Saturday, August 03, 2002


Last week, former Indian High Court Judge, and now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Justice Prafullachandra Bhagwati released his report into the detention of people who arrive in Australia without authorisation. We are no longer able to call them “illegal immigrants”. They are not refugees, since there are no refugees in detention in Australia. Some are asylum seekers, but most have exhausted all avenues of appeal, and are awaiting deportation.

I’ll go out on a limb here, and venture that the good Judge is a volunteer in his current occupation, and he gets a reasonable amount of autonomy in his choice of assignment. That is, I’m confident he chose this task over any others that might have been brought to his attention, and it’s safe to assume he thought his time was better spent pursuing the Australian Government, ahead of any other country he could have chosen.

Justice Bhagwati spent 12 days “in country”, although he only managed to spend about four or five hours in contact with actual detainees. The rest of his time was occupied in speaking with activist groups, pressure groups, church groups, and the occasional Minister of the Crown. Taking into account travel time, report writing, initial research and meetings, we would not be far wrong to assume this matter has taken him a good working month to complete.

So here’s my question: might there have been a better use of his time? If he is concerned about child welfare, he might have looked at Child slavery in Togo. Or he could have spent a month helping theInternational Labour Organisation, who could have used his help, since they believe 250, 000, 000 children in the world are forced to work to survive. (for those without a calculator handy, that’s 2,500,000 times as many children in detention centres in Australia, none of whom are forced to work)

With a bit of a stretch, the Judge might have switched his trip to Cambodia Cambodia, to investigate child prostitution or to South Africa for ritual child murders (possible up to 300 so far, that’s about three times the number of children in detention here, none of whom have been murdered).

A month’s work in South Africa might have been appreciated, where a combination of ignorance and cultural misogyny has led to over 21,000 child rapes per year, as HIV-infected men attempt to cure themselves (that’s 210 times … you get the picture). Head north a few hundred miles, he might have dropped in on Malawi, where corruption has exacerbated the famine, and caused donor countries to cut aid. With a bit of help from his staff, I’m sure Justice Bhagwati would have been able to find some children there who could have been helped.

One phone call and he might have gotten directions to one of the thirty countries currently using an estimated 300,000 child soldiers.

Instead, Bhagwati thought his time was better spent here, telling a democratic country what it can and can’t do in pursuit of its border protection. A country with an acknowledged leadership in human rights, where race or religious crime is a virtual unknown, despite over one quarter of the population being born overseas.

I can’t imagine the local Australian Refugee Liberation Army keeping quiet if an Australian judge went to, say, France, and ripped into them for their detention policies. So why should we listen to a judge from a country where 5000 women die each year because their parents didn’t stump up enough dowry, where child marriage is common, and where Human Rights Watch estimate child labour at between 65,000,000 and 115,000,000. My calculator is starting to smoke, but I think you get my point.

For more rantings on Hugh Mackay, tool on over to Whacking Day, where you can also learn about Zen and the Art of Penspinning. I kid you not.
Will some kind person tell Hugh Mackay to shut up and go away? For a man who makes his living by being in touch with community thinking, he must be either not reading his own reports, creating his assumptions from whole cloth, or wilfully distorting what he’s hearing in his precious focus groups.

He tries to get this old nag to gallop
Exactly one year ago, the Howard Government was on the ropes, having been mugged by voters' resistance to the GST and by the hostility of business to the complexity of its implementation. Howard was beginning to look like a liability.

A quick check of Newspoll
for July 27-29 2001, the most reliable poll extant exactly one year ago, shows Prime Minister John Howard’s Coalition leading the Opposition 43 to 39, and Howard with a 7 point lead as preferred Prime Minister. In March, the Opposition was ahead by 12 points. So Mackay’s man “on the ropes” and looking like a liability had managed a 14 point turnaround in four months. Mackay is not indulging in a spot of distortion, this is simple untruth.

Then there’s the trick of linking two conclusions together without a shred of evidence
He is widely and extravagantly praised for three qualities that have always been seen as characteristic of him, but are now cited as veritable virtues: toughness, persistence and political cleverness.
Let's be clear what this is about. Bombarded with propaganda about a "crisis" involving a potential flood of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan - most of them Muslims and some of them possibly even terrorists - voters have rallied behind Howard and his Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock.

Toughness, persistence and political cleverness. He could be describing Paul Keating. Back at Newspoll, we see that by 5-7 October, Howard had indeed surged ahead in the “decisive and strong” polling. He was also leading strongly in understanding the major issues, and having a vision for Australia. Yes, that “vision thing”, Hughboy. Oddly enough, for a politician Mackay decries as populist and tapping in to base racism, Howard was losing on “in touch with voters”, “likeable” and “cares for people”.

But here’s the one that Mackay really doesn’t want to know about. By 5-7 October, Howard was ahead as “best able to handle the economy" 58 to 23. A 35 point spread. And under “best able to handle national security”, he had it 56 to 24. And this in a time when terrorist attacks on Australian soil were a very real possibility, and against an opponent who was a former Defence Minister.
So the surge of support for Howard … has been based firmly on his Government's handling of the detention of asylum seekers and its almost hysterical emphasis on border protection. If you've been puzzled about this, simply replace "border" with "Howard" in the phrase "border protection", and it all makes sense.

Certainly not on any of those side issues like 6% home loans, falling unemployment, support for popular allies and the failure of the GST to cause Sydney to slide into the sea. No, it’s all based on racism, fear and “hysterical emphasis on border protection”.

I wonder if Mackay would have written the same article had the ALP won the election. Given that the then Leader of the Opposition proudly stated that there was only a “cigarette paper’s difference” between his party and Howard's on border protection. Try this: simply replace “Beazley” with “Howard” in Mackay’s piece, and you’ll know if it’s likely. Or even possible.

[people] might prefer a little more inspiration, vision and statesmanship, but, in a crisis, they'll settle for toughness.

As Newspoll shows, voters think Howard delivers all three.

He limps toward the end, with more rubbish
The dark side of the present situation is that by engaging in the politics of fear - blatantly manipulating propaganda about asylum seekers to dehumanise them and heighten our hostility towards them - Howard and his colleagues have given us permission to sink to new depths of intolerance and prejudice. When we are encouraged to pillory the refugee, other prejudices are also unleashed: anti-Asian, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-Aborigine

In Mackay’s universe, a Government can be simultaneously anti-immigration, and have the highest immigration intake in a decade. It can be anti-Muslim, and see huge swings towards them in strong Muslim seats. The country can sink to new depths, and still rank in the top five places to live in the world.

Why won’t he just shut up?
We'll ultimately feel worse about ourselves as a result of all this because we are denying expression to some of the most noble values that lie within our culture. Yes, the rehabilitation of Howard has been achieved, but have we paid too high a price for it?

No examples, no ideas, no solutions. Just carping and cant from an aging whiner who has forgotten that old-style journalists who assume their readers can't fact-check their arse are in for a rude shock.

Just Go Away Hugh.

Jason Soon has produced the phrase of the week, in his look at Taliban Dundee David Hicks, currently enjoying US hospitality at Guantanamo Bay. Surprisingly, Jason opts for capital punishment for treason.

I am not a supporter of capital punishment, but my resistance does not stem from a belief that the state should have no right to take life. Rest assured, I would have no personal qualms about executing anyone who raped or murdered me and mine. And I might not wait for state sanction, either.

However, I have to say that as a punishment for treason, capital punishment is not suited, at least for civilians. It is reasonable to assume that virtually all civilian treason is motivated by ideology or money. In the case of money, the fear is not punishment, but poverty as defined by the traitor. For ideologues, death in battle may be a positive. In a mindset that defines martyrdom as the key to never-ending carnal delights, the gas chamber becomes their version of the pearly gates.

Far better for both to be placed in isolation, prevented from mixing with other prisoners, and kept under 24/7 surveillance for the rest of the natural days. Ensure that their sentences can never be overturned without legislation, and leave them to die in jail.

Given the endless stream of woolly-headed lawyers lining up to defend these swine, why add to the bill. Try them for treason, and make sure the sentence means: die in jail; you’re not worth the effort of killing.

ASIDE: One thought has occurred to me with regard to Hicks and his apparent brother in arms, Mamdouh Habib.

There is a very vocal industry in Australia devoted to telling us that the Taliban are not whipped yet, and that Afghans should not be forced, or even enticed, to return home.

Why are none of these people raising a stink about the possibility of a couple of for-real Taliban getting sprung from Gitmo Bay and showing up in Australia to harrass the existing Afghan refugees?

Friday, August 02, 2002

I was going to tear this moron a new one, but the Forces Of All That Is Good have got there ahead of me.

Gareth Parker asks
how did such a "quality" paper allow such a logic-avoiding piece to be published in the first place?

Damn good question Gareth. Did anyone see these articles when the ALP brought in mandatory detention, sold more assets, and instituted enterprise bargaining?

Tim Blair conducts a forensic takedown, including
PC nancy boy

But for real fury, you can't go past Whacking Day.
Tex is not content with running the silly bastard over. He uses a four wheel drive (in the city!), backs over him a few times, and then sools the dog onto what's left.
It's the argument of people who cannot accept that the Australian population are a peaceful, rational people who are capable of making their own choices or forming their own ideas without having been brainwashed by the Big Evil Conspiracy of The Right.
It's the argument of people who - despite their shrill protestations - have a deep contempt for the stupid, unenlightened masses who refuse to accept "correct thinking".

Bloody brilliant Tex.

Watching the News Hour with Jim Lehrer last night. Kind of a soothing balm against Nightline and Phillip Adams. One of their interviewees raised a salient point: We are not talking about starting a war with Iraq. The war has never ended, and is underway as we speak. American and Australian forces work together to enforce UN sanctions against the Butcher of Baghdad.

ASIDE: can you even imagine what kind of a loony-tune you have to be to get the title of butcher in that part of the world?

What is being foreshadowed is an escalation of existing hostilities. Every day US planes enforce the Kurds safe haven by shooting and bombing Iraqi installations. Every day Iraq violates UN Security Council resolutions on weapons inspections. Iraq has provided all the reasons necessary to escalate the war, and enforce the UN wishes.

Suspected Taliban fighter David Hicks will remain in Gitmo Bay for the time being.


Get a grip, civil libertarians! This guy volunteered to fight for one of the most evil, repressive, misogynistic, bloodthirsty regimes that the world has seen. He supported a government that sheltered terrorists, blew up ancient statues, exported heroin, conducted public executions, created famines, murdered gays, starved women and children, razed villages.

Do you get it yet? There is no way that Hicks was not aware of most, if not all of the crimes of the Taliban. And he went. The bastard payed his own way! He's a volunteer! Would anyone be squealing this loud if he had been captured fighting for the Serbs in Kosovo?

I can tell you, I'm glad my government is leaving him in Cuba. And when the Americans are done with him, I want the mad bastard sent back to Afghanistan to be dealt with. I do not want people like that here. You do not want people like that here. And especially, the moderate muslim community better recognise that they will be better off if thugs like Hicks are kept out.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Tom Friedman in the New York Times put an interesting case about what will happen to world oil prices after kick off in the war against Iraq.
That would mean Iraq would be able to modernize all its oilfields, attract foreign investment and in short order ramp up its oil production to its long-sought capacity of five million barrels a day. That is at least three million barrels of oil a day more on the world market, and Iraq, which will be desperate for cash to rebuild, is not likely to restrain itself. (Now you understand why Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait all have an economic interest in Saddam's staying in power and Iraq's remaining a pariah state, so it can't produce more oil.)

Most interesting analysis. I've been getting desperate for actual analysis of the situation that didn't start from the Bush-is-Satan-incarnate bus depot.

Friedman concludes with this wide-ranging prediction

Bottom line: A quick victory that brings Iraq fully back into the oil market could lead to a sharp fall in oil incomes throughout OPEC that could seriously weaken the oil cartel and rob its many autocratic regimes of the income they need to maintain their closed political systems. In fact, give me sustained $10-a-barrel oil and I'll give you revolutions from Iran to Saudi Arabia, and throw in Venezuela.
If that scenario prevails, you could look at an invasion of Iraq as a possible two-for-one sale: destroy Saddam and destabilize OPEC at the same time. Buy one, get one free. But you better prepare for the consequences of both.

I like it!


This is a post of a Larry Niven vignette about why Superman can't get lucky.

Thanks to Silflay Hraka for the heads-up.

I do enjoy reading James Morrow, and it's good to see him back on the job. Listen to his assessment of Telstra service levels
staffers whose work ethic and productivity makes Margo "100 Words a Day" Kingston look like a book-a-month airport novelist,



In the Winter Olympics they have a bizarre event called (I think) the heptathlon. Cross country skiiers tool around on a circular course, stop and fire rifles at targets.

What say we combine this, with the downhill slalom events? Ski around the circle, stop, and fire at the slalom competitors. This will improve the aim of the rflemen, and you know we're going to see some improved times in the slalom.
Three dingbats, no waiting, thanks to the perfectly-formed Imre Salusinksy.

And while we're at or near the subject, can we have an end to letter-column guff about Meg Lees betraying her party by passing the GST? The Democrats went to the 1998 election on the specific policy of holding the elected Government to their promises. At no point did the Democrats say they would block the GST. They modified it, botched it, made it more complicated and harder to collect. Isn't that enough?

Margot Kingston must be secretly overjoyed that the Children Overboard inquiry has closed, without hearing all evidence from all players, and spent huge sums of taxpayers money on High Court challenges. Had the inquiry ground its way to the end, and heard all the tiresome bureaucrats tell their gobbledegook, then it's likely that the outcome would not have been clear enough.

But this way, no-one can say for sure what would have come out. And if you're in the conspiracy business, then it just won't do to have endings and conclusions. After all, there's always the danger that it might not go your way.

Simple facts are often better to rely on, and political motives are good barometers. The Opposition was terrified of setting a precedent that would allow the Senate to call Ministerial staffers to give evidence. Flat out terrified. Not to mention the idea that retired Ministers might have to front up. Does the ALP want Graham Richardson to have an excuse to talk? Under oath for God's sake?

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Via Juan Gato's Bucket O' Rants , comes this Matt Welch expose of revisionism on the "crushing" of dissent since September. Read it all the way through, and save the links. They will be useful in the future.


Do we have some smart people in this wide brown land, or what?

This bad boy scram jet (is that the coolest name?) will cut a 24 hour jet trip to London to TWO HOURS. By taking off my shoes and socks, I calculate that you will not even get dinner service on the New York to London hop.

Though I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the factors in the experiment design was the God almighty boom at the end, when
The scramjet then rammed into the ground, destroying it and completing the test.

Nothing like a dose of Lileks to get you through the day. He shows his feelings for his daughter in a way that makes me feel like running home.
It’s the highlight of my life. There’s something liberating in loving someone who really, truly, honestly has no idea how much you love her.

It’s been two years and I’ve been there for every day. Seven hundred and thirty good-mornings and good nights, from the cross-eyed who-you stare you get at the start to the clever smile, the hug, the goonight daddy bye bye I get now. When you’re a young adult, you wish yourself a long long life so you can do the things you simply must do. When you’re a parent, you realize that little matters as much as the simple, daily act of caring for your child. Give me the time, so that I may give it to her. Happy birthday, sweetheart.

And you get the deep anger at historical stupidity, when he sees people dismissing Stalin as not worth the effort of condemning
someone who believed it was necessary to break tens of millions of eggs and starve all the chickens, and shoot all the chefs to make an inedible, poisoned omelette.


A few ideas to make television sports more interesting for non-sports fans.

RELAY. The winner is decided by a combination of finishing time and number of batons carried over the line. This gives the tail-enders incentive to catch up with the leaders and biff them.

JAVELIN. Stake out an official. Or a competitor.

SWIMMING. All sports to run at the same time. In the same pool.

BADMINTON. All right, it's silly enough.

More as I think of them.

Paul Kelly, Grande Dame of Australian journalism, makes a case for foreign policy in today's Australian.
Some times the bleeding obvious does need to be re-stated for those in the cheap seats.
It is best to state some home truths. Australia's most important single relationship is with the US, a proposition that is neither new nor unique. Ask official strategists in London, Moscow, Beijing or Tokyo what relationship is the most important for their country and the answer on each occasion will be the US. This is not rocket science

Then there is
Australia's single most important regional relationship is with East Asia.

What the hell is a "regional relationship"? For that matter, who is in the region? Are we having a relationship with ourselves? Does this explain Howard's need for glasses?

Kelly's access to the top can also be revealing
The centrality of integrating our Asian and US ties shaped the foreign policy of [former Prime Ministers] Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke and Keating. In the ABC television series 100 Years, I asked each of them whether Australia would have to choose between Asia and the US. Hawke and Keating insisted no such choice would be needed but Fraser said that Australia, eventually, will be forced to choose and that it must choose the side of China.

So the next time you see Malcolm looking compassionate over asylum seekers, remember he wants to line up with the people who are a big part of the reason the asylum seekers are coming here.

Kelly has forgotten some history
It is about perceptions just as much as reality. Australia has had a series of problems in Asia under the Howard Government in our exclusion from regional groupings. Was the reason for such exclusion because of our ties with the US? No. The explanation for such exclusion lies in our problems with Asia, not our success with the US.

I must have missed it when ASEAN voted us in as members while Keating was running the show. And we all must have misinterpreted the values represented by Malaysian Prime Minster Mahathir Mohammed when he blamed his countries financial woes on "Jewish speculators". I suggest the reason we have a problem with Asia is because the whole idea of "Asian values" has been proven to be a farce; they know it, we know it, and the markets of the world know it. Asian countries lined up behind us when we went in to East Timor to kick some Asian Values arse.

Since I'm not a diplomat, I can't use the correct geo-political phrases to make this sound nice-nice, but here it is. We don't have to join Asia, and they manifestly don't want us to. They want to join us, and big time. We are stable, democratic, rich and regionally powerful. We trade with the world, delivering desirable products at competitive rates that are not about to change.

Asian countries send their children here to be educated, their rich come here when they are sick. We have nothing to apologise for, and nothing to ask for. Is there any doubt that they will continue to buy our products and services? Come here for holidays? Buy Sydney real estate as off-the-books bolt-holes? World countries set up their headquarters in Sydney for very good reasons. Mainly so they know that the President's son-in-law's personal trainer is not allowed to show up and demand a job.

Australia and the US remain the model to strive for, not the applicant at the door. As long as the refugees are swimming this way and foreign aid goes the other way, and as long as we remain the biggest functional democracy in the place, then our foreign policy should be predicated on a simple formula: they want to join us. The more we are like us, the more they will want to be like us.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Thanks to the Instapundit for this analysis on civilian deaths is the Allied attacks in Afghanistan.
In that one valley, the Taliban killed more civilians than most estimate were killed by US actions in all of Afghanistan. And the Taliban killed civilians deliberately. For four years. But they don't anymore.

Am I proud that Australians had a hand in this? Bet your bloody life I am.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Via Andrew Sullivan, this persuasive case for an attack on Iraq to promote peace in Israel.

The authors base their thesis on delivering a short sharp shock to the "rejectionist" forces
It would send an unequivocal message to Syria, its Hezbollah ally in southern Lebanon and the ayatollahs in Iran that the regional rejectionist party is over.

A good read. Not too long, but firm and clear.


Robert Corr has invited ridicule for his answers to my questions on his attitude on controlling immigration.
To question one:
We should take as many as need protection from persecution. If people need help, then we're far better placed to offer assistance than, say, Pakistan

Given that there are currently 22 million refugees in the world, and Pakistan had 1.2 million at one point, he is posing a big ask. Corr would not suggest setting up a Darwinian exercise in boat arrivals, so I guess he is expecting us to fly them in. Assuming a ten per cent take up, this comes to about 500 jumbo flights just from Pakistan.

As I predicted, Corr has put forward a supposedly compassionate, but unworkable system. This has twin advantages for those in the compassion business. You can fluff your feathers and show how much you care, while refusing responsibility for the results. When your impossible demands are not met, you get to stay in the protest game.

This is typical of the Left, as a general case. The tricky part is to blame others when your policy of high-principled neglect produces yet another pile of bodies. Frankly, Corr has ceded any credibility he might have had to speak to this subject. He should get out of the way and leave discussion to people not afraid to make decisions.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Fun For Free #14

After circling the car park for 20 minutes, and finally shoehorning into a space, wait in the car for a few seconds. Soon we see another poor scmuck doing the parking spot crawl. Put you car into reverse, and pull halfway out. Then you can see his pinched little face light up with joy at the prospect of a spot opening up at his feet.

That's when you pretend that you were just straightening your car in the space, and zip back in. I tell you, this is good for hours of secret enjoyment.

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