Showing posts with label John Howard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Howard. Show all posts

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Start of a new epoch

This victory of Labor and Ken Rudd will mean, above all, that Australia will get out of Iraq, and get around to tackling global warming. Meanwhile, as a journalist suggested, it would be nice if John Howard were to be granted a comfortable retirement job in England, where he could receive a title of nobility from the queen, and spend his time watching cricket.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Australia intends to censor the web

I've often thought that Australia surely appears to the world at times, from a sociopolitical viewpoint, as an immature nation. When political candidates seek to be elected, and when citizens vote, they often seem to do so, not through profound principles about what's good for the people and right for the nation, but merely on the basis of a single pervading question: What's in it for me? Things are warming up for a forthcoming federal election, and the tactics of the two major contenders [current PM John Howard and Opposition leader Kevin Rudd] are already producing what a local journalist referred to poetically as "a shriekfest about smears, fears, sneers, jeers, cheers, leers...".

To my mind, there is no more abject indicator of sociopolitical immaturity than an appeal to censorship. And this is what John Howard and his minister of Communications, Helen Coonan, are presently seeking to impose upon the Australian people.... in a telltale elusive manner, as surreptitiously as possible, so that few observers are likely to realize what is happening, and kick up a fuss.

This lady wants to extend a black list of websites to be outlawed, purely and simply, by the ACMA [Australian Communications and Media Authority]. For the moment, apparently, ACMA shields the Aussie public from certain websites containing pornography or offensive content. It would be interesting to know what exactly is meant by the terms "pornography" and "offensive content", just as it would be intriguing to learn something about the individuals who perform this censorship, their credentials and their operational criteria.

The planned Coonan censorship extensions concern websites in the domain of "terrorism and cyber-crime". Superficially, that sounds great. Australia simply has to ban websites that seek to expound terrorist ideology and cyber-crime methods, and—abracadabra!—these obnoxious phenomena will disappear magically from the wide brown country. What idiotically naive thinking! Are Australians not mature enough to separate the wheat from the chaff? To see what web stuff they wish to examine, and what they want to reject spontaneously? Are Howard and Coonan afraid that some silly kid in the suburbs is going to learn from the Internet the art of making roadside bombs, or the methods for delving into the online bank accounts of unsuspecting citizens? What rubbish! The nation's leaders would do better to enhance the sophistication of their intelligence, security and law-enforcement services...

To paraphrase one of my favorite conclusions on affairs of this nature: Every nation has the censorship it deserves.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

New MySpace account

You can click on my name to visit my new MySpace site: William. But there's nothing there yet. However, since everybody seems to have an account at MySpace these days [including the Australian opposition leader Kevin Rudd], I decided to be like everybody else. One of these days, I promise, I'll get around to learning how to use my portable phone. Incidentally, I've been wondering whether the current Aussie PM [God, I can't remember his name] is also, like Rudd, a cyber wiz.

Talking of those folk, the latest Nicholson animation has just come out. It's brilliant, as usual. It features a sad old guy singing Paul McCartney's Yesterday while thinking nostalgically about all the nice things that used to happen to him.

Click on the image to see it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Appalling legacy

In comparing George Bush and Tony Blair, a wag [no pun intended] said recently that Bush has done everything wrong, with one exception: his success in getting Blair to back him up over Iraq. Inversely, Blair has done everything right, with one exception: his decision to back up Bush over Iraq.

The name Chatham House might not mean much to you. You'll know what I'm talking about as soon as I point out that, up until September 2004, this London-based think tank was known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs. [Click the banner to visit their website.] Here's how they describe themselves:

Chatham House is one of the world's leading organizations for the analysis of international issues. It is membership-based and aims to help individuals and organizations to be at the forefront of developments in an ever-changing and increasingly complex world.

This organization has just published a 12-page report, Accepting Realities in Iraq, which describes the appalling legacy which Bush and Blair—and let's not forget Howard, too—have left there. [Click here to obtain a copy of this so-called briefing paper.]

The report reads like an exercise in conjugating the verb fail, and declining the concept of failure. A spine-chilling extract [page 2]:

It can be argued that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation.

The report quotes [page 3] the words of Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based think tank called CSIS [Center for Strategic and International Studies]:

It is more than possible that a failed president [Bush] and a failed administration will preside over a failed war for the second time since Vietnam.

Observers have been pointing out constantly that the Bush/Blair/Howard legacy in Iraq can only be described as civil war. The Chatham House paper is far more scathing [summary on page 1]:

There is not 'a' civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organizations struggling for power.

How many more deaths and how much more destruction will it take until the diabolical and stubborn Bush/Blair/Howard trio wakes up to an obvious fact? They have only one option left: Get the fucking hell out of Iraq as soon as possible...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Howard speaks out on brutality

I don't usually see Australian PM John Howard as a positive leader on the world scene, but I must admit that I liked his rough style of talking about Zimbabwe and its president Robert Mugabe:

"Frankly, I've run out of patience. Most people have run out of patience about what's happening in Zimbabwe. We pussyfoot around far too much using diplomatic language. This man is a disaster. His country is just a total heap of misery."

Above all, we must applaud the courage and pragmatism of Australia's consul in Zimbabwe, Mark Lynch, who protected Sekai Holland—a female member of the MDC opposition party (Movement for Democratic Change) whose husband is Australian—by driving her to the airport and putting her on a plane to Johannesburg.

Howard described the context in which Holland had been bashed:

"The police are using brutal tactics. They're bashing up opposition politicians. They're fracturing skulls. They're behaving in a totally unacceptable fashion."

What a pity that Howard didn't use this kind of direct language in describing the treatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. [Click here for further photos.]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fourth anniversary

On Friday, the French PM Dominique de Villepin visited Harvard University, invited by the political science professor Stanley Hoffmann. Four years ago, that same Frenchman spoke to the United Nations in New York about the dangers of a US invasion of Iraq. A major American newspaper said that, over recent years, everything has changed except Bush's conviction that he can win the war in Iraq. Something else that has not changed during the last four years is France's conviction that this terrible and costly fiasco is not a war that can be won. By terrorists, maybe, but certainly not by Bush.

In the realms of international diplomacy, no politically-correct head of state or his ministers would ever refer to their foreign counterparts by means of derogatory personal remarks or judgments. The representatives of the Republic express themselves with a quality known in French as réserve. Besides, they avoid any remarks that might be interpreted as interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. For those reasons, it would be unthinkable for Jacques Chirac or Dominique de Villepin to react in the way as Australian PM John Howard when he recently blasted the US presidential candidate Barack Obama. But the fact that no French leaders refer to Bush explicitly as an idiot doesn't prevent onlookers from reading between the lines and guessing that this is what they think. One has the impression that nobody in France is keen to talk to Bush any more, or even talk about him. He seems to have become a kind of international nonentity, and people are simply waiting for him to go away, or be chased away.

Getting back to Dominique de Villepin, it's hard to guess what he's going to do with himself after the departure of Chirac in a month or so, because this man has never been an elected politician, and it would be funny seeing a former PM striving to pick up votes in a provincial electorate. During his American visit, somebody asked him whether he felt like becoming an expatriate... maybe in the USA. "No, " replied de Villepin curtly, "I'm too French."