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Immorality of the death penalty

Opposition to the death penalty on the basis of the fallibility of the system which imposes it implies tacit support for it if we could be sure of the evidence and process involved.

I oppose the death penalty because of the implied and actual impact on the state and society. We are all tainted and diminished when this penalty is imposed in our name and I believe that it is part of the price of civilisation that we do not.

Thank you Roland Soong

Arriving on Saturday is one of China's 'good guys,' Premier Wen Jiabao (he stood at Zhao Ziyang's shoulder in 1989, when the ill-fated Party leader visited the students on Tiananmen Square and pleaded with them to end their hunger strike. The picture is here, scroll down to "The Crackdown").

With Uranium the hot topic, DFAT bureaucrats in Canberra poring over the fine print of a free trade agreement, BHP fast becoming the Wal-Mart of Australian resource retailers for Chinese shoppers, and Qantas thinking of servicing its planes in China, I thought of whipping together an 'idiot's guide' to reading about the People's Republic.

This guide is not meant to be exhaustive in any sense, and it's highly personal. Liu Kang's (2004) Globalization and Cultural Trends in China is my first stop when I need to be reminded how to read about China. Liu points out that most writing from popular to academic, reportage, and reporting from and about China falls into one of two broad categories -- triumphalism or China-bashing.

This is a problem Edward Said (1993) nicely sums up in Culture and Imperialism, as the inability of writers within an imperial tradition (and I'm including China here) to avoid the "cruel tautology" (p. xix) of domination or resistance. I.e. the writers, including when the writers are the 'natives,' can't accept that what the 'natives' have to say about themselves might have some merit outside of any reference in favor of or in opposition to the center.

Given Washington's imperial achievements and seemingly limitless ambitions, Canberra's position as the capital of a minor vassal state maneuvering between rivals and Beijing's continuing history of imperialish [sic] behaviour despite the 1911 revolution, Said is still relevant, perhaps increasingly so.

From my own blinkered perspective, I'm not sure I could find China on a map. I'm not even sure whether it exists. Therefore I don't take very seriously histories about the space where it's purported to be. For politics, given the Party is still more soviet than anything else, T.H. Rigby's (1990) The Changing Soviet System is probably as good a place to start as anywhere.

More specifically on the relationship between the Party and the space it apparently governs in fits and starts, texts like Tony Saich's (2004) Governance and Politics of China are fine. In any case, If Liu is correct, we can more or less ignore most non-local writers, forget about all those fascinating insights into the hidden histories of Mao's toilet, peccadilloes, and tastes in entertainment that line bookshop shelves, forget about those analyses terminable and interminable that foreign correspondents specialize in, and seek more immediate fare.

Enter the internet. As Liu points out, the local journalists in China are producing plenty of readable work, which, contrary to the myth, does not have to be read between the lines to be understood or interesting. Bracketing the internet in Chinese, which needs no introduction to those who can read it, some of the more prominent and easily accessible sites in English are People's Daily, China Daily, China Radio International, and Shanghai Star (see here for a fuller listing). Unfortunately, given that these media are the voice of the center and the big cities, they often miss what is going on at the periphery and outside the big cities, even inside the big cities if it doesn't involve big politics and economics.

The Chinese blogsphere is thriving, but most of the best stuff is in Chinese. Thankfully Roland Soong's ESWN is not. Reuters' John Ruwitch (1/3/06) recently wrote "[m]any foreign reporters in China... keep up with ESWN for story ideas." So, given that no less an authority than Reuters is willing to admit where many foreign reporters in China find their stories, this begs the question why read foreign reporters at all, when instead of getting the story third hand, we can get it second hand from Soong, if we can't get it first hand?

 My advice is simple: if you can't read Chinese, try the big Chinese media; if you can't find it there, you'll probably find it at ESWN. Thank you Roland Soong.

Secret silent censorship in cyberspace

The issues Richard Neville raises are serious. Each of the questions deserves a real answer.

I keep wondering what would have happened if the website had been an issue of, say, the Nation Review. Would piles of papers have mysteriously disappeared from the street-corners of Melbourne? Would the editors have been arrested? Would the arrests have featured in the Age, the Herald, the SMH? Would there have been a censorship trial? Would Don Chipp have been a witness?

The fact that these questions seem so quaint shows the distance we've come (Oh! The places you'll go!) in the last 35 years.

The only thing I'm wondering about is Richard's domain name. If it had been notthepm.org would it have disappeared so silently?

BUT: one other thing about Yahoo! – when it acquired geocities.com in June 1999 it immediately laid claim to the content of all websites hosted there. Though the outcry made Yahoo! retract its ambit claim somewhat, I suspect that buried in the TOS there is a clause enabling Yahoo! to remove content. But not without notification.

In classical fascist arrangements governmental and corporate interests are one. Does anybody see two, now, in Australia?

Aboriginal Affairs 2006 - Unbelievable

Aboriginal Affairs 2006 - Unbelievable

(How much more of this can our Indigenous Population Take)

Listening to Background Briefing (Radio National) tonight shocked me yet again. This Government, after dismantling ATSIC and putting the pragmatic bureaucrats in charge, has reduced Aboriginal Affairs down to a mutual obligation contract that really beggars belief.

Forget reconciliation, that is now a pipe dream. For remote communities, mere survival is now traded away.

I'm too angry to convey details. Suffice it to say that it's a shocker. This Government has no heart. There is no way John Howard can get on his righteous high horse to declare his compassion for anyone when he knows that there are people, in our country, suffering needlessly, in the worst possible way - in conditions that are atrocious.

This is a real shocker!

Midnight Oil were right, Australia does have a dead heart.

Greg Clarke

Great to hear some intelligent theological discussion on an important issue. (I contributed to Margo's discussion on Creation/Evolution and was very unimpressed with the standard of argument). It is also great to find a mainstream forum where these issues can be discussed intelligently and without secular paranoia and hysteria. (Secularists seem to me to often to have far more trouble dealing with difference than Christians, who either learn how to early or else retreat to the Christian ghetto). I also am a fan of CS Lewis and we are fast approaching the situation he describes in his last science fiction work: That hideous strength: tyranny in the guise of science and reason. I am also reminded of a Tony Benn quote: “If fascism ever comes to Britain (or Australia), it will wear a top hat” ie be in the guise of respectability. I think we're seeing quite a bit of that as well.

Wheat for Saddam, peanuts for security


1 February 2006

Sen Norm Coleman
Senator for Minnesota
US Congress

Dear Senator Coleman,

Thank you for revealing to the Australian pubic the misconduct of the Australian ambassador regarding the wheat bribe to Saddam. The peculiar shame of this matter is amplified by the United States’ large casualties in Iraq. We hope, when you speak to Ambassador Richardson, that he is able to tell you how he, as head of Australia’s Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), allowed this matter to occur at a time of war.

Please accept our kindest regards.

Peter Woodforde

another core promise

Ron Collins, I think you need to read the memo more closely Ron.

Yes, it does speculate about the possible use of WMD by Saddam, but in the context of the US Military having doubts about the viability of its battle plan.

I accept that the US Military may have believed that Saddam possessed WMD – at the time, most people harboured such suspicions, including me.

But the deception did not emanate from the US military, rather from the politicians.

As the Rycroft memo records: “C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

It is clear that the British knew that the Bush administration was fabricating the case for war. Months later, Powell’s penultimate presentation to the UN was built around the threat of WMD which, as it turned out, didn’t exist - no mushroom clouds; no chemical or biological weapons; no anthrax; no smoking gun and no credibility.

As to our government, I stated in my article that neither Howard nor Downer has denied being aware of the US activities. However, Howard did ignore the intelligence assessments being provided by our own services (which threw doubt on the WMD case) in favour of those touted by the US and Britain. He also made much of his close relationships with the heads of both the US and British intelligence organizations.

If Howard knew, then he lied to the Australian people to justify our involvement in the war. If he didn’t know, it means that the US and Britain deliberately mislead him. Where does that leave Howard?

Perhaps you could ask him?

Stuart Lord, sorry to disturb your holiday Stuart.

On half truths, mistruths and lies...

1.Yes draft-dodger. Enlisting in the National Guard in the US is a recognized way for members of well-to-do families to avoid active military service. But if you then don’t fulfil the service requirements, it is tantamount to draft-dodging. “Hiding” is hiding, whether it be in Canada or a safe backwater in the US, protected by political patronage.

2. I think you’ve misunderstood my point or I didn’t make it clearly enough.

My contention is that Howard and his government deliberately and falsely justified and continue to justify our involvement in Iraq on the basis that it was and is an integral part of the war on terror.

Oh, and I agree with your “sweeping generalisations” regarding “the other side”.

3.Yes I do think it was and is about oil money Stuart.

Don’t forget that Bush’s original estimate of the cost of the war was US$70 billion – not a big number in the context of the US Budget, particularly when its being “sold” to the populace on the basis that Saddam was responsible for 911, is threatening the world with imminent destruction and also isn’t a nice person.

But there are two money trails. The 1st is the cost of the war, which will be borne by the US treasury and ultimately by the US taxpayer. The other is the astounding medium to long-term profits that will be enjoyed by the US and British oil majors through the misappropriation of Iraq’s oil reserves.

Of course, big oil picks up none of the costs and all of the profits.

But if it wasn’t WMDs and it wasn’t big oil, what was it Stuart?

4.You should check more often Stuart.

Take a look at this report from The Chronicle of Higher Education which not only vindicates the Lancet Study and its methodology but exposes the dishonesty and ineptitude of the US media in trying to discredit it.

By the way, if the numbers are overstated, why hasn’t the US, as the formal occupying power in Iraq, taken the opportunity to do its own study? Perhaps it has and doesn’t want to release it or maybe it just doesn’t want to know?

5.As to the facts, I’ll let the report speak for itself.

6.Er, yes…

Under International Law, launching a war of aggression against another sovereign state is the greatest war crime: a crime against peace.

The obscenity rests with you in pretending that the war was launched to “save” the people of Iraq from Saddam Hussein. And surely the obscenity extends to anyone who is comfortable with the part played by our government in promoting and participating in that war and with the lies and deceptions it used to justify its behaviour.

still trying to log on

I have had difficulty getting into this site.  So this is a trial balloon; hope it flies. David: it flew!

Getting into new site

I think I am in, but I have still to find my way around. Here's hoping - after the Cronulla 'incidents' and the politicians' pathetic 'responses' (especially Howard's, including Labor's) Webdiary is needed more than ever - I am waiting to see how the TV shots have been received in London and Vilnius...

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