Unleash the monkey within:
My following feature appears in US magazine The Nation and discusses the rise of Kevin Rudd to Prime Minister of Australia:
The political annihilation of Prime Minister John Howard in the November 24 election marks a milestone in Australian history. “From this day forth,” writes political columnist Glenn Milne, “no government can rely on the successful management of the economy to guarantee its re-election. The message from election 2007 is that long-serving governments must demonstrate the will to renew both their ideas and their leadership to survive in the modern electoral era.”
He is correct, but the election of Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership may not necessarily represent a repudiation of the worst excesses of the past decade. An “It’s Time” factor became almost infectious as soon as Rudd assumed the Labor leadership in late 2006. Voters wanted change, a younger personality to replace the near 70-year-old Howard, and Rudd offered, in his cautious technocratic way, a sense of slight change without seriously challenging the fundamentals of relatively prosperous, conservative capitalism. No polls indicated intense dislike for Howard before the election, though he was accused, like so many global leaders before him, of not recognizing when it was time to retire. His Liberal Party is now out of power at every level of Australian government.
Booker Prize-winning author Thomas Keneally, a Sydney resident, wrote recently in the Sydney Sun-Herald that Howard belonged to a generation that has a “tendency to the dark prejudices of our childhood, to them-and-us thinking, to a narrowness and vengefulness…. He has a gift for spotting the opportunities to scapegoat to advantage. And his targets are…union bosses, asylum seekers and the Muslims to whom he extends one hand open and the other sheathed in [intelligence agency] ASIO’s steel mitt.”
The report, “China and the U.S. in a Web 2.0 World,” also reveals that nearly half of all Chinese broadbanders ages 13 to 35 contribute something online in a typical month, compared to only about 15 percent of younger Americans. The Chinese are also more likely to publish a blog (40 percent to 13 percent), review a product (32 percent to 22 percent) and use chat rooms (45 percent to 16 percent).
Chinese youth also reported being more involved in community-based activities, and they are almost twice as likely as Americans to join communities built around content. Although more U.S. users still recommend things to family and friends (31 percent to 27 percent), the practice has declined 15 percent in the U.S. since 2006, when Netpop started its survey. According to Crandall, this reflects the dominance of younger, elite opinion-makers in the Chinese broadband market, versus more mainstream American users.
The Annapolis “peace” conference has concluded with Israel and the Palestinian Authority pledging to reach some kind of agreement by the end of 2008. Talking is always a good thing, far preferable to war, but the reality on the ground and the deep splits in both sides make the chances of peace almost impossible. Leading Arab commentator Rami Khouri explains:
The Annapolis meeting is a diplomatic suicide squeeze. It is unlikely to succeed, because the conditions and/or motives of the principal players — the U.S., Israel and half the Palestinians represented by President Mahmoud Abbas — are not conducive to the sort of daring moves and substantive compromises that are needed to achieve a full and fair peace. The Americans seem motivated primarily by a desperate need to elicit Arab and Iranian support on Iraq. They are not playing the fair mediator’s role, but rather persisting in supporting Israeli positions more often than coming down in the middle of Israeli-Palestinian issues. America’s sudden, urgent exuberance for Arab-Israeli peace-making within a year, after six years of total neglect or blatant pro-Israeli bias, is neither convincing nor sincere. Trying to force through a peace accord on an American presidential timetable is likely to fail, as it did in 2000 when Bill Clinton tried the same thing, albeit with a bit more sincerity.
Noam Chomsky rightly argues that such “peace” conferences are a diplomatic charade, designed to convince the world that progress is being made when, in fact, Palestine is being comprehensively killed in front of our eyes. Resistance is essential. Desmond Tutu agrees.
Name them. Maim them. Kill them.
From the beginning of the American occupation in Iraq, air strikes and attacks by the U.S. military have only killed “militants,” “criminals,” “suspected insurgents,” “IED [Improvised Explosive Device] emplacers,” “anti-American fighters,” “terrorists,” “military age males,” “armed men,” “extremists,” or “al-Qaeda.”
The pattern for reporting on such attacks has remained the same from the early years of the occupation to today. Take a helicopter attack on October 23rd of this year near the village of Djila, north of Samarra. The U.S. military claimed it had killed 11 among “a group of men planting a roadside bomb.” Only later did a military spokesperson acknowledge that at least six of the dead were civilians. Local residents claimed that those killed were farmers, that there were children among them, and that the number of dead was greater than 11.
Here is part of the statement released by U.S. military spokeswoman in northern Iraq, Major Peggy Kageleiry:
“A suspected insurgent and improvised explosive device cell member was identified among the killed in an engagement between Coalition Forces and suspected IED emplacers just north of Samarra…. During the engagement, insurgents used a nearby house as a safe haven to re-engage coalition aircraft. A known member of an IED cell was among the 11 killed during the multiple engagements. We send condolences to the families of those victims and we regret any loss of life.”
As usual, the version offered by locals was vastly different. Abdul al-Rahman Iyadeh, a relative of some of the victims, revealed that the “group of men” attacked were actually three farmers who had left their homes at 4:30 A.M. to irrigate their fields. Two were killed in the initial helicopter attack and the survivor ran back to his home where other residents gathered. The second air strike, he claimed, destroyed the house killing 14 people. Another witness told reporters that four separate houses were hit by the helicopter. A local Iraqi policeman, Captain Abdullah al-Isawi, put the death toll at 16 — seven men, six women, and three children, with another 14 wounded.
As often happens, the U.S. military, once challenged, declared that an “investigation” of the incident was under way.
We regularly now read Iranian bloggers to gain an insight into the more moderate voices within the country.
But conservative and Islamist voices are also growing in strength. Hamid Tehrani, an Iranian blogger now living in the Diaspora, has published a fascinating report into these relatively unknown forces:
Iranian Islamist blogs probably provide one of the best places to learn information and news about power and state-related issues in the Islamic Republic, because some of their writers have close ties with Iranian leaders and some of them even are leading figures in the regime.
By studying and reading the Islamist blogs, we get an insight into the dynamism and evolution of the Islamic Republic’s power structure, its ideology, its interests, and its conflicts.
Islamist blogs are not monolithic and, like many other non-Islamist blogs, provide us a window into Iranian civil society, daily life, and ideas.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is unhappy that many Arab nations are participating in tomorrow’s “peace”conference in Annapolis – with one leading analyst suggesting that the real agenda item will not be Israel/Palestine, but isolating Iran – though internal dissent is growing in the Islamic Republic:
When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, wanted to create a forum to trumpet his populist political message without the interference of media and opposition catcalls he launched his own blog.
But he may have failed to reckon with the merciless mud-slinging and sarcasm that characterises communication in much of cyberspace. Far from being a repository of fawning admiration, Ahmadinejad’s blog has attracted criticism as scathing as that voiced by his known adversaries.
Somewhat gleefully, the reformist newspaper Etemad reported yesterday that some respondents were venting their spleen with little regard for pleasantries.
One writer – calling himself Sadegh Al Ebrahim – sarcastically congratulated Ahmadinejad on his success in creating new jobs through last summer’s decision to ration petrol. “In our city before rationing there were two petrol stations, of which one was always shut. But now, due to you, we have 3,000 petrol sellers,” the message reads, hinting at the rampant black market.
Another, claiming to be “on behalf of the more than 50 million people who didn’t vote for you”, berates Ahmadinejad for high unemployment and high inflation. The writer says: “Instead of useless provincial trips, fake propaganda on state TV and unrealistic news fed to you by your aides, you should come to the heart of the society.”
The critical messages are counter-balanced by many others that are positive, including several that praise Ahmadinejad for his performance in September at Columbia University in New York.
This is surely the right decision by YouTube:
Video sharing website YouTube is refusing to filter out threatening material, despite calls for more restrictions in the wake of the school shooting in Finland.
Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, used YouTube to publicise his plans to attack his high school in Tuusula, hours before he killed eight people then shot himself. But Peter Fleischer, privacy counsel at Google, which bought YouTube last year, said the website was not considering passing more information to the police to avert such events. “Logistically we couldn’t do pre-screening,” he said. “We don’t want to become censors of the web.”
Vetting every video on the site would prove a technical challenge, with more than seven hours of footage uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Vetting videos requires a policy and human being to determine what is “offensive” or “problematic”. I’m not sure I have faith in any company making that decision. Of course, free speech is never absolute and YouTube removes allegedly troublesome films every day but it will inevitably not be perfect.
Surely we believe in the anarchic power of the internet?
In times of war, medical practitioners are regularly asked to perform illegal acts. Most refuse. Some, tragically, do not:
The Australian Psychological Society (APS) recently announced its position on members’ involvement in the use, participation or provision of advice about torture and other injurious practices. Unlike their American counterparts, Australian psychologists have rejected any involvement in torture or other forms of cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment.
The difference was seen in September 2007, when the former president of the American Psychological Association (APA), Professor Gerald Koocher, was invited to the APS Annual Conference to air the issue with Australian psychologists. Earlier, Professor Koocher had convened a panel of United States psychologists to develop their policy which was adopted by a majority of APA Members’ votes in 2005-6. Of course, the APA condemned torture, but its leadership refused to accept the rulings of International Law as to what constituted torturous acts. “We are not going to be subjected to rulings by foreign courts” said Professor Koocher when pressed about the issue at the APS Conference.
Due to this position taken by the APA, torturous practices such as those shown in the widely circulated pictures from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, are developed and supervised by some United States psychologists. Indeed, these specific pictures taken of “detainees” being interrogated by staff were directed by United States psychologists at the time.
The history of the Bush administration and its use and abuse of the medical profession – mostly willingly, so it seems – will be a sordid part of recent history.