Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

The Daily Briefing 14/11/05

MONDAY 14TH NOVEMBER 2005          
Your round-up from today's newspapers plus the best writing, analysis, critical thinking and humour from around the world.

In today's email:
1    Bruce Lawrence on the writings of Osama bin Laden/Chronicle (4 links below)
2    Andrew Sullivan on freedom and terror/Sunday Times (8 links below)
3    Christina Lamb on the murder of Afghani poet Nadia Anjuman/Sunday Times
4    Salman Rushdie calls for action in Kashmir/Times
5    Report on the drought and agricultural failure in Malawi/Washington Post
6    Transcript of Rove's speech to The Federalist Society/Washington Post (2 links below)
7    Daniel Callahan on health costs and facing death/New Atlantis (link below)
8    Report on reaction to Fox News global warming report/LATimes (2 links below)
9    Jonathon Jones on Dada and the truth about the 20th century/Guardian
10    IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up

1 Gerard Henderson and Osama bin Laden
The main complaint TDB has with Gerard Henderson is that he dumbs down national debate. In case you missed it, have a read of Henderson in full flight on the World Today on Friday. He seriously argues that public policy making on terrorism should be left to Osama bin Laden and what the spooks want. Seriously. I am not making this up. He says Australian is at war (and compares it with WWII) because Osama says he is at war with us (and whose army, Osama?) and that the police are reasonable people so we should give them what they want. This argument would fail Public Policy 101, yet Henderson is regarded as one of our leading commentators. Stakeholders in any public debate always want as much as they can get. The job of politicians is to balance competing interests (especially important principals like habeas corpus and freedom of speech) against those ambit claims. Not for Gerard, who may be the person most rattled by terrorism on this planet. Osama is definitely messing with his head: "I mean, to say that we're not at war dismisses Osama bin Laden and his associates who say we are at war ... " (Yeah Gerard, and there's a guy down at the fish and chip shop who swears he's Elvis - good enough for you?)

So Gerard's going to be beside himself with interest in "Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden", edited by Bruce Lawrence. Back in September, TDB linked to this report about the writing of the book. In the article linked to below, Lawrence gives his impressions of bin Laden, and in short, describes a dead-ender with more interest in martyrdom than a coherent plan for an Islamic caliphate. "The letters reveal him to be a calculating, highly literate polemicist. Stateless, he creates his own image of an Islamic supernation that replaces all current Muslim nation-states. He projects himself as the counterweight to both American hegemony and Arab perfidy. He is the Nasser of the new century, trying to rouse Muslim audiences as much through his rhetoric as his action. He even turns the tables on the Western media. In his view, it is they, not he, who perpetuate terror. "Terror is the most dreaded weapon in the modern age and the Western media are mercilessly using it against their own people," he declares in an October 2001 interview with Al-Ja-zeera." (Interesting quote that last one. The media spreading terror. That'd be a reasonable description of last week's local newspapers.)

Peter Preston reviews the book for The Observer, and says a clear image of bin Laden emerges from it. "He is formidable, an image, a force. If you're looking for a British parallel, though their policies have nothing in common, the politician he most reminds me of is Tony Benn, convincing as always about a golden past that has been betrayed, unveiling statistical amazements and historical myths with equal facility, always seeming safe within a cocoon of certitude. And American politicians? George Bush himself, the matching crusader, stands out from a born-again pack."

The Observer also ran this disappointingly slight review of "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" by Robert Fisk.

2 Freedom, terror, torture and Iraq
As noted previously, no journalist campaigned more fiercely in favour of the Iraq invasion than Andrew Sullivan. And no-one has been more vociferous in his condemnation of how it has been handled than Sullivan. In this recent post on his blog, The Daily Dish, he admits to getting it wrong on WMDs (something no pro-war commentator in Australia has done yet, gutless wonders), although he is still not inclined to the view that George Bush lied about the subject - a view that increasingly looks generous in the extreme. Sullivan's most recent posts are a good discussion, with links, on the latest contributions to the torture debate raging in the US, including an embarrassing attempt by the Wall Street Journal (since withdrawn) to justify it.

On that point, as noted in the national round-up below, Michael Gawenda in The Age comes perilously close to linking John Howard to this issue, as he should be. What did he know and when did he know about techniques being used by the US military? Australia is part of the invasion and occupation force. Has Australia told the US its conduct is unacceptable? These are but some of the questions local journos might want to put to Howard, if they ever rouse themselves from their slumbers.

In the column linked to below, Sullivan argues that a false division has been created between traditional freedoms and fighting terrorism, as if both are not possible at the same time. "Those of us who believe in fighting the war on terror need not regard civil liberties as somehow a sign of unseriousness in wartime. Protecting liberty at home is critical to winning the wider conflict, especially in the larger battle of ideas that will ensure ultimate victory or defeat. There is now little doubt left that the executive branches in both countries have overreached."

Liberal Josh Marshall at Talking Point Memos is less forgiving of Bush than Sullivan as he responds to Bush's recent speech in which he accused critics of the war of attempting to rewrite the history leading up to it. "Time has finally caught up to him. And now he doesn't have the popularity to beat back all the people trying to call him to account. He could; but now he can't. So he's caught. And his best play is to accuse his critics of rewriting history, of playing fast and loose with the truth -- a sad, pathetic man."

For those who have not followed the torture debate and revelations thus far, this Slate backgrounder (along with TDB Archives) is a good place to start.

It will be interesting to see if Bush's attempt to go on the political offensive on this issue can turn things around, particularly with the latest polls showing things getting worse. According to Newsweek "Only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, and an astounding 68 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country-the highest in Bush's presidency."

While the stance of the editorial board of the left-wing "The Nation" will come as no surprise, the position outlined in this editorial is indicative of a hardening of US attitudes against the occupation of Iraq. "The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, but we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush's disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation."

The Washington Post yesterday ran this long backgrounder about Rumsfeld and the war, trying to assess the Defence Secretary's role in it. The article highlights what looks like an effort to distance Rumsfeld from the disaster that appears to be unfolding. "He is interested in sharing the memo because the memo, as he outlines it, demonstrates that his critics are utterly mistaken. He did not dash heedless and underprepared into Iraq. Rumsfeld foresaw the things that could go wrong -- and not just foresaw them, but wrote them up in a classically Rumsfeldian list, one brisk bullet point after another, 29 potential pitfalls in all. Then he distributed the memo at the highest levels, fed it into the super-secret planning process and personally walked the president through the warnings."

And on Saturday, The Post ran this much shorter article about the Quakers and the peace movement.

3 Woman slain for her verse
The bravest people on the planet, these women who try to live full lives in primitive, barbaric, intensely patriarchal, usually Islamic tribal cultures. Christina Lamb reports on the death of Nadia Anjuman, who risked torture and imprisonment to study literature and write poetry in secret under the Taliban, only to be beaten to death, apparently murdered by her husband, after the publication of her first book of poetry. "The death of the young writer has shocked a city which prides itself on its artistic heritage. It has also raised uncomfortable questions about how much the position of women in Afghanistan has improved since the fall of the Taliban to American-led forces four years ago." (Christina Lamb consistently produces strong investigative journalism.)
4 The tragedy in Kashmir
Salman Rushdie joins the growing chorus who fear the world has been slow and inadequate in its response to the recent earthquake. "For more than half a century the world has turned a blind eye to the political problems of Kashmir. It must not now turn its back on the Kashmiri people. If the flow of aid does not increase at once, then it is probable that more people will die in the earthquake's wintry aftermath than perished in the quake itself. It is entirely possible that the final death toll will be greater than the tsunami's. We may be looking at the greatest natural calamity in human history. But in this case we have the power to avert it."
5 Famine in Malawi
The NYTimes recently ran a series of articles about the drought, deforestation and famine in Malawi, which regrettably TDB did not get around to including. Perhaps prompted by those articles, The Washington Post reports on a nation facing famine. "Today, Malawi resembles the arid West African nation of Niger, which is suffering from a systemic food shortage of its own. Both countries are dependent on the most rudimentary forms of agriculture and cannot afford to import enough food to make up shortfalls. Both also have rapidly expanding populations and liberalizing economies that have failed to provide promised benefits."
6 Rove, Federalists and the Supreme Court
Merely being a member of the conservative legal association The Federalist Society is enough to disqualify a prospective judge from a position on the bench in the eyes of many liberals. With the recent debates over Bush nominees John Roberts, Harriet Miers and now Samuel Alito, the group has been prominent in public debate. The NYTimes reports that despite the widespread view that the US Supreme Court has moved to the right in recent times, society members are far from content. "Liberal groups argue that the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote in many abortion rights cases, throws open the direction of the court. But most of the Federalist Society speakers contend that for decades the court has been veering much too far from the founders' original intentions to be corrected by the replacement of just one justice."

This Washington Post report will not lighten their mood. It reports that "both in their decisions and in public remarks off the bench, key members of the court are expressing views either explicitly or implicitly at variance with the administration's approach" to foreign affairs.

And on last Thursday, "Bush's brain" (aka "T*rd Blossom"), Karl Rove, addressed the society, and the Post has published excerpts of his speech (link below). "The Federalist Society is one of America's most important intellectual movements. Since your founding more than 20 years ago, you have made extraordinary efforts to return our country to constitutionalism. You've developed new generations of lawyers, judges and legal scholars who are committed to that vision. And you've shaped America's legal, cultural and political landscape in a very constructive way."

7 Health and Death
Just what are human beings (in the West at least) prepared to die from, and when? Daniel Callahan (link below) argues that our denial of death is placing a heavy strain on health systems of all sorts around the world when it comes together with the rapid rate and ever-increasing cost of medical progress. "The dilemmas of progress and the realities of death are commonly domesticated and often trivialized, turned into little more than troublesome management puzzles. We have lacked a serious and sustained consideration of the value of medical progress, beyond simply discussing how best to manage and pay for it. And we have approached death in the public square mainly with calls for new death-defying advances and greater patient choice at the end of life. Such responses are insufficient to the challenges ahead and the gravity of these subjects."

As for those refusing to face the inevitable, perhaps a little of the wisdom of the ancients might help. Lawrence Jost reviews "Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics" by James Warren and declares it the book Epicureans have been waiting for. "There are, he thinks, four main fears about death and its discontents that need to be addressed: (1) fear of being dead, (2) fear (or distress) that one will die and disappear, (3) fear of dying prematurely, and (4) fear of the process of dying. In chapters 1-4 he addresses each concern, exploring both the ancient and modern controversies about the (un)reasonableness of each fear, and then addresses in chapter 5 the positive case to be made for leading an Epicurean life, concluding with a chapter that summarizes the argument of the whole and ends on an upbeat note."

8 Fox does global warming
"Fair and balanced" Fox News takes a serious look at the climate change issue? True story according to the LATimes, link below. It may be 20 years too late, but it has still come as a shock to some of the Murdoch network's conservative backers. "The top-rated cable news channel has long rejected its reputation for having a conservative slant. Nevertheless, the network's involvement in the special has pleased environmentalists and piqued some conservatives, who have lobbed an unusual criticism of the network: that its program only offers a liberal viewpoint on the issue."

Rolling Stone, in collaboration with Salon, has a series of articles, Warriors and Heroes, about "twenty-five leaders who are fighting to stave off the planetwide catastrophe". They include Al Gore, James Hansen, Robert Watson, Raul Estrada Oyuela, Paul Anderson, Jim Woolsey, Sheila Watt-Cloutier and Tony Blair.

And courtesy of the first ever outside-the-family subscriber to TDB, Susan B (who is currently fighting the good fight in Switzerland), The Climate Mash - an animated reworking of "The Monster Mash", sung by the song's author Bobby Pickett.

9 Dada and the truth about the 20th century
Little chance of seeing the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (though it is on until January 9) but you may enjoy Jonathon Jones essay on Dada, which he describes as the central art movement of the 20th century. "When we look at the remains of Dada, we see the 20th century with its skin peeled off. Surrealism was to reject Dada in favour of something supposedly less gestural. Yet Dada spoke the truth. It is revealed here as one of the richest of all art movements, and I have left out so much. But the great contrast in Dada is between the poetic mystics such as Ball and Duchamp, who were true pacifists, and the revolutionaries in Berlin - Grosz joined the Communist Party - whose art is a form of street-fighting."
10 IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up

The Age lead reports that Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has split with the Howard Government over its proposed changes to the law of sedition, saying they are too broad and threaten free speech. The paper also reports that while this year may not have seemed like a scorcher,  it is firming as the hottest year since records began; that tomorrow workers will mount the biggest protest in the nation's history, according to ACTU president Sharan Burrow, with rallies against the Federal Government's workplace changes in more than 300 towns and cities; and women trying to conceive or who are in the early stages of pregnancy should be cautious about their use of over-the-counter pain-killers.

The Herald reports that a group of Sydney men with links to the terrorism suspects arrested in raids last week have been placed under 24-hour surveillance amid fears that members of the alleged cell remain at large and that AFP boss Mick Keelty has hailed the discovery in Sydney of a vehicle - containing chemicals, documents and digging equipment - as a "significant" breakthrough in the investigation. It also reports that a Muslim painter who goes by the alias Abu Jihad is believed to have tipped off security agencies, leading to last week's dramatic anti-terrorism raids in Sydney and Melbourne; at least 20 known or suspected s*x offenders will be questioned and have their movements scrutinised by police investigating the disappearance of a 19-month-old girl from her parents' home near Liverpool; household bills are eating up an increasing proportion of family budgets, putting an extra squeeze on consumers already struggling with higher petrol prices; and that up to 3000 schools have been targeted in a DVD blitz aimed at challenging Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in favour of an "intelligent designer".

The Australian's lead reports that Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty will urge Southeast Asian nations to embrace a new era of co-operation in the fight against terror in a keynote address in Jakarta this week. The paper also reports that controversial Muslim Sheik Abdul Salam Zoud has embraced moderate Islam after years as Sydney's most hardline radical Muslim cleric; that some of Australia's biggest companies have warning letters to unions and individual workers about taking part in illegal strike action as part of tomorrow's national day of protest against the Howard Government's industrial changes; that Coalition MPs have stepped up their campaign against the lifting of a ban on the abortion drug RU486, saying some women could be putting their lives in danger by taking it; and that five specialist medical colleges have accepted federal funding to fast-track the registration of overseas-trained doctors, despite state agencies moving to tighten the rules after the Dr Death scandal.

TDB was most interested to see how The Australian would follow up its weekend splash that reported that Iraq had "suspended all future orders for Australian wheat", given the denials coming out of Iraq. And? The opening paragraph reads: "Trade Minister Mark Vaile has dismissed Iraqi threats to force hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation as punishment for paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime, saying it was a matter for Australia's monopoly wheat board". Threats? Readers were told on Saturday that future deals were off. The report is vague and mealy-mouthed - a classic example of the local media's gutlessness when it comes to admitting errors and correcting the record. Here's how The Age reports it today, pointing out that there was no direct quote in The Australian's report to back up its weekend headline.

In other news, The Australian seems to have embraced the current push against marijuana, reporting that Howard has called for a crackdown on cannabis use, saying marijuana is linked to mental illness, and warning that decriminalisation has gone too far; the lyrics of Paul Kelly will be studied by Victorian final year high school English students, the first time the works of a contemporary songwriter have made the official reading list (bet Kevin Donnelly is impressed. Speaking of whom, whatever happened to all the momentum The Australian told us his report to Brendan Nelson on primary curricula had generated?); and the school playground has become the latest theatre of middle-class war where parents try to outdo each other with school fetes bigger than Ben-Hur.


The Age: Michael Gawenda spells out the troubles being faced by George Bush over the torture issue, and comes close to being the first Australian journalist to link John Howard to the abuse scandal (we were part of the invasion force and are part of the occupation of Iraq) by saying Australia should support moves by Senator John McCain to outlaw torture; Laurence Maher details some of the (largely failed) history of sedition laws in Australia and says they are not needed because protection against inflammatory remarks are provided in existing law; Philip Ruddock defends the sedition laws, arguing that they are aimed at bad guys who incite violence, not good guys like journalists, commentators, activists, artists, performers and all those who cherish our tradition of freedom of speech; and William Beeman thinks that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a worry to both moderates and mullahs in Iran.

The Australian: Glenn Milne gives an account of tensions between Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull - that Costello will not be unhappy with - which he says Liberal MPs want managed by "the administrative embrace" (a technical term for "better inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in"); Kevin Rudd makes a convincing argument for a more thorough investigation into the kickbacks paid by the Wheat Board to Saddam Hussein's regime under the fool-for-oil programme; John Roskam (Institute of Public Affairs) offers a glowing account of John Howard's political stocks, especially when compared with various world leaders; and Sarah Golsby-Smith says that rather than being "the bastion of fairness, sensitivity to the other, and thus of democracy", the post-modern syllabus is dogmatic and doctrinaire.

The SMH: Ian Barker (Senior Counsel) makes the case against the proposed sedition laws and finds them guilty on all counts; Roger de Robillard thinks that the problems with Sydney's Cross City tunnel have arisen because the NSW Government failed to use its own lawyers, the Crown Solicitor and the Solicitor-General, who give independent advice that is in the public interest; Anne Davies looks at the NSW Labor Party's plans for public-private partnerships; and Philip Ruddock see Age above.


The Age is claiming two exclusives on its Business pages, the first for a report that the Federal Court judge presiding over a petrol-price fixing case has launched an excoriating denunciation of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's investigation process after the regulator reluctantly admitted it had fabricated evidence; and the second reporting that one week to the day after unveiling a partnership with the NSW Chamber of Commerce to market its business line of credit, Visa International will extend its charge into Victoria. The paper also reports that British stockbrokers will be offered a stake in the London Stock Exchange as part of a joint bid being prepared by Macquarie Bank and its adviser, Goldman Sachs.

The Herald reports that Telstra will make one of its most important announcements in years tomorrow morning, when new chief executive Sol Trujillo unveils what is supposed to be a company-transforming blueprint to streamline the telecom and position it for growth; that a report commissioned by the Finance Industry Council of Australia has recommended setting up a financial services super regulator to co-ordinate the existing regulators and look for ways of cutting compliance costs; that the Tax Office has pulled together a special taskforce of 200 to finalise disputes arising from dubious employee benefit schemes; and that the future of Lion Nathan's $260-a-share hostile takeover bid for Adelaide's Coopers Brewery - worth a total $352 million - could rest on a ruling tomorrow from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The Australian's lead reports that potential buyers of the Myer department store chain, worth up to $450 million, are complaining bitterly about an extensive confidentiality agreement, with some arguing it gives Coles Myer an effective veto power over their choice of adviser. The paper also reports that gambling regulators in New Jersey have opened an investigation into the $1 billion casino joint venture between MGM Mirage and Pansy Ho, daughter of the controversial Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho, which could have ramifications for Kerry Packer's plans to launch a similar venture in the former Portuguese colony. It reports that an agreement to share revenue from Timor Sea oil-gas developments is back on the agenda after East Timor finally de-linked the location of the Greater Sunrise gas development from a formal revenue sharing treaty with Australia; and that thirty-six-million-dollar man Wal King says he can understand community concerns about his massive salary, but believes everyone should be paid as much as possible.


The Daily Telegraph: Lauren Huxley's sister last night begged for the public's help to catch the person who left her "innocent best friend" fighting for life; Thousands of beds in Sydney's public hospitals were filled by patients abandoned by private hospitals last year, usually because their treatment became too complex or insurance cover ran out.

The Herald-Sun: John Sharpe may have killed his wife Anna Kemp because she discovered him abusing their daughter Gracie, some of his relatives believe; Australian cricketers' families have been blamed for our Ashes loss. A Cricket Australia subcommittee has heard wives and children were responsible for team members not bonding during this year's failed campaign.

The Courier-Mail: First home buyers have fled Queensland's housing market, their numbers slumping by more than half over the past 12 months; An Australian citizen of Indian background has become the missing link in the investigation into Sydney's alleged terror cell.

The Advertiser: Residents sheltered indoors and behind cars when plainclothes police shot a man as routine inquiries culminated in gunfire in the eastern suburbs; The al-Qaida terror group has named the Queen "one of the severest enemies of Islam", in a video obtained by Britain's security service.

The West Australian: Australia should cut the millions of dollars in aid given to Indonesia each year if the Indonesian Government does not do more to stop illegal fishing in Australian waters, according to most respondents to a new poll; Horticultural groups suspect Chinese pickled vegetables contaminated with parasitic worms are entering the country, after Australia's quarantine watchdog refused to name Chinese manufacturers importing food products into Australia.

The Mercury: Tasmania would become the battleground of workplace change because the state stood to be hit hardest, federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said yesterday; Several senior specialists at the Royal Hobart Hospital have considered quitting since the forced removal of former hospital boss Ted Rayment.


Two tremendous second-half saves by Mark Schwarzer and some resolute defending have given Australia every chance of snapping their World Cup drought when the Socceroos and Uruguay clash in Sydney on Wednesday night; As the Wallabies find themselves engulfed in a major forwards crisis, coach Eddie Jones has revealed the Australian Rugby Union board ignored a request two years ago to start up a scrummaging school, which if instituted may have averted the weekend's Twickenham Test disaster; The dream of returning Redfern Oval to its former glory could be quashed by a City of Sydney Council plan to turn the old home of the South Sydney Rugby League Football Club into a training ground and public park.

[ category: ]

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/11/05

Well, at least the Government will be happy that Tony Jones won't be shooting any questions at them during this delicate and vulnerable time, and I'm sure the media have relaxed now that Liz Jackson is on holidays!

The public on the other hand?

Apparently nobody cares...

re: The Daily Briefing 14/11/05

It appears our ABC has decided to crank up its not insignificant contribution to the 'Islamic Scare' epidemic.

This evening, a suicide bomber special has supplanted Four Corners.

Has Murdoch outlived his usefulness? Who needs Fox News when there's so much nauseating Zionist spin on the public airwaves?

Margo: Sid, I think 4 Corners is over for the year. Media Watch finished up last week, and Lateline's not on tonight either. What a crazy time for current affairs to end on the ABC bar the 7.30 Report. Three huge federal issues are on the boil for a start and should be finalised by year's end - terror laws, IR and Welfare to Work. Cost cutting, I supose the ABC will say. Dear me.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 4 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 14 weeks 22 hours ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 14 weeks 4 days ago