will continue. It's a disgraceful disregard for what should be done, what needs to be done, what we elect governments to do.

This is the driest inhabited continent on the planet. We're desperately short of water and the dams are drying out at an alarming rate.

It does rain, but unless it falls on the right place most of it simply runs into the ocean. No not runs, is deliberately piped into the ocean. Like this, a stormwater outfall at Balmoral yesterday:

Photo: Bob Pearce, SMH

Today's Sydney Morning Herald has an article Another great opportunity goes down the drain which says in part:

"...over the past five days 185 millimetres of rain has fallen at Observatory Hill, the kind of downpour more common in March or June.

But most of that water has gone down stormwater drains and out to sea because of an ad hoc approach to water conservation by the State Government...Sydney was slow in adopting stormwater harvesting compared with other Australian cities, (which) was more cost effective than subsidising rainwater tanks."

Now here's an example of innovative, sensible thinking from an even drier area, the Arabian Gulf. In Dubai what will be the world's tallest building is under construction. Outside is hot and humid, inside will be cool air-conditioning. The result will be condensation...and the building will include a condensate collection system.

"...condensed water will be collected and drained in a separate piping system down to a holding tank located in the basement car park. This water will then be pumped into the site irrigation system for use on the tower's landscape plantings. This system will provide about 15 million gallons of supplemental water per year, equivalent to nearly 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools."

You can read about it here

Meanwhile, our government can't even collect water that falls from the sky!

Most of us are doing what we can to conserve water, while our elected representatives are literally pouring it down the drain!

Monday, September 11, 2006

What an insult to our intelligence!

The Sydney Morning Herald reports a stunning new government initiative - that's years behind the times!

A prepay cashless bus service between Bondi Beach and the city will be introduced next month in what is being billed as the way to help speed up travel times.

The 333 bus will run every 10 minutes on the popular 380 route and is expected to lead to future trials of cashless buses in an attempt to get buses moving to the city more quickly.

In Singapore they've had smartcard buses and trains for years.

Hop onto the bus, tap your wallet on the reader and it logs you in. When you get off the bus you tap another reader. Bingo, quick, easy, no unnecessary delays for the bus.

I don't know how true it is but people there have told me it's an Aussie development.

At least some people here understand. The report goes on: The transport expert Ken Dobinson, a former head of the Roads and Traffic Authority, welcomed the initiative but said it was a "half-measure".

He said the Government had failed to introducing smartcard tickets for trains, buses and ferries, which would be much more beneficial for travel times.

Our transport is a sick joke, the management of it, investment in it, is a disgrace. Now the government's bragging about introducing decades-old systems!

Cashless buses to cut travel times

Thursday, September 07, 2006

An embarrassment to the country

Yet another federal minister demonstrating to the world what a lightweight he is.

How on earth Brendan Nelson is considered competent to be Defence Minister I can't imagine. Now we have him furiously U-turning over his earlier ill-advised and premature pronouncements on the death of Private Jake Kovco.

He joins a list of equally ill-equipped appointees to ministerial positions - Downer, Vanstone, Ruddock...what an embarrassment to the country they are.

Are they appointed because they're so lightweight they can't be a threat to Howard's leadership, or are they really the best we've got?

Nelson's backflip on Kovco

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Save us from fanatics!

I watched a documentary on Osama bin Laden yesterday.

He's doing what he's doing because God is telling him to.

I've heard George W. Bush say those exact words too.

Most people who do things because voices in their head tell them to are locked safely away...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Spot on!

From today's Australian. Sums up JWH pretty well...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So very true about JWH

Mungo MacCallum begins a tribute to Don Chipp with a short but oh-so-accurate summing-up of Our Great & Fearless Leader:

DON CHIPP was an idealistic Liberal. Nowadays that would be a contradiction in terms; in these unforgiving times idealism is not a quality fashionable in Australian politics, and particularly not in the Liberal Party.

The qualities John Howard admires and demands from his followers are ruthlessness, single-mindedness, the killer instinct; he is interested in results, not ideas. Idealism is best left to the do-gooders and bleeding hearts; it might rate a ritual mention on special occasions such as an election policy speech, but it has nothing to do with Realpolitik.

No vision, no compassion, just ideology and winning politically.

The full tribute is in Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Money wasted on Surf Clubs

Multi-million dollars are being thrown away by Gosford City Council on competely unnecessary Surf Clubs, duplicating others just a few hundred metres away.

I have no quarrel with council money going towards facilities that are necessary to give protection to swimmers. For true surf lifesaving activities.

But we're paying for duplicate and costly facilities only a few hundred metres apart.

On the Central Coast we have totally unnecessary clubs being built on beaches which already have a surf club. Examples are Terrigal & Wamberal, Avoca Beach & North Avoca.

Here's a report from the ExpressAdvocate:

New surf club worth the effort

GOSFORD ratepayers have been thanked for their contribution to the new Avoca Beach Surf Club.

The surf club was officially opened by Gosford Mayor Laurie Maher on Thursday.

Club president Garry Clarke said the new building was a true community effort.

"It would be remiss if I did not thank the ratepayers of Gosford city because this was a result of paying a levy. We respect and acknowledge what they have put in,'' he said.

The $2.2 million surf club was financed through a council water safety levy which will pay to rebuild six of the Central Coast's ageing surf clubs.

What it doesn't tell us is that there's a new Surf Club already there, just a few hundred metres along the beach at North Avoca.

On the next bay too, Terrigal with one sweeping arc of a beach, there is no need for more than one clubhouse.

In both cases there only needs to be one clubhouse. The rest of the beach needs only a watchtower, serviced from the main clubhouse.

Lifesavers could easily go out with their equipment in the morning from one clubhouse to position themselves at a watchtower a few hundred metres away.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mindset confirmed.

"We don't do body counts" was a memorable quote from Gen. Tommy Franks, who directed the invasion of Iraq. A moment of truth that must have had the spin doctors in a real spin. Too late, he'd said what he really thought without, for once, the news being managed.

It set the tone, confirmed a suspicion - non-Americans simply don't matter. 'We can't even be bothered to worry about how many Iraqis are killed'.

That's been confirmed over and over again, and now the latest revelation, from the LA Times & Washington Post. It clearly shows the mindset of the officers and the men they command. A sample of what it says:

Officer: Haditha killing normal

Washington: Commander of the battalion involved in last November's Haditha killings did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, according to a sworn statement he gave to military investigators in March.

It...provides a glimpse of the mindset of a commander on the scene who, despite the carnage, did not stop to consider whether Marines had crossed a line and killed defenceless civilians.

(Lt Col) Chessani told investigators he concluded that insurgents had staged a "complex attack" that began with a roadside bomb, followed by a small-arms ambush that was intended to provoke the Marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding."

I did not see any cause for alarm," especially because several firefights had occurred in the area the same day November 19, 2005 Chessani said. Because of that conclusion, the commander added, he did not see any reason to investigate the matter, or even to ask how many women and children had been killed.Incidentally, notice that we have that 'he made me do it' nonsense of an excuse yet again..."intended to provoke the marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding."

Incidentally, notice that we have that 'he made me do it' nonsense of an excuse yet again..."intended to provoke the marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding."

They couldn't win hearts & minds in Vietnam because of their disregard for non-Americans, it's continued ever since and I can't see it changing.

Read the full Washington Post article.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Christian fascists?

Remembering this, President Bush said Thursday that an uncovered British terror plot to blow up planes flying to the United States was further proof "that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists.", I wonder whether terrorists carrying out murderous attacks on behalf of their warped Christian beliefs, such as bombing abortion clinics and murdering the doctors, will be classified as 'Christian fascists'?

Or what about these Catholics:

Bomb discovery fuels fears of dissident republican revival

Owen Bowcott, Ireland correspondentThursday August 17, 20

The discovery of a partially detonated 70lb bomb in a house being built for the Ulster Unionist peer Lord Ballyedmond was blamed yesterday on dissident republican groups intent on launching a fresh campaign of terror.

The incident followed the Real IRA's claim of responsibility last week for fires in retail stores in Newry, County Down, and explosions on the nearby Belfast-Dublin railway line. More than £10m damage was caused.

In this week's attack on Lord Ballyedmond's house near Hackballscross, Co Louth, the detonator on the bomb, packed in a natural gas cylinder, exploded but failed to set off the main charge. Irish army bomb disposal experts eventually made it safe.

The Guardian

Just wondering whether being Christian makes a difference...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A performance bonus??!!??

As Telstra dives, Sol gets $2.6m bonus

Michael Sainsbury and Patricia Karvelas
August 11, 2006

TELSTRA chief Sol Trujillo has been rewarded with an $8.7million pay packet for a year in which he infuriated Canberra, wiped $16 billion off the value of the company and delivered the worst profit performance since it listed on the stock market nine years ago.

Despite yesterday handing down a 26 per cent slump in full-year net profit to $3.18 billion, Telstra said its imported chief executive had hit enough performance targets to pocket a short-term incentive bonus of $2.58million.

Full story is here

People have been fired for less. What the hell would he have been paid if he'd actually performed!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oh yes you can, Mr Howard!

"More than 15 billion litres of petrol were consumed last financial year, leaving aside business use.

Last financial year motorists spent $18.8 billion, of which $1.88 billion was GST.

If pump prices stayed at $1.40 a litre this year, they would spend $21.2 billion and GST collections would rise by $240 million, assuming petrol consumption remained static."

Mr Howard tells us the government can do nothing about petrol prices. It's the world oil price you see, completely beyond our control.

What about the tax Mr Howard? 'Excise' at 39.643 cents for unleaded petrol plus GST. That's not beyond your control, you can do something about that.

According to Shell, at a pump price of 138 cents, product cost is 78.7 cents, tax is 50.7 cents, Shell & retail margin is 8.6 cents.

There are many ways tax could be reduced - removal of GST altogether; GST only on cost not on 'excise'; a simple fixed dollar amount regardless of price and so on.

It's not out of the government's control, it's not impossible. Only the political will to do it is required.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Blogger plays at Edinburgh Festival

Let slip the blogs of war ...

New plays inspired by online diaries include one woman's story of life in strife-torn Iraq

Rob Sharp, arts and media correspondent
Sunday August 6, 2006 The Observer

The traditional assembly of attention seekers, hand-waving thespians and artistic extroverts that annually descend on Edinburgh for a month of theatrical festivities is set to be joined this year by the antics of an unlikely soul-mate - the normally secluded bedroom blogger.

A number of new plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the annual celebration of new theatre, which starts today, are taking inspiration from blogs, the online diaries which bring prominence to anonymous wordsmiths. Blogs have proved game fodder for those writing plays for the Fringe, anxious for new material to inform both jaunty comedies and more hard-hitting alternatives.

'I'd never heard of blogs until a year ago,' the play's director, Oliver Mann, told the BBC. Last year, he and a friend were contacted by an old classmate, who referred them to his online diary. Mann continued: 'He just wrote the most intensely personal stuff about his private life. We became so addicted to it that we were checking it out at work. We started sort of performing it for each other, and that is when I realised that a blog like this would work well as a kind of dramatic monologue.'

Mann's play is joined at the festival by Girl Blog From Iraq: Baghdad Burning, the dramatisation of an Iraqi woman's written experiences of Middle Eastern war. The show's director, Kimberley Kefgen, who is accompanying the show to Edinburgh after a successful run in New York, said her use of the blogging medium in the show was less important than the story she was telling, and added that initially she questioned whether the blog, Riverbend, which is still being written by an anonymous Iraqi, could be successfully transferred to the stage.

The full story from Britain's The Observer is here.

I'm a big fan and regular reader of Baghdad Burning. If you want the view from the street, without the spin from governments or military media centres, want to know what an Iraqi girl sees every day, her thoughts, beautifully and poignantly written, you can reach her blog here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mel Gibson - priorities

Much as I abhor racism, isn't it a disgrace that it's Mel Gibson's outburst that's being depicted as the serious crime, not that he was drunk driving thus endangering innocent lives. A breath test indicated Gibson's blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent. California drivers 21 and older must remain under 0.08 percent.

Where's the outrage at that?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The obscenity of war

This heart-rending front page photograph ran in "Gulf News" on Monday and has caused much debate, with opinions very much divided.

There was a particular letter complaining about it, with what I thought was a brilliant reply from the Photo Director:

How can the image of a dead child help?

Your newspaper was not allowed into my house on Monday morning. I had it thrown straight into the bin. It is distressing enough to read of the deaths of innocent children in times of war and conflict but completely unnecessary to show that image on the front page.
What happened to the classic photojournalism of war-torn countries which has won awards over the years for its clear message without having to resort to graphic and brutal pictures of burning bodies and crushed limbs?
We live in times when violence is so commonplace on TV to the point where no one takes any notice of real conflict and pain. How can the image of that dead child change what is happening in Lebanon? It appears to me the real reason this photograph has been published is to increase the sales of the paper.
When we live in a country where many things are taboo, surely sickening visuals of this nature should be sensitively handled and kept out of the press altogether.
How do you explain this photo to a child who sees it in the home? How does he understand that this is different from the game he then goes off to play on his Playstation or the internet?
From Ms S. Backhouse, Dubai

Our Photo Director replies:

Photojournalists covering the war in Lebanon have provided arguably the most harrowing images of death and destruction in recent times. They risk their lives to document the war crimes being perpetrated against defenceless women and children. We as a newspaper recording history are obliged to show the truth of what is happening and at times the truth is painful.

You contend that classic photojournalism images that have won awards do not depict the brutal imagery which has appeared in Gulf News and most Arab newspapers of late. I beg to differ on this issue as the greatest award-winning images have more often than not been violent. The napalmed children running through the streets in Vietnam, charred soldiers in a tank in Iraq, the pilot's body being dragged through Mogadishu streets, the Vietcong being shot in the head at close range, the man being beaten while being burnt alive during apartheid in South Africa, the starving child being watched by a vulture in Sudan, the killing fields of Cambodia, starving children in Ethiopia, the hacked bodies during the genocide in Rwanda, Bhopal gas explosion horror one can go on and on.

Great news pictures conjure up great horrors, great sorrow and inevitably are immensely brutal.

The child being hoisted from the rubble in Lebanon will go down as a great image of this war for its sure message: the war has killed and is killing the innocents. These images which are being widely used in the Arab media are being generally ignored by the western media. The result is outrage in this region and amazing apathy in the western world. Censorship of these images, the truth, only serves the perpetrators of violence and allows their crimes against humanity to carry on unchecked.It is our duty as a serious newspaper to expose this.

We live in the Playstation age where children and adults alike are desensitised by the carnage on their television sets because apparent "death" is so common and "resurrection" is a mere press of the button away. In real war there is no second chance or "restart" button and perhaps parents should be duty bound to explain the difference between "real" death and "cyber" death.

By throwing Gulf News in the bin you may have lost a great opportunity to teach your children about the reality of life and how different it is from Playstation's artificial life.

You ask: How can the image of that dead child change what is happening in Lebanon? Time will tell what impact it has but for sure there will be and already has been an impact on the minds of those who saw it.

Reading not only Australian newspapers but also those from the US, the UK, I see sanitised photos of the destruction. Buildings collapsed, people in hospital with a bandaged arm, crying women, but rarely a graphic photograph showing the true horror, the reality of what's happening.

Hiding the truth, sanitising the effects of barbarity will only help it to continue. People need to face up to the reality of what happens in war. To people on all sides of all wars. That's the only hope we have of ever stopping it.

By the way, the little boy shouldn't stay nameless. Abbas Mahmoud Hashem. Just one more innocent victim.

"Don't blame me..."

"...but I'll take all the credit when interest rates go down."

It's the way it goes with bloody politicians isn't it. In reality, world events, commodity prices, the global economy are really the factors behind interest rates.

When rates are high that's exactly what the politicians say - it's beyond their control.

Yet the moment rates come down they scramble over each other to take the full credit..."It's all because of my good economic management."

Howard by an accident of timing came to power when world interest rates were at historically low levels. There was 1% in the USA, zero percent on Japan, two or three percent was the norm in the industrialised world. He fell into it, he didn't create it.

On the other hand Labor were unfortunate to be in power when the world's interest rates were at historical highs.

In both cases they could fiddle at the edges but that's about all.

But the spin is relentless. Claiming credit, blaming others, being creative with the presentation of the facts, such as "... 3 per cent lower than when the Government was elected (in 1996) and 10 per cent lower than the peak under the Labor Party," Mr Costello told a specially convened media conference in Sydney. The Treasurer denied the Coalition had betrayed voters or that the third 0.25 per cent interest rate rise in 12 months - taking rates to their highest levels in five years - reflected badly on the Government's election pledge to keep rates low.

He also pinned the blame for higher rates on the last Labor government, more than a decade ago.

Mr Howard, while admitting his regret about the interest rise, said it was inevitable.

As Ross Gittins said in Sydney Morning Herald:

So don't fall for John Howard's excuse that no government can stop cyclones or control the world oil price. He's just trying to divert attention from a promise a more scrupulous politician would not have made - to "keep interest rates low".

Monday, July 31, 2006

Far too late, Dr Rice

It's time to talk ceasefire, says US

THE 19-day-old war in the Middle East has reached a turning point, with Israel's deadliest attack yet killing 54 people in southern Lebanon and the United States declaring it is time for a ceasefire.

Images of dead children - 37 children, police said - being dragged from the building in Qana, southern Lebanon provoked international condemnation and shattered the ceasefire talks.

In Jerusalem, Dr Rice said she was saddened by the attack: "I think it is time to get to a ceasefire. We actually have to try and put one in place."

Photo: AP/Nasser Nasser

63 members of the Chalhoub and Hashem families had been sheltering in the basement of one house when the attack occurred at 1.30 in the morning. One little blond boy of about three years was placed limply on a stretcher by a Red Cross volunteer, his dummy still attached to his shirt by a plastic chain.

Abbas Kassam, 31, a local man, said he knew both families, whose menfolk worked in construction and in tobacco. "There was a 13-month-old baby and a lot of children," he said. "The Israelis have planes and they see everything on the ground. They must have seen kids playing in front of this building.

Mothers embraced their dead children, still wearing their pyjamas they had gone to sleep in, while others retrieved the bodies and took them away.

The bodies of 23 children were among those recovered from the rubble of dozens of buildings that collapsed after the bombardment, said Salam Daher, the civil defence chief in the region.

"I retrieved my son and my husband, Sheik Mohamad, who were wounded. But when I came back to get my daughter who had stayed in the shelter, it was too late because the building had crumpled," cried a woman identified as Rahba.

Sydney Morning Herald

Hundreds of innocent people killed, very many of them children, on both sides of the border, lives torn apart, thousands have lost their homes, their livelihoods...and the best we can get from the one country that could have stopped it, but refused to do so, is "I think it is time to get to a ceasefire."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel/Lebanon. Blame the bigots.

On the insanity going on in Israel/Lebanon, reading through various blogs in The Australian Index I don't see much from a Lebanese/Palestinian perspective. A balanced view is essential if we're to even begin to understand what's happening.

Pre-determined blind prejudice is the root cause of the death and destruction and effectively bars any discussion, any chance of a peaceful solution.

There's a blindingly obvious need for willingness to accept that there are two sides to every argument. Without that there can never be a solution.

So here's some balance, two sides of the same story.

In another blogosphere there have been photos reprinted, including from the Sydney Morning Herald, of Israeli children writing messages on artillery shells prior to them being launched at Lebanon. Their authenticity was questioned (PhotoShopped? asked more than one blogger) and so backtracking was done.

An Israeli blogger tracked the photographer down, then found a reporter who was there. Yes, the photos were genuine, no they hadn't been doctored. But, naturally, there was a background to the photos.

"Kiryat Shmona has been under constant bombardment from South Lebanon since the first day of the conflict. On the day that photo was taken, the girls had emerged from the underground bomb shelters for the first time in five days. A new army unit had just arrived in the town and was preparing to shell the area across the border. The unit attracted the attention of twelve photojournalists - Israeli and foreign. The girls and their families gathered around to check out the big attraction in the small town - foreigners. They were relieved and probably a little giddy at being outside in the fresh air for the first time in days. They were probably happy to talk to people. And they enjoyed the attention of the photographers.

There's much, much more of course, and you can read the whole story here under "Putting things in perspective".

Now here's the comment from the other side of the border, from a Palestinian refugee who'd read the posts:

please stop this. i couldnt even read the whole article i had to skim through it trying to reach the point, and you know what this is a terrible empty excuse for demonic pictures. if the children were unaware of the meaning of such an act, i'm sure the parents looming around in the background are well aware. the parents were simple letting of steam and frustrated after being in shelters for 5 days??? WE WISH WE HAD SHELTERS THAT WE COULD HIDE IN FOR 5 DAYS. 7 of my family were killed, my niece was found in the field next to our house because she was blown out completly ... can you compare what is happening to us to what is happening in isreal, can u even compare??? you are an educated rational logical person, tell me is there a comparsion between what is happening, please enough, kill us, we are dead, but do not take away the peace of death by tormenting us with excuses to make it sound like the isrealis are not to blame... they took my home and my land, they now live on it and call it their home while i am a REFUGEE with no passport no identity no rights no nothing and u say that they r right, they r fruestrated becasue they have been in shelters for 5 days, i have seen my family murdered right in front of my house, they have the whole international worl supporting them, what bulshit what bullshit what bullshit what bullshit u say... this is injustice and God will not let this go, this is our suffering, God will not let this go.

it took us so much time to build our house, we built it with our own hands and everymorning my grandmother would spend hours in the garden, perfecting it, growing tomatoes and pears that were celbrated through all of lebabanon and we had our own heaven on earth with swings and flowers and trees and now it is all destruction with my grandmother lying dead with so many of the hands, my family that built this ruined house just for nasrallla whom i do not even support, after we were kicked out of palestine, when the isrealis took our land, we came here and through hard work we were able to start again and have a new life away from home, but now the isrealis have ruined us again, our second try, and they killed the half of my family that was left after the first time, i am so depressed i do not know what to do with my self or who to tell my story to or who will care to listen when i am a palestinian muslim, i am nothing in the eyes of the west, 2 isreali soldiers for so much destruction that is the balance in the modern world lieave me in my grief i cannot read such utter injustice anymore.

As I said, there are two side to every story.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Turning a blind eye...

Ministerial standards continue at an appalling level under the blind-eye approach of Our Great & Fearless Leader:

THE federal Minister for Tourism, Fran Bailey, has acknowledged making several private stopovers in Singapore to go shopping and visit her daughter while on official overseas trips.

The veteran MP upset embassy staff in Singapore on two stopovers when she insisted on one of her daughters being driven to and from the airport by official vehicles, sources in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have told the Herald.

Asked about the stopovers yesterday, a spokesman said the minister would not discuss private matters, adding: "Fran Bailey has travelled five times overseas in her capacity as Minister for Small Business and Tourism. All travel, including accommodation, was approved and complied with Commonwealth requirements. All travel was via the hub of Singapore. Two involved transits only and three involved stopovers. The three stopovers included one official visit and two private visits. The minister stayed in private accommodation for all three stopovers at no expense to the Commonwealth."

It is not the first time Ms Bailey's spending habits have come under fire. In May it was revealed that taxpayers had paid $5156 to train her in public speaking - an outlay she defended, saying: "I think it is essential for every employer to maintain personal skill levels and to provide professional training for their staff."

Last month Ms Bailey was listed by the Department of Finance as one of the top 10 spenders on travel among federal MPs, having spent $73,137 last year.

Ms Bailey's office has yet to answer questions, posed by Labor at the Senate Estimates Committee two months ago, which focused on three taxpayer-funded trips the minister took in the past year. The first related to an official visit to India between September 17 and 24
last year. The trip, which cost $28,082, was justified "to promote bilateral tourism relationship" as well as to sign a memorandum of understanding and attend Tourism Australia's Indian travel mission.

But it was not the purpose of the trip that prompted questions by the ALP's Kerry O'Brien during a Senate Estimates Committee hearing on May 29. Rather, it was where she stayed and whether she moved from the Hilton Hotel, where rooms start at $250 per night, to the more expensive Taj Mahal Palace, where the cheapest rooms cost $600 a night.

Senator O'Brien also wanted to know who had travelled with Ms Bailey and, if she made a stopover in Singapore, why a stopover was necessary and if taxpayers had picked up the tab. The questions were all taken on notice by departmental officers.

Senator O'Brien then turned his attention to a two-week trip in July last year to South Korea, Japan and China, which cost taxpayers $29,485, again asking if she had made an unscheduled stopover in Singapore.

A stopover was not mentioned in the official explanation, filed with the Department of Finance and Administration, which referred to "discussions on the developing tourism market" with China and the Aicho Expo in Japan.

Senator O'Brien wanted to ask similar questions about the minister's dash to London in March at the height of the row over the "So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign, but ended up placing them all on notice.

Ms Bailey's office said answers would be provided in Parliament within the next fortnight.

Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Foodies' delight.

In Singapore last week, where the food is excellent. Good fresh ingredients cooked freshly for you.

One evening we were out with a dozen or so people, way off the tourist track. Plenty of dishes appeared on the table and this one looked pretty good...

But I gave it a miss.

Five minutes earlier it was this...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pots & kettles

The old phrase "the pot calling the kettle black" came to mind when I saw this item:

Unions dishonest on IR ads: Howard
Prime Minister John Howard has accused the union movement of resorting to dishonesty in its campaign against his government's new workplace laws.

"Resorting to dishonesty" eh. That's rich, coming from John Winston Howard.