Friday, June 30, 2006

I smell a different agenda here - Part 1

This is my last in a long series of posts trying to debate the rights and wrongs of the New York Times' "treason" in its article of 19 June detailing the sources used by the US government in tracking the funding of terrorist organisations.

For some reason that none have been able to explain, the NYT article "places Americans in jeopardy, will result in American troops being killed..."

Admittedly, all of this has come from just one blogsite, that of neo-neocon. Her original thread was mostly thoughtful, but very much "followed the FoxNews line".

Well, how valid is the argument? This sets out the position well...

OK, so I will troll this for y'all...

Falsehood: Times article tipped off terrorists to U.S. bank-tracking efforts

In the wake of the June 23 Times article, Bush administration officials and numerous conservative media figures claimed that the newspaper had informed terrorists that their international transactions were being monitored. Vice President Dick Cheney said that the story "will enable the terrorists to look for ways to defeat our efforts." Treasury Secretary John W. Snow wrote that the article had "alerted terrorists to the methods and sources used to track their money trails." Meanwhile, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin claimed that the Times had "tipped off terrorists to America's efforts to track their financial activities." Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby alleged that the reports on the program "sabotaged" and "deliberately compromised a crucial counterterrorism tool." And the editors of National Review warned, "The terrorists will now adapt. They will find new ways of transferring funds, and precious lines of intelligence will be lost."

But long before June 23, Bush and other administration officials acknowledged that terrorists were increasingly using other methods of transferring money to evade detection.

So, it is as I had said, that the terrorists were already using other methods of transferring funds BEFORE July 21.

BUSH said so...

Again -

That terrorist organizations would be aware of international efforts to track their finances is not surprising, as Bush administration officials have publicly touted the government's capability to do so for years. For instance, shortly after 9-11, Bush heralded the establishment of a "foreign terrorist asset tracking center at the Department of the Treasury to identify and investigate the financial infrastructure of the international terrorist networks." On November 7, 2001, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill announced that the United States, along with an "international coalition," had begun "to block assets, to seize books, records and evidence, and to follow audit trails to track terrorist cells poised to do violence to our common interests." In a September 10, 2004, statement, the Treasury Department disclosed "some of the many weapons used against terrorist networks," which included "following money trails to previously unknown terrorist cells." An April 2006 Treasury Department report similarly noted that the department "follows the terrorists' money trails aggressively, exploits them for intelligence, and severs links where we can."

Next point -

Falsehood: Nobody has questioned the legality of the Treasury Dept. program

Conservative media figures such as Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter have claimed that "no one thinks" the bank-tracking program "violates any laws." But as Media Matters noted, various legal experts and politicians have publicly questioned the legality of the newly disclosed program.

And again...

Falsehood: Times' justification for bank-tracking story opens the door to disclosure of any classified information

Appearing on the June 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report, attorney David B. Rivkin Jr. claimed that the Times' justification for publishing the June 23 article -- that the story is a matter of "public interest" -- would allow the media to print details of a hypothetical upcoming attack on Osama bin Laden. "Under this standard, nothing is safe," Rivkin said. "I can see a headline which says, 'Tomorrow, United States Closing on bin Laden.' You know, he is two hours away, in a cave."


in the 1931 case Near v. Minnesota, the Supreme Court stated the government could prevent newspapers and magazines from publishing select matters, including upcoming troop movements in a time of war: "No one would question but that a government might prevent actual obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops."


in his concurrence in the 1971 case New York Times v. United States, Justice William Brennan cited this passage from Near to describe the "single, extremely narrow class of cases in which the First Amendment's ban on prior judicial restraint may be overridden." Justice Potter Stewart, in another concurrence, argued that publication should be prevented only if "disclosure of any of them [the documents at issue] will surely result in direct, immediate, and irreparable damage to our Nation or its people" -- a standard that the administration evidently thought the bank-tracking story did not meet, as there is no indication that the administration asked a court to enjoin publication

From another article...

the United Nations Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group learned of the SWIFT program years ago -- a fact the group incorporated into its December 2002 report to the U.N. Security Council:

The settlement of international transactions is usually handled through correspondent banking relationships or large-value message and payment systems, such as the SWIFT, Fedwire or CHIPS systems in the United States of America. Such international clearance centres are critical to processing international banking transactions and are rich with payment information. The United States has begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions. The Group recommends the adoption of similar mechanisms by other countries.

Nonetheless, Tony Snow asserted during his June 27 press briefing, "I am absolutely sure they [the terrorists] didn't know about SWIFT."

The claim that the Times notified terrorists that their financial transactions might be under surveillance also overlooks numerous reports that Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations shifted to nontraditional money flows shortly after 9-11. For instance, Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart A. Levey testified before Congress on September 22, 2004, that the government had begun "working closely" with FATF to interdict terrorist organizations' increased use of cash. Levey said, "As the formal and informal financial sectors become increasingly inhospitable to financiers of terrorism, we have witnessed an increasing reliance by Al Qaida and terrorist groups on cash couriers. The movement of money via cash couriers is now one of the principal methods that terrorists use to move funds."

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has repeatedly highlighted the terrorists' new financial methods as well. In a December 6, 2002, report, CRS noted that "al Qaeda is relying increasingly on non-bank mechanisms to move and store funds, such as converting assets to untraceable commodities, including gold and diamonds, or moving funds via informal value transfer ['hawala'] systems that leave virtually no paper trail." In a November 2003 report, CRS further documented these "alternative financing mechanisms" and noted the failure on the part of the government to produce corresponding strategies.

A December 14, 2003, Washington Post article quoted Comras making a similar point:

Victor Comras, a former State Department official who helped write the U.N. report, said that, in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist strikes, the United States and other countries effectively froze some terrorist assets, but that the success was largely limited to halting money in the banking system.

Once al Qaeda understood the weaknesses and loopholes in the sanctions regime, Comras said, "money was quickly moved out of harm's way" by taking it out of banks and putting it into commodities, such as diamonds and gold, or into front companies.

"Al Qaeda had assets, and those assets are still around," Comras said. "They had a number of different ways to handle the problem, and they are using all of them."

An October 14, 2005, Economist article also noted the ongoing adaptation on the part of terrorist organizations:

Indeed, the terrorists have shown an ability to keep changing their money flows. "The bad guys are definitely getting smarter," says a European expert on financial crime. "The banking system is so well patrolled they're resorting to more primitive means." Counter-terror experts say some groups have simply switched to using more cash, slipping across borders undetected. Authorities say they recognise the changing money flows, but cutting them off is no simple matter, particularly in cash-based economies with loose border controls.

Further, an April 4, 2006, backgrounder on terrorist financing produced by the Council of Foreign Relations highlighted terrorists' efforts to leave "less of a paper trail":

The greatest difficulty is that terrorist networks have stayed aware of governments' efforts to stymie their activities and adjust their operations accordingly. [Terrorism expert Loretta] Napoleoni says "terrorist financing mutates continuously," which generally keeps terrorists a step ahead of the authorities.

Terrorists have increasingly relied on illegal activities, like smuggling or counterfeiting, to generate revenue that is difficult to track through the financial system. Terrorists have also begun to rely more on cash, leaving less of a paper trail. According to Napoleoni, much of the funding for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda organization in Iraq is brought into the country by couriers carrying cash. The July 2005 attacks in London were also funded entirely by cash, which Napoleoni says is untraceable.

OK, so have at it.

And thanks MediaMatters.


It perhaps is easy for me, as I work in the realms of SWIFT, FedWire, Giro, and some of the others on a regular basis. It is my job.

But little quotes leap out at me, like -
Nonetheless, Tony Snow asserted during his June 27 press briefing, "I am absolutely sure they [the terrorists] didn't know about SWIFT."

Oh-...Kay. If I go into a bank to transfer funds between countries, one of the very first things that leaps out at you is a little panel on the form that says -

Now, does Tony Snow (and because the right whingers are told that it is so they also) believe that a person responsible for shuffling a million or three around the globe to the right person at the other end would not know, would not ask, what that was, or meant, or why it was on the form? I mean to say, put some credulity into your interpretation of the propaganda you are given.

But no, the mere fact that NYT has printed / published the fact that SWIFT was being used to investigate terrorist funding is enough to raise the hounds of hell on the trail of treason charges.

Another thing completely missed by the right crowd is the effect that the loss of one small piece from the board might have. Does the right crowd believe that a terorrist organisation would not miss a link in the funding chain, would not investigate where that link was broken, would not try and find alternative paths and methods?

Of course! These are, after all, stupid and dumb ragheads we are talking about. They would never realise that the most obvious (and as MediaMatters points out, much discussed) funding routes would fail. Of course they would never think to use more than just the banks.


As I pointed out in an earlier post to that thread, the terrorist networks were using couriers, alternative values such as gold and diamonds, from as early as 2003, and acknowledged in some of the reports MM quotes in 2004.

Why does the US administration want to discredit the NYT?

Who might be next on their "hit list"?

I suggest -

It has nothing to do with the June 19 article. It has far more to do with the stance that NYT is taking, the criticism it levels at the Administration.

Put onto your list WaPo, Reuters, CNN, and the other MSM who have taken the Administration to task over (specifically) -

The protection of the rights of individuals vs the right of the government to investigate "ultra-legally"

The Gitmo retention centre

"Renditioning" of prisoners.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Appropriate response...

The Palestinians (whichever of their "fringe groups") take one in uniform IDF soldier prisoner, and this is the response.

Now, can anyone tell me how many Palestinians are in Israeli prisons detained without charge or trial?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ain't nostalgia a powerful force?

I picked into Baghdad Burning last evening, just to see if there was anything new. On her sidebar is Dear Raed, whom many might recall as the "blogging powerhouse" of the Iraq war. Yeah he is still about living a comfortable life apparently in the US. But that was not the nostalgia that I was meaning, not directly anyway.

I read the last half dozen or so of his Baghdad entries, Spring 2004.
Tuesday, April 06, 2004 ::
Remember the days when every time you hear an Iraqi talk on TV you had to remember that they are talking with a Mukhabarat minder looking at them noting every word? We are back to that place.

You have to be careful about what you say about al-Sadir. Their hands reach every where and you don't want to be on their shit list. Every body, even the GC is very careful how they formulate their sentences and how they describe Sadir's Militias. They are thugs, thugs thugs. There you have it.

I was listening to a representative of al-sadir on TV saying that the officers at police stations come to offer their help and swear allegiance. Habibi, if they don't they will get killed and their police station "liberated". Have we forgotten the threat al-Sadir issued that Iraqi security forces should not attack their revolutionary brothers, or they will have to suffer the consequences.

Dear US administration,
Welcome to the next level. Please don't act surprised and what sort of timing is that: planning to go on a huge attack on the west of Iraq and provoking a group you know very well (I pray to god you knew) that they are trouble makers.

Oh and before I forget.........Help please.

He also linked in another post to this survey, conducted for the BBC. (pdf)

Take a read through it, just as Raed urged in 2004.

I wonder how the responses to those questions might have changed over the past three years?

From the realms of useless statistics -

Announced, a propos nothing very much at all, that the world production of small arms ammunition during 2005 was enough for two bullets for every person on earth.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wherefore art thou, Blogiverse?

Thanks to my old mates at ALD, comes this reflection on the blogiverse and its place in the life of Alan Jacobs.

Now I confess to some sympathy for Neo-neocon and the recent affliction she had, from one particular troll, and there is a passage in Jacob's piece that reflects on this...
And then there are the "trolls": people who comment specifically in order to get a rise out of other commenters—people who have never transcended the discovery that being extremely annoying is one of the most reliable ways of getting attention. Most of us, by third grade or so, come to understand that hostile attention is probably worse than no attention at all, but trolls never learn to make such subtle discriminations. Thus no law of the blogosphere is more important—though also more widely ignored—than "Don't feed the trolls."

All in all, a blog is no place for the misanthropically inclined. Charlie Brown used to say, "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand," and I have discovered that in the blogosphere, people—in Mr. Brown's subtle sense of the word—are pretty much inescapable. Many's the time I have found myself hunched over my keyboard, my hands frozen above it, trying to decide which of two replies to make: the one assuming that my interlocutor is morally compromised, or the one assuming that he is invincibly ignorant.

No place for the misanthrope? Hmm...

Earlier, Jacobs has this -
...human nature is at work too. I think first of the extraordinary anger that seems to be more present in the blogosphere than in everyday life. Debate after debate—on almost every site I visit, including the ones devoted to Christianity—either escalates from rational discourse into sneering and name-calling or just bypasses reason altogether and starts with the abuse.

Partly this derives from the anonymity of blog comments: people rarely identify themselves by their real names, and the email addresses that they sometimes provide rarely give clues about their identity: a person who is safe from substantive reprisals is probably more easily tempted to express rage. Also—and this is a problem especially on the political blogs—commenters can find themselves confronted with very different beliefs than the ones they encounter in everyday life, where they often are able to select their own society. A right-winger wandering into a comment thread on is likely to get a serious douse of vitriol for his or her trouble; ditto a liberal who plunges into the icy waters of No Left Turns. And the anonymous habitués of a given site are unlikely to show much courtesy to the uninvited guest. (This is one reason why sites like the two just mentioned get more rhetorically, and substantively, extreme over time: everyone is pulling in one direction, and scarcely anyone shows up to exert counter-pressure.)

How many times have we seen that?

Jacobs concludes in this vein...
As I think about these architectural deficiencies, and the deficiencies of my own character, I find myself meditating on a passage from a book by C. S. Lewis. In his great work of literary history, Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century, Lewis devotes a passage to what he describes, with a certain savageness, as "that whole tragic farce which we call the history of the Reformation." For Lewis, the issues that divided Catholics and Protestants, that led to bloodshed all over Europe and to a seemingly permanent division of Christians from one another, "could have been fruitfully debated only between mature and saintly disputants in close privacy and at boundless leisure." Instead, thanks to the prevalence of that recent invention the printing press, and to the intolerance of many of the combatants, deep and subtle questions found their way into the popular press and were immediately transformed into caricatures and cheap slogans. After that there was no hope of peaceful reconciliation.

On a smaller scale, the same problems afflict the intellectual and moral environments of the blogs. There is no privacy: all conversations are utterly public. The arrogant, the ignorant, and the bullheaded constantly threaten to drown out the saintly, and for that matter the merely knowledgeable, or at least overwhelm them with sheer numbers. And the architecture of the blog (and its associated technologies like rss), with its constant emphasis on novelty, militates against leisurely conversations. It is no insult to the recent, but already cherished, institution of the blogosphere to say that blogs cannot do everything well. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought.


The thought has been picked up by Jack Grant, quite independantly...
With ideology rather than reason determining the predominant view, how can we ever hope to chart the most beneficial path for our nation?

At one time, for an all too brief period between the US Civil War and the 1980s, there was a genuine effort to examine data on a scientific, non-ideological basis, but since the Reagan era, everything, and I mean everything, has become politicized, from the potential benefits of a vaccine that prevents cerivical cancer that according to anti-sex extremists would supposedly promote promiscuity, to the obvious (to anyone who truly examines the data with a non-ideological view) effects of global warming, to the intelligence that warns us of the actions of potentially hostile governments...

I say, "Hear, Hear" Jack. Great post.

It is Matariki in NZ; the "Maori New Year". The rising of Matariki - the Pleiades. The time of coming renewal and fruitfulness; the time to prepare; the time before planting...

I am feasting tonight. That is one of the traditions.

I am also preparing the ground.

I will keep an open mind.

I will strive against unthinking acquiescence and compliant acceptance of the partial truth and total untruth.

I will consider with reason and logic, rather than arrogance and emotion

Saturday, June 24, 2006

(Bad) News Management...

Remember when, back all those days ago, on 19 June 2006 WaPo published details of a cable from Ambassador Khaliljad to his bosses in Washington? Somewhere way back in the archives.... Ahhh here we are!!

Can you imagine the consternation and panic that leak must have caused? Press Secretaries running the corridors, Security Advisers trying to find out who was the last person to take a leak, Strategy Policy meetings, endless meetings of DoD and Intelligence personnel to work out what to do next in Iraq... Comings and goings on a scale not even IMAGINED by West Wing.

"Hey!! I got an idea!!!"

And the whole White House goes silent.

"We declassify that silly report about finding some old chem shells in a dump. Remember that one? It was trashed about two years back but no one will remember that!"

And so we get FoxNews to give time to Santorum...
The powerful U.S.-based Fox News Channel is saturating its news coverage Wednesday with reports weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

Two Republican senators have obtained declassified documents which show 500 shells containing degraded sarin and mustard gas were found three years ago.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) said Wednesday, 'Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.'

'That means in addition to the 500, there are filled and unfilled munitions still believed to exist within the country,' he added.

Despite the shells being at least fifteen years old, Santorum said, 'Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the Black Market. Use of these weapons by terrorist or insurgent groups would have implications for coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside of Iraq cannot be ruled out. The most likely munitions remaining are sarin- and mustard-filled projectiles. And I underscore filled.'

While conceding the gases 'degrade over time,' the document said that the chemicals 'remain hazardous and potentially lethal,' said Santorum, who was supported by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.).

So, how much has the US spent in the pursuit of 500, old, fifteen year old, gas filled shells? How much damage, over what kind of area would those weapons be effective? No one tells you that.




Why is it that Bush gave the "most important job of rescuing the credibility of the US Administration" to three honest and faithful Senators?

Well, there are two or three almost dead certainties for re-election in November - remember the mid-terms?

Why not give the job to Khaliljad, as a penance for his cable?

No. That would draw attention toward the source of that unmentionable cable. Can't take any risks there!!

And so it was, that on the 22 June, Senators Santorum and Hoekstra were handed a "newly declassified report", and the rest is history.

MediaMatters writes up better than I can. Go Read.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Geography -

I have just learned something, as a result of a question I asked regarding an address.

The address was in Perth (and as I was working on an Australian problem) which I assumed was West Australia.

But because the problem was in Tasmania, I thought some clarification was in order.

Answer came back -
Yeah, its about 5km from Baghdad. And both are in Tassie.

Now THAT goes a long way to explaining the difference between Khaliljad's cable and Bush's impression of the war in Iraq. Come to think of it, I wonder if some of Tassies' Baghdad has been bombed in recent times, "by mistake" you understand. Man!! That would explain a lot!!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Contrast control set to max...

... or is this the defining "black and white"?

Remember the little document found in the house where Zarqawi was bombed? The one that set out all of Al Qaeda's plans for world domination and murder of Americans? How true it was!! How a propos as justification for killing Iraqis and anyone else standing in the way of the occupation!!!

How many are now debating the cable sent by Khalilzad to his ultimate boss in Washington, telling him how hard it has got to get good staff these days, how hard their life is outside of the Green Zone?

None that I have seen thus far.

So, I guess that the cable published by WaPo was a fake, a forgery?

It is not as if the news is "new". The earliest WaPo reference I can find at this moment is 7 June

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, June 7, 2006;

Vice President Cheney's been taking a few wholly unfair hits in recent days on the first anniversary of his observation that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes."


And we won't be shocked if the throes go on for quite a while longer, based on a May 6 cable we got the other day from Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad .

"Crime in Iraq is rated by the U.S. State Department as critical and will continue to get worse for the foreseeable future," the embassy in Baghdad reports in the cable, which was addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice .

"Crime, terrorism, and warfare are a significant threat in all parts of Iraq. Active military operations are ongoing. The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, which remains very dangerous. Remnants of the former regime, transnational terrorists, criminal elements and numerous insurgent groups remain active.

"Attacks against military and civilian targets continue throughout the country, including inside the international zone. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of American citizens. Planned and random killings are common as are kidnappings for ransom and political reasons."



Seems that I am not the only one who thinks so...
Summary: On June 18, The Washington Post published a cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq that detailed the deteriorating conditions observed in Baghdad in recent months. Despite the clear significance of the document, the media have almost entirely ignored its publication.
The near absence of coverage extended to print outlets as well. A Lexis-Nexis search of U.S. newspapers and wire services failed to turn up a single follow-up story on the Post's publication of the memo, nor a mention of it in the numerous June 19 articles on Iraq.

And the right whinge is always on about the corrupt liberal press? Here we are, we have the smoking cigar, and the only concrete reference to the cable that they quote is this -
By contrast, during an interview on CNN's Late Edition, host Wolf Blitzer challenged Snow's criticism of the war coverage by noting the June 12 cable, which he described as "very, very grim" and "a pretty damning indictment of the current situation." Blitzer said, "I know that many have complained that the news media is only focusing in on the negative, but here the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad paints a pretty stark picture of what's going on right now." In response, Snow argued that the embassy's account was outdated. "Well, that's taken in mid-May," he said. "Here we are, a month later, and I just told you, you've got 50,000 Iraqi troops that are now focusing on those problem areas in Baghdad."

So, in one month, the picture is changed completely?

And people believe this?

At the end is this -
*Correction: The original version of this item incorrectly stated that the memo from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq was dated June 6, one week before President Bush's Baghdad visit. In fact, the memo was dated June 12, one day before Bush traveled to Iraq

Now that makes Al Kamen's op-ed piece REALLY interesting! Especially seeing the cable dateline reads R 121430Z JUN 06 which I would translate as 1430 Zulu 12 Jun 06 and that would tie with the correction on the MediaMatters piece.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A valedictory of sadness... and a farewell to Reason

Matt Welch is leaving. He starts his valedictory -
On December 13, 2001, I posted an essay on my personal weblog titled “Two Ships Passing in the New Media Night,” in which I contrasted the energetic, proletariat-embracing exultations of rising blog superstar Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds with the dreary, public-distrusting defensiveness of then–Los Angeles Times columnist John Balzar.

I had launched my blog (or shall I say “warblog,” which is what I named it, apparently coining a term I’ve come to loathe) five days after the September 11 massacre and almost immediately found myself swept up in an exhilarating whirlwind of grassroots media creation. As a consumer, it was exponentially more edifying to me than the post-9/11 fumblings of the mainstream media’s binary, Crossfire-style opinion slinging.

“What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not?” I enthused. “I’d say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s…a readiness to admit error [and] a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review.”

Man, was I wrong.

I am not going to gainsay what he says. It was apparent back in 2004 when I first put virtual pen to virtual paper. I had seen it, it continues still, in such fora as my old (and first) haunt of the "Trash Can", since metamorphosed into private ownership under the banner of Hangarflying's "SKeeter swamp". I think most of the old antagonists are still there - Galvin, Mr Republican (NoOne or whatever handle he uses now), the Erics, and others not heard of for yonks like P51DCP (Chris, I hope that the cancer didn't getya). Heading out from thence (this was 2000/1) even then the left/right divide was well established; the label, cliche and denigrate process common to so much of what passes for debate today had reached new levels of immaturity and idiocy (and is now mild compared with today).

But as I look back at December 2001, and prepare to hang up the blogging fun of Reason’s Hit & Run for the stodgier print pages of the L.A. Times, I can’t shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away. Americans are always much more interesting than their political parties or ideological labels, and for a few months there it was possible for readers and writers alike to feel the unfamiliar slap of collisions with worlds they’d previously sealed off from themselves. You couldn’t predict what anyone would say, especially yourself.

Good luck Matt. With luck in twenty years time there will be a bright young energetic blogger (or the future equivalent) who will write an essay contrasting the style of one of his contemporaries with the "stodgy defensiveness of long-time pundit Matt Welch". Hopefully he will see better times. Hopefully he will in his turn look to the future of national and international communication and understanding with optimism.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

News, Media, Reportage, Truth and Propaganda.

This kicked off with a post by Dave Justus on "The Information War". He hat-tips to Instapundit who in turn h/t's to Breitbart. The subject matter of this fox-chase is the so-called "Zarqawi Safe-house memo", a document purportedly found in the remains of the house bombed by the USAF, translated "by Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie" and released by the Iraqi government. The document sets out a strategy programme for alQaeda in Iraq and on a wider scale. The Breitbart page gives the translation in full.

Dave comments;
I do think that the characterization of terrorism as an information war is a useful way of looking at things. It is less clear to me how the media should respond. The last thing I want is our media becoming an extension of our military. At the same time, the media is going to be on the front lines of any information based conflict.

Anyone have any idea as to what would be the best solution here?

At one end of the spectrum we get idiots such as this... Democrats can be baited into ambushes and traps so easily that it is gross negligence on Bush's part that he refuses to engage in deception and propaganda operations. Unlike other Republicans or conservatives or neo-conservatives, I don't just say that Bush has failed in the propaganda and media war, I actually tell you what he should be doing.
I will supply details of the source on request if I feel like it. It is a genuine post. It is a post that begins with a brief (one sentence) debunk of the news video item that purportedly showed the immediate aftermath to the Gaza Beach incedent, and that the media are "very very gullible" for reporting it.

Of course, this couldn't - just wouldn't possibly - be happening right now, could it?
The Federal Communications Commission is investigating a watchdog group's report that WBFS-TV UPN 33 and 76 other TV stations around the country aired video news releases without disclosing their sponsors.

The FCC warned stations a year ago that they should inform viewers of the origin of VNRs, which are produced by companies to tout their products and services in reports that closely resemble TV news stories. They are free to stations for use.

But in a study presented to FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein last month, the Center for Media and Democracy found 77 instances where TV news releases were aired with no sourcing, said report co-author Diane Farsetta.

One instance occurred March 20 on WBFS. The study says WBFS anchors Jade Alexander and Angela Rae introduced a VNR provided by management consulting firm Towers Perrin as if it were a genuine station report on ``Work Woes.''

Subsequent reports stated that FoxNews had on several occasions used VNR "news items" direct from the White House also without disclosure of source or sponsorship.

But let's leave that specific instance for a moment and return to the implications of the Zarqawi document. Almost universally the debate arises from the "use of the media" to promote the terrorist cause.

In that light, I like Dave's question but my attempts to answer it in brief have been ineffective. In my last attempt I tried to put it this way -
If those who are “responsible for making friends and enemies” at a national level adopt the approach of making friends by screaming abuse, calling the “enemy” names, making him look small and stupid, by threatening to shoot rather than finding a rational solution to an obvious problem then should the news media adopt the same, follow the party line?

Or should the MSM and blogiverse be responsible for ensuring the truth is known, that the electorate is well informed with the truth no matter how unpalatable that truth might be.

What is apparent from the FCC inquiry is that my hope in that last para is in fact a fairly forlorn hope.

Since writing that, I have (hat tip to Arts and Letters Daily) this piece which, while apparently unrelated does in fact give a detailed exposition on one of the points that I was trying to make to Dave. The intermediate "argument" is through the debunking of two Islamic women who have made their fifteen seconds of fame and a bit more through their books. That is not the matter for this debate.

But her conclusions certainly are.
So now what? Where does this leave feminists of all stripes who genuinely care about the civil rights of their Muslim sisters? A good first step would be to stop treating Muslim women as a silent, helpless mass of undifferentiated beings who think alike and face identical problems, and instead to recognize that each country and each society has its own unique issues. A second would be to question and critically assess the well-intentioned but factually inaccurate books that often serve as the very basis for discussion. We need more dialogue and less polemic. A third would be to acknowledge that women--and men--in Muslim societies face problems of underdevelopment (chief among them illiteracy and poverty) and that tackling them would go a long way toward reducing inequities. As the colonial experience of the past century has proved, aligning with an agenda of war and domination will not result in the advancement of women's rights. On the contrary, such a top-down approach is bound to create a nationalist counterreaction that, as we have witnessed with Islamist parties, can be downright catastrophic. Rather, a bottom-up approach, where the many local, homegrown women's organizations are fully empowered stands a better chance in the long run. After all, isn't this how Western feminists made their own gains toward equality?

Muslim women are used as pawns by Islamist movements that make the control of women's lives a foundation of their retrograde agenda, and by Western governments that use them as an excuse for building empire. These women have become a politicized class, prevented by edicts and bombs from taking charge of their own destinies. The time has come for the pawns to be queened. "

To summarize -

1. A good first step would be to stop treating Muslims as a silent, helpless mass of undifferentiated beings who think alike and face identical problems, and instead to recognize that each country and each society has its own unique issues.

2. Question and critically assess the well-intentioned but factually inaccurate news that often serves as the very basis for discussion.

3. Acknowledge that people in Muslim societies face problems of underdevelopment (chief among them illiteracy and poverty) and that tackling those problems would go a long way toward reducing inequities.

4. As the colonial experience of the past century has proved, aligning with an agenda of war and domination will not result in the advancement of people's rights. On the contrary, such a top-down approach is bound to create a nationalist counterreaction that, as we have witnessed with Islamist parties, can be downright catastrophic.

5. Rather, a bottom-up approach, where the many local, homegrown people's organizations are fully empowered stands a better chance in the long run.

If the US administration is determined to follow the path in 4. with "an agenda of war and domination " is it your expectation that the MSM should concentrate solely upon the promotion and support of that policy and not in any way suggest that the alternative paths exist or may succeed?

As critically important in terms of the role of the media in the war against terror, should the MSM and blogiverse be responsible for ensuring the truth is known, that the electorate is well informed with the truth no matter how unpalatable that truth might be.

I emphatically and totally believe that it should.


Continuation - now that dinner is in the oven

Now it might not seem relevant - the connection between MSM publishing the truth; a woman, Islamic woman no less, debunking the writings of two authoresses lionised in the US for their "anti-fundamentalist and anti-Islamic" views; and Dave's question "Anyone have any idea as to what would be the best solution here?" and my answer that the MSM has the responsibility to ensure a well informed electorate.

I see it like this:

If we consider the American media - after all that is where the question arose - then the first responsibility is to the American electorate. No question about that. The responsibility is to report the truth. At this moment the question is WHOSE truth? There are several -

There is the truth that readers of FoxNews, USAToday, and the supporters of the Bush administration want to hear; America the Great winning the war against terrorism, bringing democracy to Iraq, facing down the mullahs in Iran...

There is the truth that readers of MSN, NY Times, WaPo, and opponents of the Bush administration want to hear; Bush is failing, Bush is killing the pride of our youth with an unwanted war...

There is the truth that the real opponents of the US want to hear; the success of the latest terror actions, the terrorist actions in Indonesia, the terrorist actions in Palestine...

There is the truth that I want to hear; what is going on, who is saying what, why they are saying it, who is attacking whom and why, who is trying to construct peace and how...

So, when I read something like the Zarqawi memo, when I see something like the Gaza beach video, or read a blog like Lawrence of Cyberia, or Riverbend, or any of those written by US Marines in the field my first filter is "what credence does this have?" So the Gaza beach video has gone - it is a lie - before I finish seeing it for the second time. The Zarqawi memo at the moment has no more reliability in its provenance than having been translated by a Security official in the Iraqi government. When I read Riverbend, I give thought to the events reported through the media from Baghdad and how they reflect in her writings. And so I can work my way through the list.

The unfortunate thing is the suspicion that most (I suspect probably less than 10% of the population of NZ) take the "broadcast news" far less sceptically than do I. From reading blogs across the spectrum from the US, I would say that very few would get past believing what their prejudices and confirmation bias tells them can only be so. Not only is the MSM and the blogiverse equally guilty in its filtering of "truth" to its audience, the audience expects the MSM to do that for them, without ever questioning the reality presented to them. The "audience" only reads those blogs and commentaries that present what is already believed, and hence confirms the truth expected by the audience.

The proponent who suggested Bush should lie to the MSM "in order to trap them" does have a very twisted point. I have already said to him that Bush has been lying to the media, and to the US electorate, for six years. OKOK that is not the point of this discussion!!! But, Bush and his administration ARE THE INTERNATIONAL FACE OF THE USofA. No matter how factually, truthfully the US media might want to portray him, the words and actions of the administration are the international face of the US. When I said earlier
If the US administration is determined to follow the path in 4. with "an agenda of war and domination " is it your expectation that the MSM should concentrate solely upon the promotion and support of that policy and not in any way suggest that the alternative paths exist or may succeed?
that is exactly what I meant. Is it productive for the US MSM to unquestioningly parrot the pronouncements of the administration when those reports are then re-published (with equally little question) throughout the world? Do you think that the US MSM should write solely for the US public? I am certain that at the moment that is the case, without question. But what happens when the likes of Al Jazeera, or Saudi Post, or Jakarta Times republish those articles? What happens when Bush's words - that he might intend for American consumption only - are used by Islamic MSM to show the true intents of "the Great Satan"?

So, it is not only a matter of what the MSM should - or should not - publish. There is a far deeper matter here of whose truth needs to be heard.

If the US is at war with Iran, does the US public need to be reminded of that every day? What about the reportage of US media in Iran news?

It used to be called "winning the hearts and minds".

Now it is called "right imposed by might".

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Truth, the law and Justice in the USofA -

With all of the hoo-haa doing the rounds about the Rove Grand Jury decision, I did my usual walk-around trying to find out exactly what the story is.

In the course of which I came across these two pieces in Fox News.

The first is the Rove story. The pertinent piece that I am trying to get a handle on is this –
President Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove won’t be charged with any wrongdoing in connection to the investigation of the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity, Rove's lawyer said Tuesday.

Now, what exactly does that mean? Does it mean he has committed no wrong, in which case he should surely be “NOT GUILTY” of any crime. But no, the finding apparently is “that he will not be charged”.

In NZ, we do not have a Grand Jury process in the same form as the US. Yes there are jury trials, and I understand that in the US they are also different from a Grand Jury. The closest that we might have here would be a “Select Committee Enquiry”, which is in fact formed for the specific enquiry (such as that into the Erebus Air New Zealand DC-10 crash under the chairmanship of Justice Mahon.) The police in NZ, through the Public Prosecutor’s Office and their bosses The Crown Law Office, have procedures in place that decide whether charges should proceed to Court in every criminal prosecution. That process is largely “in camera”, which is a defect in some respects and an advantage in others.

I have mentioned in past posts the difficulty of media coverage of investigations in progress; and this applies predominantly to the more brutal and bloody crimes. The difficulty of media coverage is the subsequent possibility that the evidence and the person charged with the crime have been publicised and published to the extent that it is no longer possible to guarantee a fair and impartial trial.

Personally, I can catch a whiff of that as a possibility in the Rove case. It has taken so long, and has been publicised at such great length that the possibilities of a fair trial have to be in question.

One of the other sources I touched base with is USAToday - always an interesting read...

Their article includes this little quote -
Fitzgerald's decision eliminated the possibility of an indictment that "would have been depressive to the Republicans" on Capitol Hill, said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a Rove ally.

Hmmm, "...eliminated the possibility...". Again, surely the most sure way would be "Not Guilty"?

It is at that point that I introduce the second report that came from a sidebar to that first from FoxNews.

It is, admittedly, an op-ed, written by a Wendy McElroy and to make matters worse for some she is a notable feminist. She writes under the title “No Justice for McKinney or Duke 'Rapist'?”.

Now, before you write this off, note the quotes around ‘Rapist’? That is clue number one, because her conclusion may well startle some. It also goes some way toward explaining one other possibility at least in the Rove enquiry. She begins –
There ain't no justice!

To me, that conclusion unites two otherwise distinct legal matters: Rep. Cynthia McKinney's alleged assault of a police officer, and the Duke lacrosse team 'rape' prosecution.

The cases are examples of the law treating people according to who they are and not upon the evidence.

As it is, McKinney and the Duke case shatter the expectation that the law judges people based on evidence rather than politics.

Hmm, ok! Justice according to politics, huh!

Back to USAToday -
Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman accused Democrats of pre-judging Rove for political purposes. "The facts show that Karl Rove actually did nothing wrong," he said.

Do they? If so, why the open decision? What would have been wrong with "Not Guilty"?
Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said the prosecutor's decision "does not diminish the fact that Karl Rove was involved in leaking the identity of an intelligence operative during a time of war."

Well, Howard, you are entitled to your opinion as well. But that is not what the Grand Jury said! Or was it?

Now while McElroy's detail is interesting in terms of how she gets to her conclusion, it is that which hit me in both eyeballs…
One casualty of both McKinney and Duke is the public expectation that the legal system expresses justice.

Restoring confidence is simple. Indict McKinney. Drop charges against Seligmann. Disbar Nifong. Or, rather, it would be simple if politics were not involved. When politics enters, suddenly some people are above the law while other people are beneath it.

Add that to the Rove “non-decision” and suddenly what little clarity there was disappears from the latter entirely.

So, I ask the question again –

IS ROVE “NOT GUILTY” of obstruction of justice and lying? If he is not guilty then why did the Grand Jury not say so, rather than the reported “no charges will be laid”.

I think there is a long way yet to go…

Ahhh... civilisation. Where would we be without it?

On Monday, we had a power cut in Auckland. Nothing unusual in that you say? It is when it closes down about 70% of the city. In Penrose where I work the power was off from 8:20 until about 3:15.

But that is not directly what I want to write about.

My wife left home at 8:15 to take Leo the Lout to the vet for his annual shots. Just as she walked through the door, the lights went out.

After the immediate panic, and LTL had his sore shoulder, SWMBO was arranging for an account to be sent (the power still off) when one of the ladies in the waiting room had her batphone ring. The conversation –


“Oh hello dear”


“You can’t open the gate?”

“What about the remote, dear?”

“OK. I am down at the vets. Give me ten minutes and I’ll pick him up.”

Puts batphone back in purse and announces to the world at large –

“My daughter can not get out of her gate because of the power cut, so now I have to take my grandson to school.”

It occurred to my wife later that had she left only five minutes later she would not have been able to open the garage door. It is a double span, cedar planked and when it is wet I can barely manage it myself.

Oh how we rely upon the marvels of modern science…

It goes further…

The far south were hit by the same storm; with about 500mm of wet snow in 12 hours followed by a very heavy freeze. The consequences included a large part of South Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country without power, still are at this moment, as a result of ice bringing down transmission lines. One community, Fairlie, has the irony of one of the country’s largest hydro-electric generators 10km down the road pumping megawatts to Auckland and no power in the village.

Over the past two weeks, the Government has started an advertising campaign – “Are you ready…”. The campaign was prompted by the Indonesian tsunami in December 04. I tell you what. I am not sure that I am ready. It is not a case of surviving for a weekend. Or even a week. That we could probably manage without major inconvenience. Sure I might not smell too good by that time but I do not believe that I would starve. But if we were to take a longer look – let’s say if there were to be a catastrophic eruption of Ngauruahoe or Ruapehu that took out the main electricity transmission lines between Wellington and Auckland. In theory, Auckland’s power would be supplied from the Waikato stations, and the four small stations around the province. Shared over the region, that would be about 50% of Auckland’s total demand. If the Waikato stations were affected by ash in the river (a good possibility) then it would be necessary to close those down as well to preserve the equipment. In that scenario, then the long term effects would be truly catastrophic at both local and national level.

I think that should that happen, my best plan would be to throw as much as we can fit into the car – including the Lout – one full tank of gas and head north. First job there – dig a vege patch. Then start diverting water and drainage to greywater and outflow so that I have a supply for keeping the veges watered and perhaps even fertilised.

One of the little experiences learned in Fairlie is that the batteries on the cell phone towers down there lasted for about 3 days. After that, no phones, nothing. Even the copper wire has been routed over microwave links for the long-distance traffic. So contact between Fairley and the outside world is eventually dependant upon those towers. In Auckland here, home was on the phone – old copper wire – but work uses ISDN lines and a computer switchboard. No power, no phone.


From NASA and with hat tip to scoop...



Report from USAToday

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — A freakishly powerful storm far off in the South Pacific propelled huge swells to the Americas, causing a surge of waves that battered homes and beachfront businesses from Peru to Mexico, authorities said Tuesday.
High surf kicked up as far south as northern Chile and as far north as Southern California, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported as several hundred people were evacuated in at least eight countries.

The barrage began Sunday, and the waves were beginning to weaken Tuesday afternoon, meteorologists said.

"We expect them to gradually subside over the next 24 to 48 hours," said Hugh Cobb, at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The waves resulted from a particularly intense low pressure system several hundred miles off New Zealand that caused hurricane force winds and rare snowfall at sea level. Masses of water were shoved eastward, creating unusually big waves when the swells hit the Americas.

Yep, that were some storm, that were.

My grandfather obtained from a library (I know not from where) three 16mm films shot during the 1920's and 30's (the first was late 20's, the last 1938) by Alan Villiers, an Australian who ended up owning two of the grain clippers Herzogin Cecilie if I remember right and the Laiez Parma and sailing them in three grain voyages from Port Stevens, Australia to Channel.

The first of the three, if I remember right, ran for about 35 or 40 minutes and was shot on a voyage from Australia to Channel via the Horn on a ship named Grace Harwar. She was known as a "killer ship" and they lost three on that voyage in a storm off the Horn.

The descriptions of the storm of last week and the article in USAToday brought back recollections of the Grace Harwar film. She was a killer ship, and on this particular voyage they lost three. I can remember the scenes, running about 3 or 4 minutes, after a yard came down killing two of them. But it was the sea in the background that was the most frightening, even just on film. The camera was hand held, and at the bottom of a swell, the tops would have been about 40 to 50 feet above deck level. That is not the real problem, because the higher a sea gets, the greater the distance between the seas. It was the fact that the wind was strong enough to blow solid water - ten, fifteen feet - off the tops of those waves. You might have seen the spray blowing out of a wave as it breaks on the beach. This was solid water. Remember too that the wind is blowing in the same direction as the wave is travelling, not the opposite.

A once in a century storm...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Reporting current events...

As recorded 14:16 NZST 12/6/05

Current events in Palestine...

FoxNews acknowledges Abbas' call for a plebiscite on the establishment of a Palestinian nation.

USAToday has "news" that I was reading a week ago in the Herald.

I did the rounds of the list of right whine blogs I moniter; not one mentions Palestine.

Speaking of the Herald -

GAZA - Hamas launched rockets at Israel today, formally ending a 16-month-old truce, after blaming Israeli artillery fire for the killing of seven Palestinians relaxing on a Gaza beach.
This is only the start and rocket firings will continue," said a spokesman for Hamas's Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, a group that carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in Israel since the start of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.


Israel said it was investigating whether its forces were responsible for killing the seven Palestinians on the beach in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday. It had been shelling the area to stop militants firing rockets over the frontier.

Among the dead were three children aged 1, 3 and 10.

"This may have been an accident which caused an artillery shell to fall off course, or an older unexploded shell which went off, or perhaps an explosive device which was tinkered with," said Israeli Major-General Yoav Galant.

[Say WHAT???]

He said he was sorry for the loss of civilian life.

Washington said Israeli artillery fire was responsible for the deaths.

"The United States expresses its regret for the killing and wounding of innocent Palestinians in Gaza ... as a result of artillery fire by the Israeli Defence Forces," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

Before the explosion on the Gaza beach, Israel killed three men in an airstrike on what the army said was a rocket crew. Palestinians said they were civilians. Rocket fire had intensified on Friday following Israel's killing of a senior militant the day before.
The proposed manifesto implicitly recognises Israel by calling for a Palestinian state on all of the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last year.

Opinion polls show most Palestinians back the proposal, drawn up by militants imprisoned in Israel, which calls the manifesto a non-starter.

Now this would be most curious if it were not so tragic.

Credit to "Washington" for calling the truth.

I wish, oh how sincerely I wish that I had the time and resources to fully research the timing relationship between major palestinian moves toward peace and the aggressive murder of Palestinian civilians by the Israelis.

Obviously, the mere thought of Palestine recognising Israel would not be something that would help Israel's cause. It was obviously something that had to be stopped.

It has been.

And who do you think will carry the blame for deaths into the future?

Sickening, quite sickening.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sedition - Cause celebre!

I must admit to some concerns regarding this decision in our Auckland District Court yesterday.

The guy is probably a nutter, but even so he does have a point.

The question in my mind –

If he had put his axe through any window other than one belonging to the PM’s Electoral Office, would the charge have been “sedition”? I strongly suspect not. Far more likely he would have been facing “intentional damage” or something like that. That he pled guilty to such an offence shows it was brought.

This is how Herald defined "sedition"-

* Tim Selwyn took part in a protest which put an axe through the window of Prime Minister Helen Clark's electoral office.

* He wrote a press release encouraging others to follow his example.

* For this the jury found him guilty of sedition, which is defined as "speech, writing or behaviour intended to encourage rebellion or resistance against the government".

OK, so the heart of the matter is the "speech, writing or behaviour intended to encourage rebellion or resistance against the government" is it?

The freelance writer, from Grey Lynn, Auckland, earlier admitted to conspiring to commit wilful damage when an axe was embedded in Prime Minister Helen Clark's electoral office window in November 2004.

He had admitted in court to "having a hand" in two separate statements claiming responsibility for the axe attack and calling for others to commit acts of civil disobedience.

One bundle of pamphlets was left outside the Mt Albert electoral office, and the second on a powerbox in Ponsonby Rd, 2km away, on the same night as the axe attack.

The jury found material in the second statement to be seditious.

It was designed as a press release and called for "like minded New Zealanders to take similar action of their own".

The first statement had called upon "like minded New Zealanders to commit their own acts of civil disobedience".

His actions were in protest of the Government's foreshore and seabed legislation, which he said was being rushed through Parliament at the time.

Is freedom of expression as repressed in NZ as it is in the various countries that he lists? Well, watch this space because I believe that we will find out in the next few weeks.

There have been accusations in the past of Government (specifically Auntie Helen) involvement in the direction of Police investigation and charges. Those accusations have been turned away by the Police Commissioner as unwarranted and untrue. It is fortunate indeed that the Police succeeded in their charges this time around. Had the sedition charge not been found by that jury then the hounds of hell would have been after both. As it stands, the decision makes any attempt to point to that possible link and to answer my question above difficult to sustain.

For the record, here is Herald’s list of previous convictions for “sedition” –


* 1913: Maoriland Worker editor Henry Holland and unionist Tom Barker were charged with sedition during the 1913 waterfront dispute. Holland was sentenced to prison for a year, of which he served 3 1/2 months. Barker received a three-month sentence. Seamans union leader William Young was jailed for two months for sedition and inciting violence.

* 1916: Peter Fraser, later Labour Prime Minister, was sentenced to 12 months, which he served, for calling for an end to conscription through repeal of the Military Service Act. Fraser's defence was that in arguing for the repeal of the law rather than disobedience or resistance to it, he was acting within his constitutional rights.

* 1916: Hubert Armstrong was sentenced to a year's imprisonment after he told a street-corner meeting that conscription was more about controlling and intimidating a disaffected proletariat than about beating Germany, and would be unnecessary if soldiers were adequately paid.

* 1918: Hiram Hunter campaigned against compulsory service as secretary-treasurer of the United Federation of Labour. In 1918 he received a three-month prison sentence for sedition, but was released after 19 days.

* 1942: The Rev Ormond Burton, editor of the Christian Pacifist Society newsletter, was convicted in the Supreme Court in 1942 for "editing, publishing and attempting to publish a subversive document". Burton argued for his democratic right to think and speak as conscience dictated. Justice Archibald Blair disagreed, telling the jury it was a time when the mouths of cranks would have to shut. Burton was sentenced to 2 years' prison.

Sources: Caslon Analytics (, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (

Yes folks, the probligo is worried; very concerned; paranoid e-fen!!

Further questions –

If "speech, writing or behaviour intended to encourage rebellion or resistance against the government" leads to the crime of sedition then how many cases in the past have been passed over and not charged? Is incitement to disobey a lawful request of the Police "an act against the government"? How about incitement to disobey Government demands to return to work? Or how about the illegal occupation of land, and the incitement of others to do the same in other locations? Would Ghandi's "civil disobedience" be considered "sedition" - for example incitement to smoke marijuana in a public place would seem to fall into that category...


Joe Hawke and the occupation of Bastion Point.

The leaders of the Waterfront Strike 1950.

The occupation of Moutua Gardens.

The Norml demonstrations in favour of decriminalising recreational pot...

Auntie Helen, you got one hellava lot of ‘splainin to do.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Americans and the American view of the world...

There are a range of blogs that I keep in touch with, sometimes “comment” on, across the political spectrum. One of those is neo-neocon, a lady who presents a wide range of opinion in terms that are reasonable and mostly quite objective (Neo, if you read this, it does not mean that I agree – I am commenting upon the quality not the width). One of her recent has been this commentary on the Habitha action.
Among the comments that follow (June 7 12.04p.m.) you will find this from a frequent commenter “Ymarsakar”. I have crossed swords with him on a number of occasions, and this that follows will give a measure of him (or her). He is responding (I presume) to this comment posted about 12 hours prior…
An interesting quote from Yon's article:

"A smart Australian recently told me during an interview that “terrorist” is not a subjective term; after all, terror is their principle weapon, and so the term is accurate."

Apparently, there really IS at least one, despite what we've been led to believe. [hehehe there might be three if you include two that I know]

Ymarsakar’s response -
A lot of Australians can't defend themselves because they would get charged with assault. Aussie land has banned handguns and anything other "excessive retaliation" in self-defense.

So what the women do to stay safe, is to bring along mace cans, bats, and etc in their homes and to carry.

In Australia, if someone attacks you with his fists and he is 300 pounds, 6'2, and you're a woman that is 90 pounds 5'2 who uses a knife to kill the assailant, you can be charged with manslaughter or assault yourself.

Why? Simply because you "exceeded" the force levels the state will allow you. If you use a baseball bat to beat on someone using only his fists against you, that is called excessive force and is not covered by the self-defense laws in Aussie land. Assuming any self-defense laws exist there.

See it doesn't really matter to the judges and the government if you are 90 pounds and can't fight fist to fist with a 300 pound 6 foot man. They don't care. Just as they don't care if they confiscate your home with Eminent Domain here in the US. They can do it, therefore they will.

So sure, you won't be murdered by firearms compared to the United States. However, living under the tyranny and terror of unjust laws and the rule of criminals and judges is not my idea of liberty either.

Criminals will always pump iron so that they can pick on weaker people, they will always band together to form gangs and groups that outnumber the "mark". Disarming everyone, simply gives the advantage to the enemy, because the enemy is on the attack and he will always bring a superior force to the equation.

A person trained in the use of a gun is a great equalizer when 3 hooligans begin to oppress that person.

Go here for a story about how a former Marine kicked 4 criminals' ass, two armed with guns at that, because the Marine was trained and hardcore at the ready to do unto others before they do unto him

Aussies are living under the threat of constant violence. Not from the US, but by their own warlords. you should feel pity for such a condition. As anyone would feel pity for New orleans, when Ray I wanna confiscate guns Nagin stole people's ability to defend themselves and allowed rioters, rapists, looters free reign in the city.

If you are attacked by superior numbers, people who have planned to do harm to you and have chosen the location of battle with the intent of surrounding you and bashing your skull into the ground, then your only hope is to break their morale. You break their morale by shooting one of them in the balls with your gun so that he goes screaming off to fairy land, stunning and shocking his com-patriots. If you don't have a gun, you pick the meanest and toughest leader amongst the group and you take him down by crushing his wind pipe, exploding his eye, shattering his temple, and breaking his knee in whatever order the situation presents itself. The only hope a small number of people on the defense has against a greater number of attacks is to ATTACK.

Nobody wins a fight just parrying and blocking blows, attack hard enough and furiously enough and you will buy time to either escape or disable others.

The Australians see this "self-defense as an attack strategy" as being unlawful. The person who attacked you with the bat is the victim here, if you reply with a gun, because it just ain't "fair" you know. That is the legal philosophy of Australia, and it has had untoward effects in the culture.

I started with the thought, “This is a joke, right?” It has to be! No one in their right senses would see the world like this?

Don’t get me wrong. There are considerable differences between NZ and Australia. There are also many very close similarities. Those similarities include law, and attitude to violence. If Y and his ilk think that Bondi and La Perouse are an accurate picture of Australia (has anyone heard of any continuing “Muslim / White” riots since the end of summer?) then Porirua and Otara would have to be taken as NZ’s “picture”. I have been assaulted, twice, in public places. In both instances the attacks were unprovoked, and the people who attacked me were white. One guy tried to break his nose on my eyebrow and succeeded; three stitches earned. The other (I thought) had broken my glasses when he whacked me on the back of my head from behind; a small cut between my knuckles from an upper incisor.

As for the law, the right to defend depends upon an old English legal definition of “reasonable” – a term used in very nearly every area of law and not just that of inflicting violence. In this instance, I am entitled to use “reasonable force” in defending myself, my family and my property. Perhaps one of the difficulties that Y is having is in understanding this little term. For a start, “reasonable force” depends upon the level of threat. If someone grabs my camera and makes off with it, I am entitled to pursue and detain, that is all; because there is no threat of greater violence. If a farmer living a remote area disturbs three guys stealing his quadbike at night he is entitled to shoot and wound if he believes that they are armed; like waving a rifle at him.

Yes we have “home invasion crimes”, about three reported in the past ten years; yes there are murders, as Y points out the overall and gun murder rates per population are well below those of the US - by a factor of about 20 as it happens; yes there is occasional violence in the streets, Queen St (Auckland’s equivalent to central NY) and Manners St (Wellingtons answer to Kings Cross in Sydney) are not places to linger after midnight but the perpetrators are predominantly teenagers, pissed or bombed or both, with attitudes in direct proportion to their testosterone levels. On the other hand, the risk of being set upon, beaten up, robbed or murdered in the street even in those places is so close to zero that I would still go there given reason and opportunity. Otara Market on a Saturday morning is a tourist attraction. Some of the neighbouring residential streets are pretty tough, but that is their patch and I have no need to go there…

With that as a basis, I am at a loss for words when I consider Y’s attitude to his place in society, how to relate with other people…

Carrying mace? Carrying ANY weapons? I have no need to. My wife feels no need (that she has mentioned to me anyhoos) for “protection” other than that which is advertised in women’s magazines and tv. Besides which, it is as illegal as a gun in NZ and probably also in Aussie.

Do we have “warlords”? Well I guess that some of the local gang leaders might like to consider themselves as such. But having met the Stormtroopers leadership (through the sponsorship of my wife and her work in the kindergartens) I have a respect for some of them. There are others whom one would not want to meet; consider them as equivalent to the mafioso rather than warlords.

Are Nzers down-trodden? Well, if we are then give me this life over any other. Aussies? Try tying down a kangaroo sometime sport and you will find out how likely that they are – ‘sides which aren’t the Aussies number one good mates with GWB… you know, the one that looks like a chimp on acid.

Y, you are welcome to your world of total paranoia. It obviously deserves you. I hope with all of my heart that your gun and your god never fail you. One thing is certain. With people such as you alive and well in America, I still have no reason to visit – ever! And if I did, I would never ever bang a paper bag behind you – far too damned dangerous to be worth it.

I hope, just as fervently, that you never have reason to visit our fair shores, or even Aussieland. The spiritual shock, the mental nakedness you would be subjected to from having to leave your armoury at the door, is a torment to which no man should be subjected, not even an alQaeda suspect.

As an aside… We had a tv “reality programme” a couple years back, “Border Patrol”, following the NZ Customs Dept and Ag and Fish Inspectors in their various daily tasks. A fair part of that is the “Anything to declare” business at airports. There was an incident, quite sad in one respect, where a 50-ish American gent and his wife arrived after (what is a very) long flight from LA. They were taken aside after collecting their baggage and asked if there was anything they needed to declare. He avowed that there was not, so he and his wife were taken to a separate area and a search was undertaken. He had three handguns and ammunition stowed in his suitcase. When it was explained that he would have to leave them in Customs bond for collection on his departure and pay a fine for failing to declare his weapons (about NZD250), he decided that he would prefer to return to the US. It took some while to sink in, but he eventually commented that none of the law enforcement officers were carrying visible arms.

“No, there is no need.”

It occurs to me – this is not the last that will be seen of this comment. It is too good to lose in the virtual Unterlands as a prime example of how one American atleast sees the world.

I feel very sorry - for him.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Missed opportunities...

Last weekend was one of those much celebrated Long NZ Weekends, treasured by kids at school as a one day respite from teachers, celebrating some obscure and arcane annual festival. In this instance it was the Sovereign’s Birthday, which being Queen Elizabeth is obviously “Queen’s Birthday Weekend”. That her actual birthday is in April is of no consequence. There must have been at least one Monarch in the past who was born on the first Monday in June. It is “Monday-ised” as well so it is always a long weekend. It is the last of them too until the end of October when Labour Weekend ushers in summer.

We spent the weekend amid the gales and calm, rain and sun, in Opononi. A very nice weekend too. We got some work done, we read, we ate and drank more than we should.

On Sunday we drove down to Rawene. We had had some work done by an electrician. What he had done was good and proper. We were also without hot water for some reason; probably because the heater element had blown. That is why we were dropping off a door key to the electrician. On the way back, we stopped off at the store and picked up dinner things.

We were driving back to the bach and there was this man walking toward us on the road. Nothing remarkable about that you might say.

In his mid 20’s, slim, good looking and very well presented. He was dressed; two piece suit, white shirt, tie, bowler hat and tramping boots. On his back he had a pikau, bedroll and tent.

As we drove toward him I commented to my wife “I would just love to get his photo”. Her reply was short and, even more to the point, accurate. “No. You would end up talking for a long time and I want to get home”. So we passed him by.

Now to explain.

Part of NZ’s folklore, coming mainly from the 1885 depression, is the “tradition” of the swagger. It is a tradition NZ and Australia share. The men were from all walks; failed gold-miners, farmers forced off their land by the banks, labourers looking for work, shearers, the list goes on. Their life was hard especially during the winter. It was not uncommon after a heavy snow to find a body in a ditch or under a tree where they had tried to shelter, either very ill or dead from hypothermia (exposure as it was then). There was no government welfare, only the charity of townsfolk in providing a couple of days meals for a few hours work or the local soup kitchen if there was one. There was no transport. The distance between one hope and the next was a day's walking at most. There were annual convocations; predetermined - almost traditional - meeting places such as the gathering at the start of the shearing season. An unofficial headcount would show who had not made it from the last meeting. Very few went without being remembered.

There is an excellent historical novel, written by John A Lee titled “Shining with the Shiner”. If you can track it down, read it. It gives (as does all of Lee’s stories) a very accurate picture of NZ at the turn of the 19th century. Lee was a boy at the end of the true swagger era in the 1890s, a criminal at age 8 and sentenced to “Borstal Training” in his teens, a raging left wing Unionist in the 1920s and later he got into national politics, became a Minister in the First Labour Government and was subsequently sacked by his own party for criticizing Labour Party policies in the late 1930’s. He was an orator of considerable repute.

I still feel sad about that missed opportunity.