Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Who can not see through this?

Moussaoui's "Bombshell defence" -

Defense attorneys for Zacarias Moussaoui wrapped up their case Tuesday by using two high-ranking al-Qaeda operatives to rebut their own client's claim that he was to fly a jetliner into the White House as part of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The leaders of Osama bin Laden's terrorist group cast doubt on whether Moussaoui was part of 9/11, one portraying him as a misfit who refused to follow orders.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema set Wednesday afternoon for closing arguments on whether the actions Moussaoui has admitted make him eligible for the death penalty. The jury must decide whether the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent — the only man charged in this country in the 9/11 plot — will be executed or imprisoned for life.

OK, death or life imprisonment?

As a "failed jihadist" Moussaoui wants death. Simple. He can then claim his "rightful place" as a martyr to the cause; killed by the Americans as a result of defending Islam.

Why is it that -

Testimony from five al-Qaeda members was read to the jury as defense attorneys tried to undo damage Moussaoui might have done to his case when he testified against their advice.

One terrorist, identified as Sayf al-Adl, a senior member of al-Qaeda's military committee and close aide to bin Laden, stated sometime between Sept. 1, 2001, and late July 2004, that Moussaoui was "a confirmed jihadist but was absolutely not going to take part in the Sept. 11, 2001, mission." The 9/11 Commission reported the U.S. recovered from a safehouse in Pakistan a letter written by al-Adl describing the various candidates considered for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Another top terrorist witness — Waleed bin Attash, known as Khallad — is considered the mastermind of the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole and an early planner of the Sept. 11 plot. He said he knew of no part that Moussaoui was to have played in the 9/11 attacks. Khallad was captured in April 2003.

Their testimony supports that of another captive, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, chief organizer of the 9/11 attacks. He said in testimony read Monday that Moussaoui had nothing to do with the 9/11 plot, but was to have been part of a later wave of attacks distinct from Sept. 11.

Again very simple. Moussaoui failed. He should therefore not be considered a martyr to the cause but given the imprisonment and disgrace that he deserves.

Truly it is most apt that an American Court should have the job of making this "decision of Suleiman the Wise"

True Democracy!!

This has to be a joke, right? Certainly requires confirmation...

ARBIL - President George W Bush has made clear that he does not want Ibrahim al-Jaafari to remain prime minister of Iraq in a move likely to increase hostility between the US and the Shia community.

Mr Bush has written to the Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shi'ite Alliance asking him to nominate somebody else for the post.

"The Americans are very firm about this," said a senior official.

"They don't want Jaafari at any price."

I wonder...

What kind of reception would there be to a demand from Helen Clark for George W to be replaced as President of the US on the grounds that he was a danger to world peace?

Quite, quite, laughable.




UPDATE 30/3/06

Curiouser and curiouser.

According to the Guardian Headline it was the UN representative...
U.N. Envoy Reportedly Seeks New Iraq PM

Monday March 27, 2006 11:01 PM

...Shiite politicians to seek the withdrawal of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's contentious nomination for a second term, two aides said Monday.

The aides to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, had asked their boss during a meeting Saturday to personally deliver the message to al-Jaafari.

Out of the 161 tags from google there was only one reporting...
Washington, Mar 29: The White House denied reports from Iraq that US President George W Bush had told a top Shia leader that he opposed Ibrahim Jaafari as the country's next Prime Minister.

Bush spokesman Scott Mcclellan was asked about reports that Bush had written to powerful Shia leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim asking him to oust Jaafari as the next Premier.

"I don't think that's an accurate report at all, what you just described," Mcclellan told reporters yesterday asking about the reports.

"It is up to the Iraqi people to decide who the Prime Minister is," he said.

The reports say the letter was given to Hakim by the US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

But Mcclellan said, "I know of no letter." Hakim heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the main party in the Shia United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) that won December elections.

SO, current count 160 for, 1 against. The one against comes from India yet... Fox News last report on the 'net is 25/3/06.

"Where there's muck there's brass"...

or so the old English saying went. Essentially, "Where there is rubbish/scrap/sh!t there is money to be made".

Well it seems that is changing...

'Da Vinci Code' fuels religious publishing boom

29.03.06 1.00pm

NEW YORK - A wave of religious books is coming to bookstores to cash in on "The Da Vinci Code" movie in May, including a book saying Jesus survived crucifixion and an Evangelical novel with a modern-day Mary Magdalene heroine.

Americans are finally able to buy Dan Brown's best seller in paperback on Tuesday, three years after it was first published, and with "Da Vinci Code" fever as strong as ever, it's never been so profitable to write about Christianity.

Words fail me... given that the basic premise of the Da Vinci Code, whoever might have written it, is fiction. I guess that some people will buy anything.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An interesting little sideline...

Puddling through the anarchy that google calls its "news on Iraq" I ended up at the Financial Times. Linked at the bottom of the article that google had presented was this -

How Oxford has taught America a new way to fight battles

By Tom Baldwin

Study of Malaya insurgency is reshaping US policy in Iraq

THE success of DPhil papers by Oxford students is usually gauged by the amount of dust they gather on library shelves.

But there is one that is so influential that General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, is said to carry it with him everywhere. Most of his staff have been ordered to read it and he pressed a copy into the hands of Donald Rumsfeld when he visited Baghdad in December.

Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife (a title taken from T.E. Lawrence — himself no slouch in guerrilla warfare) is a study of how the British Army succeeded in snuffing out the Malayan insurgency between 1948 and 1960 — and why the Americans failed in Vietnam.

The thesis was written in Oxford more than a decade ago by John Nagl, now a US lieutenant-colonel and senior Pentagon adviser. It is helping to transform the American military in the face of its greatest test since Vietnam.

Read the rest if you want. It is quite interesting.

I want to give you the conclusion...

So how does Colonel Nagl respond to those who might say that he is an over-educated Anglophile? He quotes Sir William Francis Butler, the 19th-century British soldier, who said: “A nation that draws a demarcation between its thinking men and its fighting men will soon have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

Oh, as Baldwin points out, the "Malay Campaign" took a total of 12 years. You will find the history of NZ's involvement here. Reading that you will find that the "Malay Campaign" began in 1949, and the final anti-insurgency actions were not until the 1980's. That, by my reckoning, is some 30 years and more. OK, the "Emergency" was ended in 1960 and that is where the 12 years comes from.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A small self indulgence if I may...

I grabbed these from Granny Herald, the original publication was at the announcement of the Palestinian elections and the win by Hamas. It occurred to me as soon as I saw them that they may not have been taken at that time.

That raised the question of “when?” and “what happened?”

Well here goes the probligo…

“OK, who put the alum in the OJ?”

“Hmm, Dick? Wolfie? Tom? Hillary? Those damned Iranians?”

“Can’t trust no B***d around here these days.”

“This is no damned joke, guys. I’m gonna bomb the ass off whoever done this.”

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Weak kneed, lily livered, yellow bellied pooftahs!

Contempt knows no bounds!!!

This should never have happened...

C4 apologises for Bloody Mary show

23.03.06 1.00pm

Television channel C4 has apologised for the screening of the Bloody Mary episode of the South Park series and said it would not repeat the programme.

And while it rejected about 100 formal complaints about the programme, C4 said it had reviewed its internal processes for dealing with religious programmes.

Chief operating officer Rick Friesen said C4 probably would not have screened the episode knowing what it did now about the amount of offence taken.

Because of the strong reaction, the company had decided not to take up its rights to repeat the episode.

Catholics condemned the decision by C4 -- a sister channel of TV3 owned by CanWest TVWorks -- to screen the episode of the cartoon show involving a menstruating statue of the Virgin Mary. It was shown at 9.30pm one night last month.

Today Mr Friesen said formal complaints about the programme had been before a standards committee and had not been upheld.

Responses were being mailed out and any complainants still not satisfied could take the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

"However, C4 acknowledges the strength of feeling in relation to the programme, and we sincerely apologise for any offence taken," Mr Friesen said.

"We have detected a shift in the public's perspective on matters of a religious nature. As a result, we have reviewed our internal processes for dealing with religious programmes, particularly in relation to religious satire."

If it was felt a programme was going to offend a large group the broadcaster would have to look closely at whether or not it was run, or edited.

Catholic Church spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said CanWest's "so-called sincere apology" was "self-serving".

"They knew in advance that screening Bloody Mary would give deep and widespread offence, given the correspondence they had received in advance from Christian leaders and leaders of other faiths. Yet they went ahead and screened the programme," she said.

"CanWest was wrong and now seeks to restore its position with a semi-apology. Clearly they are feeling the heat and are taken aback by the extent of the offence and outrage that has been caused."Mr Friesen said: "It's simply being responsive to the communities we serve. We want our audience to respect and understand what we do as broadcasters, and to do that we have to be sensitive to what viewers want and what they can be offended by.

"It doesn't mean we're going to get rid of all offence, that's not going to happen. It would limit what television broadcasters run too severely. It's extreme cases we're talking about."

C4 was targeted at the 15 to 29 age group and intended to be "as edgy as we ever have been".

Running the episode had a "very minor" impact, with one sponsor leaving TV3, but no effect to ratings was detected.

Thanks Herald for the full quote...

Why can't C4 (and parent TV3) stand up and defend freedom of speech!!!

And why can't the Catholic Church get out there in the streets with guns and rockets and set a few Embassies ablaze?


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Political scrutiny and responsibility...

Got rather a shock when I got home last night. Leader in the news was that David Parker had resigned as Attourney General.


Parker is one of those people who could do good to great things as a politician. There is now a very large "BUT" associated with his name.

So what happened?

Background -

In NZ, every company is required to furnish an Annual Return to the Registrar of Companies. The forms involved, if the Company Secretary does his job right, take about 10 minutes to put together.

One of the little procedural matters every company must address every year is the appointment of auditors. A company can resolve (with 100% vote in favour) that auditors not be appointed. That resolution has to be considered each year at General Meeting.

So, what did Parker do?

He signed a Declaration that the resolutions had been properly passed when in fact they had not. A legal offence of some importance even if the penalties are not excessive. Note - the offence was in relation to the Declaration, not the procedural omission.

Intentional, careless, mistaken or whatever - he is no longer Attorney General.


Just announced that Parker has resigned all Cabinet posts.

Mr Parker quit yesterday as the Government's chief legal officer after disclosures that he filed false returns to the Companies Office.

And this morning it was announced that he was going from his other portfolios -- transport and energy.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said she accepted the resignations and that if he had not offered them she would have requested them, Newstalk ZB reported.

Earlier today, Mr Parker said he was "ashamed" about his mistake but that he would "tough it out" and had no intention of giving up his other portfolios. "I do believe I've got something to offer in those portfolios," Mr Parker said on National Radio earlier this morning.

Helen Clark told reporters that since then Mr Parker sought "a range of opinions".

"I have this morning accepted Mr Parker's resignation from all his portfolios," she said.

Mr Parker is expected to make a statement to Parliament this afternoon.

A week used to be the benchmark for a "long time in politics". Seems now that a day is all it needs.

Now, about Tennisball Benson Pope, Auntie Helen...

Monday, March 20, 2006

This cultural difference thing - 2

There was a potential nice little debate with “Tom” on the matter of why Americans kill each other. First thing to do here is to thank him for referring me to this piece by Kevin Baker Which for a starter is a very well thought out and researched piece.

I do know that I do not concur with the conclusions reached – essentially that all of the US’s societal woes are due to the Welfare State system.

The other side of the debate is just as clearly and concisely put here.

Whichever of those two authors you want to say is right will depend, I suspect, not upon the worth of the arguments presented but on the politic of the reader. Once again confirmation bias will reign supreme.

There are two little sections that I want to highlight.

First up, from The Smallest Minority –

And here is where I start speculating, so those of you who want to accuse me of racism ought to be sharpening your barbs.

SayUncle considered Kim's argument and concluded:

And I realized that it made a sick sort of sense. The nation of immigrants factor is just about the only thing we don’t have in common with other comparable western nations.

No, it's not. The factor that America has that is different from other comparable Western nations is massive institutionalized slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, institutionalized and legally codified racism, the Civil Rights Movement, and finally the Great Society and the War on Poverty.

Now that I accept as irrefutable, and probably very germaine to the question. Whoever thinks that emancipation was completed with the passing of the Anti-Slavery legislation forgets the 1940’s, the 1950’s and 1960’s at their peril.

Baker continues -
Tgirsch (the author of the other piece I will quote) proposes that black-on-black violence is due to the "disproportionate poverty" of the black demographic. What is seldom asked, as I noted, was why American blacks remain largely poverty-stricken a century after emancipation, and nearly half a century after the Civil Rights movement and the establishment of the Welfare State.

And after a lengthy consideration of illegitimate birth rates, and the “problems”of the welfare state, Baker “comes back to earth” with this…

Tgirsch wrote,

I do think that more attention needs to be paid to racial differences and the underlying reasons for them. But I think what we’ll ultimately find is that race has no inherent effect at all, and that the difference that exist are socially driven.

I agree. Race isn't the reason, it's just a marker. Blacks were systematically discriminated against, held down, demeaned. The color of their skin marked them for this abuse. When things finally started to improve socially, the intellegentsia stepped in and threw a monkey wrench into an already damaged mechanism - with the best of (stated) intentions. If you want to define what happened as "poorly implementing" the welfare state, I suppose you're entitled. I for one see it as an inevitable outcome of a flawed idea.

Now it really is nice that Kevin Baker agrees, even if it is to then draw a non sequitur conclusion.

Turning to the points that Tgirsch makes, he (unfortunately) takes the following line –

There’s a lot going on here, mostly a highly misleading use of statistics, but it boils down to three incorrect underlying assumptions:
1. That poor Hispanics are concentrated in inner-city areas at roughly the same rate as poor African-Americans are.
2. That poverty is poverty, with no differences in degree of poverty.
3. That the relationship between poverty and violent crime ought to be linear.

and, just a bit further on comes –
Of course, my objective here is not to prove to anybody that the social safety net is working or that it presents no burden to those it purports to help — that’s for someone else to do some other time. Nor am I trying to argue that there aren’t cultural factors in play — often prevalent in very poor, predominantly African-American urban neighborhoods — that exacerbate the problem of violence. I merely wanted to demonstrate that Kevin’s case is not nearly so slam-dunk as he (and his commenters) seem to think it is, and to point out what I feel are critical errors he made in building that case. I would argue that if he wishes to do away with the status quo, the burden of proof is on him to show that the alternative (little or no social safety net) would indeed be better.

To that point, I submit one more thing. In the comments at Kevin’s site, there was an exchange that I think is exceptionally revealing in the lack of foresight behind doing away with the social safety net. A commenter was trying to make the case that people in general would be better off if they didn’t have to pay the taxes associated with supporting the social safety net, because they would have more money to invest in their future and the economy. I responded that history has shown us that most people would not invest it or save it or spend it wisely (and in so doing, I used some terminology which I frankly regret). Kevin’s response:

“So? It’s their money.”

The utter lack of attention to (or, equally likely, concern for) what happens next should speak for itself.

Now that really is something of a damp squib; not that I want to “prove” that the welfare state works or not either, or that lowering taxes would solve the problem. Both ideas are in my opinion dead end solutions with only political dogma to back them.

The point that Tgirsch missed and where I think Kevin Baker got it totally right is this –
So, after decades of knowing that education has no economic value, and further decades of lack of employment opportunity, what is the result? A population that is willfully ignorant, desperately poor, generally promiscuous, disillusioned and angry and willing to use whatever drugs are available to escape (however briefly) their reality…

That opening rationale is 100% correct but the conclusion that the poor are “…not willing to study or work to escape permanently, now that the opportunity actually exists…” is another political non-sequitur that exists solely to justify the argument that the welfare state has failed. What a pity that the perspicacity of Baker’s opening was left by the wayside.

Why is it that people have the idea that education has no economic value? It comes in part from the culture of succession. “My pappy was a steel worker, my grandpappy was a steel worker. They could not read nor write. Why do I need learn?”

It comes in part from generations of teachers telling their pupils that “…black people can not learn… blacks are dumb and waste of time educatin them…”, institutionalised degradation. I know this happens and it must be a near universal, because (to my shame) I have seen it happen, I have seen the consequences all too often in NZ. That is why Baker’s observation was so right.

I want to return now to the very opening of Baker’s post, to this quotation he pulls from othersideofkim –
The United States has always had a higher murder rate than other countries, not because there are more guns around, but because we are a nation of immigrants. When people have few or no ties to a community, their propensity towards lawlessness is much higher. (It’s why, for example, small-town sheriffs had a habit of telling strangers to leave town—they were playing the odds.)

It’s also why comparisons between Japan and the U.S. are pointless: a racially- and culturally-homogenous society will always have a lower rate of violence than a nation of immigrants because there are fewer points of friction between them. Add to that a culture of (to us) stifling conformity, and the circle becomes complete.

What Western Europe is quickly discovering is that it sounds good to become a nation of welcoming arms to strangers, but the reality is that this hospitality comes with a price tag. In Britain, for example, violent crime is committed by Jamaican street gangs, gypsies, and Eastern European- and Third World “refugees”. Add to that the more-recent Muslim fanaticism, and this witches’ brew likewise becomes complete.

Once again here we have an excellent premise, one which touches oh so briefly upon the question I originally posed. Once again, to my great disappointment, it has been transmogrified into a political non sequitur to justify the author’s particular political outlook.

If Kim du Toit’s contention were correct, then NZ would now be in very deep trouble. That were are not is due in large part to KdT overlooking a number of very important factors.

First up, many of the groups that he selects from the “British experience” (such as the Jamaicans) are third and fourth generation. They are not “new arrivals”. The London bombers were all British born (or had immigrated as small children) and educated. Truth of that matter is that England in particular has its own history and traditions of discrimination almost as pernicious as that of the US (if you still don’t get it, think “social class” instead of “race”.)

Second are the “third world refugees”. I can hear exactly where KdT is coming from here and it ain’t pretty. You hear the same “presentation” from extensive portions of the right wing in the US. At least there the illegal immigration problem is real and is having some impact. In Britain, as in Australia Canada and NZ refugee immigration is heavily and fairly easily controlled.

Third, that word “gypsies” – hmm. Germanic racism at its best.
But enough carping. That opening paragraph does require some consideration, and comparison alongside other truths.

NZ is a nation of immigrants. NZ has gun control laws. The murder rate in NZ is about 1/17 that of the US.

Australia is a nation of immigrants. Australia has gun control laws. The murder rate in Australia is about 1/12 that of the US.

Canada is a nation of immigrants. Canada has some gun control laws. The murder rate in Canada is about 1/3 that of the US.

South Africa WAS a nation of immigrants. I do not believe that there are gun control laws there. The murder rate in South Africa is several times higher than in the US.

Obviously, there is something quite wrong with KdT’s conclusion.

So, where does that leave us? SaysUncle gets close –
But what that doesn’t explain is why, in our country, the homicide rate is heavily comprised of murders of black people by other black people. After all, black people share a heritage and do have ties to the black community. I suppose another factor in that equation is the proximity to drug dealing and concentrated areas of poverty.

It’s very clear that America has a problem with black on black violence. But it will never be given the attention it deserves because examining the cause would be viewed as racist.

Nice little inference there Uncle. Please, Uncle, whose racism?

The other side of the cultural aspect to the debate comes from Tom himself...
The problems run much deeper, and the real answers (if any are to be had) will address the long run. However, my claim to the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (RKBA) is not dependent on crime, or the lack thereof. I claim the RKBA as God-Given and I will not yield it to any man

So, the RKBA is a "God-given" right?

Somehow that reminds me of the recent admonishment of a US politician with the classic that "he had sworn on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, not sworn on the Constitution to uphold the Bible".

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dangerous Questions -

I referred to this site a while back. Sitting enjoying chicken teriaki on noodles and having a quiet read and I flicked into this which seems a propos my last little item...

David Buss and "The Evolution of Evil"
I will submit only his final para, the rest is an interesting read.

On reflection, the dangerous idea may not be that murder historically has been advantageous to the reproductive success of killers; nor that we all house homicidal circuits within our brains; nor even that all of us are lineal descendants of ancestors who murdered. The danger comes from people who refuse to recognize that there are dark sides of human nature that cannot be wished away by attributing them to the modern ills of culture, poverty, pathology, or exposure to media violence. The danger comes from failing to gaze into the mirror and come to grips the capacity for evil in all of us.

Hmmm, "failing to gaze into the mirror and come to grips with the capacity for evil in all of us".


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Vanuatu 5 - Tools arms and weapons

Over at MuD&PHuD is another of these "weapon control - oh dearie me I might have my gun taken off me" posts which do tend to get a little tiresome. This time around the question of machetes is raised and this is where it connects with Vanuatu.

Walk along any track, even the footpaths in Vila, and you will see the scars on the trees. Many many of them. From small and shallow, a half metre above ground to 2 metres up and more than a scratch. If you see a man on his way home from the garden (on Tanna for example) he will have his machete on his shoulder. The odd swing at a blade of grass, or a passing tree - no different to using a switch to flick at long grass....

A Ni-Vanuatu boy knows exactly what his fifth birthday present will be. His first machete - a 12" blade, wickedly sharp. Every kid soon learns exactly what that blade can do.

How many people get killed in Vanuatu? Well if I was told right the last guy in jail there for a serious or violent crime was guilty of rape. His was the first imprisonment for a violent crime in some ten years or so.

Now, before you even imagine that I am advocating every boy should get a pistol for his fifth birthday, please think again.

What is apparent to me, vividly, is that "availability" or "access" or "legality" is not really the issue.

As I understand it, guns are available with reasonably minimum restriction in the US. The "control debate" arises whenever that is in some way threatened, and it does not seem to matter whether the threat is real or imagined. The mere idea of a State or Federal Government restricting access to firearms, at any level, is met with a fusillade of counter-threat, court action and near revolt.

So, rhetorically, why is it that there are virtually no killings at all in Vanuatu (on any measure or comparison)?

Conversely, and again rhetorically, why do some parts of the US have kill rates (per million population) that are sadly comparable with some war zones?

I am not advocating that the US should introduce gun control or allow totally free access... That is neither my place nor my point.

The question, if there is one, is more in the lines of "Why do Americans kill each other in such numbers, whatever the means, whatever the reason?" Before it is said, the reply that "...criminals kill people..." does in fact duck the question. A person who intentionally kills another is, in my book, guilty of a crime and is hence a criminal. That probably would account for 90% of all killings anywhere.

As a comparison, US against Vanuatu, I can only conclude that there is a cultural cause behind it. Just what form that might take I can not imagine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Over at Donklephant, Callimachus was bewailing the agonies of Annie Proulx on the fact that "Brokeback Mountain" had won only three Oscars.

I left this in the comments. I think it is quite good myself so here it is here as well...



The spring dawning settles down
With smells of cash and unearned gains.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out start of a dusty day.
And now a gusty zephyr wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered pages across the red carpet
And newpapers from vacant lots
Carry the beat
Of empty minds and old movie plots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-driver steams and stamps.
And dredges the last fare under the lamps.

— apologies to T. S. Eliot

I hadn't thought to change the title from "Prelude".

Words in the wind again...

The AWB heats up...

Man, the top end of that silo must be a good cherry red!!

This has been an interesting story to follow. There are certainly very direct links from the AWB Board into the highest levels of the Howard government.

Now this -

Spy files on wheat kickbacks kept secret
By Marian Wilkinson, National Security Editor
March 15, 2006

INTELLIGENCE reports that raised the alarm on oil-for-food kickbacks as long as six years ago have been suppressed by the Cole inquiry at the request of the Federal Government, which claims their release could jeopardise "national security".

The existence of the reports had never previously been disclosed by the Government. At the inquiry yesterday, 15 of the reports were handed to a senior Foreign Affairs official, Bronte Moules, to read in silence in the witness box.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, John Agius, SC, questioned Ms Moules on the documents, but she could not reveal their contents.

Ms Moules, a senior official who dealt with AWB and the UN's oil-for-food program in Iraq, said she had no recollection of seeing the reports, which were described as relating to the "circumvention" of the program. She said she knew the contents of a few of them "in broad terms" because they were raised by the UN committee enforcing economic sanctions against Iraq.

AWB's barrister, James Judd, QC, objected to the suppression of the intelligence reports, warning that it might lead to "a breathtaking denial of natural justice" for AWB and its executives, who are under investigation for paying almost $300 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime.

The commissioner, Terence Cole, agreed to suppress the reports but said he had asked the Government for a sanitised "summation" of their contents, which he promised to make public. The Government argued that disclosure of the reports would reveal the "sources and methods" of intelligence collection.

It is believed they were produced by the overseas intelligence service, ASIS, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and possibly the Office of National Assessments. They appear to date back at least six years, when the UN first told Ms Moules AWB had been accused of paying kickbacks for wheat contracts. The UN warning followed a complaint by the Canadian government in 1999.

Mr Agius told the inquiry the intelligence reports related to "potentially relevant information" on the UN oil-for-food program, involving the "possible circumvention" of the program "during the relevant period". He said they might be relevant to finding out what the Government knew at the time of Canada's complaint.

However, the reports do not appear to have prompted an investigation of AWB's contracts by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Ms Moules said neither she nor other Foreign Affairs officials had "a role or any expertise" to examine the Iraq contracts.

She said the Australian UN mission in New York was "essentially a post box" to pass AWB's contracts to the UN's oil-for-food program. She did not believe it was her job to assess the contracts and left this to the UN even after Canada lodged its complaint.

Ms Moules showed a broad ignorance of AWB's dealings in Iraq, despite her key role as the intermediary between the wheat exporter and the UN. Her evidence is expected to be repeated by other Government witnesses.

Mr Agius told the inquiry this hands-off approach to AWB began only in 1996, shortly after the election of the Howard Government. He said until the mid-1990s documents suggested there was far more scrutiny by Foreign Affairs "to ensure there was no potential breach of UN sanctions".

Now for anyone who wants to, go digging to show that NZ has also had its IOF kickback allegations and you may well find them. Small ones. There was a total value of some NZD1 mill involved according to my memory of the UN reports. What you will NOT find is any governmental complicity...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

American politics - again

Y'know, a year back and I might have sat down and written at length on this -

Bush's approval rating hits new low

14.03.06 1.00pm

WASHINGTON - A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released today put President George W Bush's approval rating at 36 per cent, a new low for that poll but similar to his rating in other recent surveys.

The poll, taken Friday through Saturday, showed Bush's approval rating dropped from 38 per cent in late February-early March, while his disapproval rating remained steady at 60 per cent.

Now? Well to be quite Francis, the only thing I feel now is a sense of sadness. In fact a deep sense of sadness. The kind of feeling that I last had during the final days of the Muldoom administration here in NZ.

Well, at least I was able to do something about Muldoom.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Oh dear, how sad, never mind!

From William F Buckley himself -

It Didn’t Work

"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

The Iraqis we hear about are first indignant, and then infuriated, that Americans aren't on the scene to protect them and to punish the aggressors. And so they join the clothing merchant who says that everything is the fault of the Americans.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elucidates on the complaint against Americans. It is not only that the invaders are American, it is that they are "Zionists." It would not be surprising to learn from an anonymously cited American soldier that he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each others' throats.

A problem for American policymakers — for President Bush, ultimately — is to cope with the postulates and decide how to proceed.

One of these postulates, from the beginning, was that the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom.

The accompanying postulate was that the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymkers to cope with insurgents bent on violence.

This last did not happen. And the administration has, now, to cope with failure. It can defend itself historically, standing by the inherent reasonableness of the postulates. After all, they govern our policies in Latin America, in Africa, and in much of Asia. The failure in Iraq does not force us to generalize that violence and antidemocratic movements always prevail. It does call on us to adjust to the question, What do we do when we see that the postulates do not prevail — in the absence of interventionist measures (we used these against Hirohito and Hitler) which we simply are not prepared to take? It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn't work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates. To do that would be to register a kind of philosophical despair. The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism.

Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

Sorry about the emphases (not). The devil made me do it.

Interesting, most interesting is the fact that Buckley has not picked up on the theme of his first postulate...
One of these postulates, from the beginning, was that the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom.

If there is ever a concise and clear picture of the naievite [yeah yeah I know the spelling is wrong] of the US administration this must be it.

Remember if you must the comment that was made that Islam wants the world to return to the perfection of Islamic 7th century. Place alongside that thought the history of Britain in the Gulf during the late 19th century. That history includes the arbitrary drawing of boundaries between geographical areas (at which the Poms were expert - read Milligan's "Puckoon" for another hilarious if fictitious example). That history includes the arbitrary promotion of "leaders" of each of the various areas.

But truly, none of that exists in the world that is the modern US. After all, if the biggest bang in the land comes from banging two pieces of very heavy metal together what could be difficult about banging a few heads to make them see sense?

At least William F Buckley Jr has the honesty to admit that there were some fundamental flaws...

There was an article in Herald that prompted me posting the William Buckley item.

Neo-con dream of new world order in tatters

By Rupert Cornwell

It has taken more than three years, the loss of tens of thousands of Iraqi and US lives, and US$200 billion - all to achieve a chaos verging on open civil war.

But finally the neo-conservatives who sold the United States on this disastrous war are starting to utter three small words - we were wrong.

The about-face has spread across the conservative spectrum, from William Buckley, venerable editor of The National Review to Andrew Sullivan, once editor of the New Republic.
For Sullivan, today's mess is above all a testament to American over-confidence and false assumptions, born of arrogance and naivete. But he, too, asserts, in a column in Time magazine, that all may not be lost.

Of all the critiques, however, the most profound is that of Francis Fukuyama, in his forthcoming book America at the Crossroads. Its subtitle is Democracy, Power and the Neo-Conservative Legacy - and that legacy, he argues, is fatally poisoned.

This is apostasy on a grand scale. Fukuyama, after all, was the most prominent intellectual who signed the 1997 "Project for the New American Century", the founding manifesto of neo-conservatism drawn up by William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, the house journal of the neo-conservative movement.

The PNAC aimed to cement for all time America's triumph in the Cold War, by increasing defence spending, challenging hostile regimes and promoting freedom and democracy.

Its goal was "an international order friendly to our security, prosperity and values". The war on Iraq was the theory's test. And after Iraq, why not Syria, Iran and anyone else who stood in Washington's way?

That doctrine, Fukuyama acknowledges, has been a tragic conceit.

Fukuyama, of course, once claimed in his The End of History and the Last Man, that the world was on a glide-path to liberal, free-market democracy. But he also pointed out that it should have been left to its own pace.

The neo-cons' first error was impatience. The second was a belief that an all-powerful US would be trusted with "benevolent hegemony".

The third was the overstatement of the threat posed by radical Islam to justify the doctrine of preventive war.

Finally, there was the contradiction between the neo-cons' aversion to Government meddling at home and their childlike faith in their ability to impose massive social engineering in foreign and utterly unfamiliar states.

Some, however, are unswayed. Kristol accuses Fukuyama of losing his nerve - of wanting to "let large parts of the world go to hell in a hand basket, hoping the hand basket won't blow up in our faces" in the Standard.

Christopher Hitchens, the one-time Trotskyist turned neo-con, derides Fukuyama for "conceding to the fanatics and beheaders the claim that they are a response to American blunders and excesses".

The fact remains that the Bush policymakers who signed the PNAC are mostly gone. Paul Wolfowitz, the war's most starry-eyed promoter, moved to the World Bank, silent about the mess he did so much to create.

Richard Perle, leader of the hawks at the American Enterprise Institute, has vanished from the scene.

Lewis Libby has stepped down as Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, to focus on staying out of jail. This week US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad - Afghan born and the one original neo-con who had the region in his blood - admitted Iraq had opened "a Pandora's box".

Those who are left - primarily Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield - are not so much neo-cons as advancers of US national interests, whatever it may take.

Condoleezza Rice, never a signed-up member but still sympathetic - metamorphosed into a pragmatist.

It is on Bush's lips the neo-cons survive - in the commitment to freedom and democracy that he proclaims daily. But his oratory cannot obscure the irony of the Iraq adventure.

Neo-conservatism espoused the vastness of US power - but it has succeeded only in exposing its limits.

Fukuyama now wants to temper the doctrine with an acceptance that some things are not easy to change, and that the US must cut its cloth accordingly. A term for this might be neo-realism.

Fascinating - the rats leaving the ship in droves... the skipper still bravely at the helm... The colours still nailed to the masthead.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sir Brian Barrett Boyes 1924-2006

One of NZ's greats.

Died while undergoing heart valve replacement surgery - the very procedure that he was at the forefront of developing 30 to 40 years back.

Sir Brian, there are so many who owe you their lives.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Riverbend has her Oscar Winners out post 3/6/06. Clever...
Nominees for Best Actor:

Ibraheim Al-Jaffari in “Free Iraqi Elections” for his attempted portrayal of a non-sectarian, independent PM of a ‘legitimate’ Iraqi government.

George W. Bush in “OIF: The War on Terror” The third sequel to the original “Operation Iraqi Freedom: Weapons of Mass Destruction” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom: Liberating Iraqis”. Bush’s nomination comes for his convincing portrayal as the worlds first mentally challenged president.

Bayan Baqir Solagh in “Torture Houses”, for his world-class acting as the shocked and indignant Iraqi Minister of Interior during the whole torture houses scandal.

Abdul Aziz Al Hakeem in “Men in Black [Turbans]” as the deeply devout Mullah pretending to be independent of his masters in Iran.

Mihsan Abdul Hameed in “Fickle” for his compelling portrayal of a victimized pro-war, then suddenly anti-war, anti-occupation Sunni politician.

and thusly.

I can appreciate the humour, if not the rationale, without getting involved in the politic behind it. Just think Danish cartoons folks.

Friday, March 03, 2006


There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault, though Iraqi National Security adviser Muwaffiq al- Rubaie told Agence France-Presse that it bears ``the imprint of Al-Qaeda which wants to bring about a civil war.''
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, declared an ``all-out war'' on Shiites in September 2005, and has since then dispatched Sunni fighters to bomb Shiites and their mosques across the country.

"The National Guard has replaced the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps as the largest security force in Iraq," reports the World Tribune. "The 45,000-member force has been trained and equipped by the United States, with help from Britain and Jordan." In short, the Iraqi National Guard is a subsidiary of the Pentagon, organized and trained to do the bidding of the Anglo-American occupation forces and their installed minions. Thus it should come as no surprise the Iraqi National Guard may play an important role in the recent bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra, according to locals.

US control of Iraq Interior Ministry
US State Dept
Although an investigation has been launched to determine who perpetrated the crime, Lynch said it appeared to be the work of terrorists…

Cuba no less...
To name names would be impossible. However, to come up with an explanation of why a centuries old holy mosque in the city of Samarra, Iraq was bombed, one must consider in whose interests could it be to exacerbate the ethnic and religious differences in the region….
Islam’s largest branches sought to settle old scores with each other: Shiites and Sunnis, acted predictably to the first result of the blasting of the shrine, an act which could only be committed by an enemy of the Muslim world. Someone interested in sparking the flame to justify wars of intervention and occupation of entire countries, as is occurring today with Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is Cuba calling - US
All American Patriots
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters at a State Department briefing that the bombing of the mosque serves as “a reminder that there are those out there that are trying to derail the political process and sow sectarian strife in order to plunge Iraq into chaos and frustrate the democratic development of that country.”

?Terrorists . Obviously a code that I can not understand.
Global Research
British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that those who committed the attack on the Golden Mosque 'have only one motive: to create a violent sedition between the Sunnis and the Shiites in order to derail the Iraqi rising democracy from its path.'
Well said Mr. Blair, particularly when we keep in mind the fact that less than a year ago in Basra, two undercover British SAS soldiers were detained by Iraqi security forces whilst traveling in a car full of bombs and remote detonators.
Jailed and accused by Muqtada al-Sadr and others of attempting to generate sectarian conflict by planting bombs in mosques, they were broken out of the Iraqi jail by the British military before they could be tried.

First, most Sunni Arabs, who have run Iraq since its creation nearly 90 years ago, seem bizarrely loth to admit that they number barely a fifth of the population—and cannot see why they should not continue to run the show. Hence their endorsement of the insurgents, even while electing representatives to parliament. Second, the newly dominant Shia Arabs, with 60% of the people, seem increasingly loth to grant the Sunnis a fair share in government, especially since they seem unable or unwilling to stop insurgents from carrying out sectarian outrages such as bombing the shrine

Khaleej Times
Sectarian attacks since suspected Al Qaeda militants bombed a Shia shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22 have stalled…

But Shiite leaders, frustrated by the recent spasm of violence, argue that the U.S. is tying their hands in combating the insurgency. SCIRI leader Abdul Azziz al-Hakim went so far as to say that Khalilzad [ the US Ambassador in Iraq?] had given the insurgents a “green light” to attack the Samarra mosque.

US Is that a tinfoil hat place - don't know.
Focus on Iran

“The investigations carried out so far about the explosion in the resting place of Imam al-Hadi and Imam Hassan al-Askari in Samarra point to the involvement of the Iranian regime’s Intelligence Ministry”, Abdullah Hossein Jabbara announced. He was referring to Iran’s secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which is known to be actively operating in Iraq

Iran I suspect that tinfoil hats might be needed there as well.
Now I have not been “selective” here, but I think that most would agree that including 1398 Reuters reports and 798 extracts from Fox News is not really going to add much. Rather, I have been selective to the extent of trying to track independent opinions from as wide a spectrum as possible (hence Cuba :-D )

What to deduce?

The most firm deduction that can be made is “No one really knows”. After that the ball park is truly open.

You can find (as above) Iran implicated though their Ministry of Intelligence working in Iraq. You can find accusations from the Conspiracy Corps telling of CIA undercover or covert members embedded in the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

The most “popular” are Alqaeda – and here it is interesting to note that even some of the Arab media take that call – and “Iraqi insurgents”. In this latter case, which side of the political fence you place your elbows seems to determine just who you accuse.

And there, truly, is where I think the truth lies. (Hmmm, potential paradox there…)

There was an interesting commentary, including “witness interviews” which described activities around the Mosque in the early hours of the morning before the explosion. Those “activities” included road blocks, armed men in black, and armed men in Interior Ministry uniforms. There was added “evidence” from another person opining that it could have taken as long as four hours to set the explosives in a manner to cause the amount of damage seen. There has been in other reports detail of “four charges, rigged through a central detonator”.

So, was it Sunni? Kurd? Shi’a?

I have no idea. Thoughts…

More on the problems of protecting copyrights...

I am not going to prejudge the outcome of the Da Vinci Code hearings in London - there really is no way of telling what may happen...
On the second day of the high court trial into whether the central theme of the 2003 bestseller, by Dan Brown, had been plagiarised from a 1982 book about the holy grail, Mr Justice Peter Smith was told ideas contained in non-fiction work could not be protected under law.

John Baldwin QC, representing The Da Vinci Code's publishers, Random House, added that themes similar in both books were known to Mr Brown before he had read Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh's earlier work, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (HBHG).

In other words, the "idea" behind the Da Vinci Code is both "historic" and "generic"...

There is a second potential action - potential only because the "original" writer has not the resources to sue a major Hollywood studio...
A second New Zealand author is staking his claim to the idea behind another blockbuster.

Christchurch-based author Gavin Bishop has said the makers of the film Mr and Mrs Smith have stolen his story idea, The Christchurch Press reported.

The children's author said the film's plot was very similar to a book he wrote for schools in 1997 titled The Secret Lives of Mr and Mrs Smith.

He said he planned to sue the makers of the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie movie.

However, while in Mr Bishop's book the husband and wife are spies, in the celluloid version they are assassins.

He told the Press the similarities were "too close to be accidental".

Now this is slightly different in cause - the idea is fictitious, but has the "rewriting" been sufficient (changing chararcters from spies to assassins) to warrant consideration as a "new" writing.

So, the former will be interesting to see just what is decided. Where does the intellectual property of an idea start, where do historic, religious and cultural ideas stop being generic...

The latter, it is a shame that it is unlikely to be heard. It has the potential to define just how far a rewrite of an idea must be in order to constitute separation from the original idea. Is it enough to change spies to assassins?

In the meantime, I think that I might just go spend some time sharpening my knowledge of Amerindian myth and fable - there has got to be some really good yarns in there. A few hours research should do the trick...