Thursday, July 28, 2005

The AmishThrasher Wrap, July 28th

Posted by AmishThrasher at 11:35 am
Man's best friend:
The AmishThrasher
The Wrap - a weekly look at current news and events - is back. In this issue, we discuss the power of religion to help the oppressed, the new measures taken by the State Government to protect children, the Red Cross Appeal for West Africa, and calls by the Lost Dogs Home for a doggy-census. Oh, and our buddy, Environment Minister Ian "absolute categorical assurance" Campbell, is back too. All that, and more, in this edition of the AmishThrasher Wrap.Welcome to the second edition of the AmishThrasher Wrap. And in this wrap, we break the rules of polite conversation and openly discuss religion and politics.

In this Issue:

Helping the Helpless
There has been a lot of debate recently about the role of religion in society. Well, as I have previously mentioned in the AmishThrasher, chruch-backed groups, who share many values with the secular humanist community, do an extrodinary job in helping the downtrodden, both at home and abroad. And this press release - from AngliCare (a group linked to the Anglican Church) - shows how religion, and a secular state, can work together to promote a common humanitarian goal in our community:
19 July 2005
The state's largest provider of foster care services, Anglicare Victoria, today welcomed the State Government's announcement of new measures to protect children.

The Working with Children Bill 2005 will assess a person's eligibility for working or volunteering with children.

Anglicare Victoria CEO Dr Ray Cleary said the measures were welcome because they strike a balance between the interests of children and the rights of the individual.

"In welcoming the Government's initiative it is important to remember that we all must remain active and vigilant in ensuring the wellbeing of our children.

"Anglicare Victoria currently conduct mandatory police checks on all of our staff and volunteers who have direct contact with children. However we welcome a system that sets minimum standards and puts the interests of children at the forefront."

Dr Cleary said the most important task facing the Government would be educating the community of the benefits of the Bill.

"There will be those who feel the legislation doesn't go far enough and those who feel it is too invasive. Creating legislation around protecting children is an essential and difficult task that must be undertaken in close consultation with the community and service providers."

Dr Cleary said that mandatory police checks did not prevent people from volunteering at Anglicare Victoria.

"We should not assume that the Bill will prevent people from volunteering. It is reassuring for volunteers to know that agencies place the rights and safety of children first. We work with thousands of volunteers who understand the need to protect the children in our care."

The Government's decision to pay for the costs associated with volunteer checks will reduce the burden on community organisations Dr Cleary said.
Children's aid organizations, I would immagine, would seem very attractive to paedophiles. The State Government deserves to be commended on its efforts to ensure that those who work with children - particularly vulnerable children - pass a background check to safeguard vulnerable children from risk.

But perhaps more interesting is that government money is being used to cover the costs of these background checks to child welfare groups - including AngliCare -who already undertake them. This is an example of a secular state working with a religious backed body to advance a common humanitarian cause; in this case, the plight of disadvantaged children. And I personally think that, in this case, it is thoroughly commendable to do so. The interraction between church and state should not be one where religious dogma - in the cloak of 'values' - are forced on to the community and thus heightening the tensions between those who chose to actively participate in organized religion, and those who don't. Rather, we need to build bridges between religion, secular individuals, and (where appropriate) the state to further the cause of social justice in our community.

Inspiring the Downtrodden
As we have seen, religion, and religious backed charities, play a critical role in keeping our social fabric together. The sad truth for many of Melbourn'e homeless is that the local church may be the best hope for both a , while for many abandoned and homeless children, charities like AngliCare is the only hope for a safe bed to sleep in at night. Both at home and abroad, religion plays another critical role - giving help to the downtrodden. And this article from the Uniting Church about the inspiration Christianity provided to overcome Indonesian oppression is a good example of this at work:
It was clear, the Moderator of the Protestant Church in East Timor wanted us to see the great statue of Christ the King erected by President Suharto in 1997 on the promontory five kilometers east and north from the centre of Dili. It was built two years before the referendum that ended the last uneasy years of Indonesian occupation.
Yet the power of a symbol can sometimes be turned on its creators. The Moderator of the Protestant Church in East Timor did just that. “Look closely at the hands,” he whispered through the city, “they are not raised to bless, they are held out palm upwards toward Dili. Jesus is not blessing Indonesian Dili, he is in fact questioning whether the Indonesians should leave!”

One can only imagine the way that would fizz through a community under oppression. The image was ever present to the eye during the day and lit at night, a living message read differently by invader and oppressed. It was not long before the lights at night were disconnected. But it was too late. By 2000 Christ the King had become the prophetic sign of a liberated country.
SOURCE: a href="
Religion is a powerful and important force in society, and the world. That's a power that can be used for both good, and evil. Those of us who are religious (of all faiths), as well as those of us who aren't, must unite to make sure that the power isn't hijacked for the purposes of evil. Those who want to hijack religion want to wage culture wars, holy wars, and further an agenda of hate; both the extremist Christian Identity nuts, and their more "moderate" counterparts. Well, this perversion of religion for evil - and the social injustice in our own society - can be defeated. But it will take an alliance of progressive people, progressive politics, and progressive reigion to do it.

Helping Africa
Speaking of global social justice, a press release from the Australian Red Cross has made an urgent appeal for funds to fight hunger in west Africa. The press release is below:
Australian Red Cross has launched an urgent appeal to assist international efforts to avert possible widespread starvation in the four worst affected countries of the Sahel region of West Africa.

The appeal will support efforts by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, aiming to raise $18 million for disaster relief.

The CEO of Australian Red Cross, Mr Robert Tickner said the situation is especially serious in Niger, where according to the UN 3.6 million people, or 28 per cent of the population, are affected by food shortages, caused by a combination of drought and the effect of last year's invasion by swarms of locusts.

'The Red Cross wants to help 222,000 of the most vulnerable people for the next six-months, through food, seed, fodder distributions and mobile feeding centres,' said Mr Tickner.

'The funds raised will be used to provide assistance in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.'

According to current UN estimates, 800,000 children in Niger are going hungry. But it is not only Niger that is in the grip of food shortages. Populations in neighbouring countries - some 2.2 million in Mali, 1.6 million in Burkina Faso and 750,000 in Mauritania are also under threat.

To donate to the Niger Emergency 2005 Appeal:

* Call 1800 811 700
* Visit to make a secure online donation
* Send a cheque to GPO Box 9949 marked 'Niger Appeal' in your capital city
African poverty has been on the agenda lately. At the recent G8 summit, the world got some eloquent spin about the need to relieve Africa's debt Meanwhile thousands attended Live-8 concerts calling for an end to African poverty. Well, the time has come for people to put their money where their mouths are. Long term solutions are great, but the truth is that there are people starving to death in Western Africa right now. The question is will you help out the Red Cross, or just let the people die?

Helping the Environment
Within weeks of his radio lies being exposed, the Environment Minister has again come under fire for inaction over climate change in a recent press release from the Greens:
The release of the report Climate Change: Risk and Vulnerability vindicates two decades of Greens political pressure and is a damning indictment of Howard Government inaction, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

"The government, in particular this Prime Minister, is charged with intergenerational abuse – it has put self gratification for the coal industries way ahead of our obligation to secure the next generation's life security.

"When I warned about global warming on entering the Senate a decade ago, government members laughed.

"They are not laughing now. This has been a decade of failure," Senator Brown said.
Australia undeniably has the world's most beautiful and unique continent, and it is our patriotic duty as Australians to make sure that our environment is preserved for future generations. And I think most patriotic Australians do genuinely care about the environment - but at the same time, we also have busy lives to lead. The challenge for our leaders is to find simple ways where we can all make a difference, to encourage people to make a difference, and to show their patriotism to Australia by enacting laws which make the Un-Australian destruction of our environment not just immoral, but also illegal. And it needs to come up with long term, big picture planning, on issues like infrastructure, that will see sustainable economic growth which doesn't undermine our natural habitat.

And it seems that, if not asleeep at the wheel, then our Federal Government certainly hasn't been pulling it's weight. Put differently, it's been a low priority - if not outright off the agenda - which has led to a decade of missed opportunities. And it's no surprise that the man at the center of this is Ian "The only options that we're pursuing are on offshore islands" Campbell. Campbell, who has . It's time for him to either encourage the Howard government to make sure that we don't suffer another decade of missed opportunities, or reconsider what he is doing with the Environment portfolio.

And if he doesn't either fix up his act and get his (and his government's) priorities straight, then it is up to us, voting public, to decide if we want him as our environment minister. It's really that simple.

Doggy Census
Those of you who know me know I'm definately a 'dog person', being the proud owner of a Kelpie named 'Tugs'. And for my fellow pet-owners and animal lovers out there, the Lost Dogs home ahs their Autumn newsletter out (it's in PDF), and it's well worth downloading and printing off. One of the interesting articles in there raises the issue of adding questions about our pets to the census:
We were delighted to see that the National General Assembly of Local Government (NGALG) meeting in Canberra last November passed the following resolution:
That this National General Assembly endorses the proposal that the Australian Bureau of Statistics include as part of the National Census, a series of questions that would indicate the dog and cat population kept at residential premises on census night.
We like it! If and when this ever happens the appropriate bodies at all three tiers of Government – Federal National and State – plus all animal welfare organisations, will be better informed, and therefore far better equipped, to deal with the many current problems associated with the welfare of domestic animals in our society.

The data revealed by such an inclusion would certainly be valuable not only to Local Councils but to most animal welfare organisations and of course to marketers of pet products and services – plus other segments of our society. It would certainly be of significant interest to us since The Lost Dogs’ Home has for years now served the community on a national basis. We are confident that our national activities will greatly expand in the not so distant future.

Unfortunately the NGALG left its run a little late for next year’s (2006) census. At the time of its conference last November the deadline for such suggestions was long, long gone. No way could it be received, considered and acted upon by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in time for the 2006 national census.

However there will be another census in 2011 and we would encourage the NGALG to persist in its efforts. We will certainly have it in mind as a project to inititate in 2007-2008. So – as the saying goes – watch this space! It makes good census!

Having accurate census data will help not just the Lost Dogs home, but also the RSPCA, by helping them do their job better by allocating resources to where they are needed. It will also help governments at all levels create policy that better deals with, and protect, our beloved pets. It's time to do it!

And that's all for this week, thankyou again for reading!

- Andrew
(the AmishThrasher Webmaster)

2,000 Hits, and Time to Step Up.

Posted by AmishThrasher at 11:35 am
Kerry Packer:
He wants to own all our media.
This week, the AmishThrasher crosses another milestone, having gotten 2,000 hits. But, as we celebrate this amazing achievement, there are stormclouds on the horizon. On the table are drastic plans to shake up Australia's media industry and dramatically limit the number of voices setting the agenda. These plans have been criticised both by commentators in the independent media, like Crikey, and by the opposition. The time is coming for Australia's indepedent media - including those of us in the blogosphere - to step up to the plate; our national discourse is under threat.As it stands, 1,979 people have logged on to the AmishThrasher since the site began; and perhaps before the next chance I get to update that number will tick over to 2,000. I would like to personally thank those who have checked out the AmishThrasher and helped us reach that amazing milestone. For everyone reading this, thankyou: we could never have done it without you!

But all is not sweetness and light in the media.

In fact, for the past decade, Australia's media policy has been badly mangled and mutilated. And the man most to blame is the former Communications Minister, Richard Alston. Alston, a former Senator, became infamous for his belief that the Internet - one of the most important social, economic, and technological revelations of the past decade - was useful only for pornograhy and games. And beyond fumbling broadband internet, Alston also stumbled when it came to digital TV.

Beyond the internet, digital TV represents perhaps one of the greatest opportunities to broaden the number of voices in the media in Australia. The reason for this is that digital TV signals take up a lot less bandwidth than a traditional analogue signal - in fact, you can do 'multichanneling', where you have 6 standard definition digital signals in the same bandwidth it takes for one standard definition (PAL) analogue signal. There is also the potential for 'datacasting', where digital signals are used for world wide web-style interactive multimedia; including streaming audio and video. Implimenting these technologies with responsible legislative controls could potentially mean an exciting array of new media choices and services for consumers, while at the same time reducing cross media ownership restrictions.

Alston instead chose to sell out these opportunities to big money, old media interests. Instead of getting 6 new digital channels for every current analogue channel, we got one HD-TV and one standard definition channel clogging up the possible bandwidth (one HD-TV station taking up the same bandwidth as about 5 or 6 standard definition channel). The door was bolted shut on new media players by a ban on anyone (bar the ABC and SBS) multichanneling, underfunding of the multichanneling efforts of the ABC and SBS, and an outright ban on new players starting up new channels until 2007. Oh, and the HDTV bandwidth was given away free to the existing TV channels. Hideous limits were placed on the Datacasters - no news, no sport, and no entertainment - and the auction for the channel failed when no-one showed up. Foxtel and the old media owners (like Kerry packer) got everything on their christmas wishlists. Even Rupert Murdoch was outraged about the restrictions on datacasting - of which News Corp had an interest in investing in.

The big problem with High Definition is that, unless you have a high definition home theater system, the difference makes little difference - yet it takes up significantly more of our precious bandwidth than Standard Definition. And those who have the money to splash out on high definition home theater systems would undoubtedly also get Foxtel Digital to get the best value out of it anyway. A better arrangement would be to make Foxtel Digital the exclusive preserve of high definition, while freeing up the free-to-air bandwidth for as many standard definition channels as possible. However, instead of more variety, a mix of big media and big government largesse won out; though the vast majority of the Australian public was sold out in the process. The resulting policy is a pathetic joke.

And it is against this background that the debate over media reform is happening. Where we could, in a more competitive media environment, be able to weaken controls on cross media and foreign ownership while still preserving - or even enjoring a greater diversity of - media voices than today, Alston's fumbling has made sure that without severe reforms to our digital TV regulations, deregulation will ensure that even more power is concentrated in a much smaller number of hands.

The future of our national discourse, and the diversity of our media, rests in the hands of the new Communications Minister, Helen Coonan.

According to
Page one of Tuesday's Financial Review is dominated by a story under the heading "New TV channels in media plan," which outlines the fullest details yet of the government's blueprint to change the country's media laws.

The plan is presented as a bold "shake-up of the $12 billion media industry," that will "allow" TV networks to offer viewers multiple digital channels and "give" pay TV the right to broadcast more major sporting events.

And the good news doesn't end there. According to The Fin, Communications Minister Helen Coonan intends to introduce a "diversity" rule that "would ensure there were five large media companies in each capital city."

Yet Crikey is critical about the changes that have been outlined, writing:
there are currently nine large media companies operating in the two cities that really matter, Sydney and Melbourne. Count 'em:

* Newspapers: News Limited, Fairfax (2)

* TV: Nine, Seven Ten (3)

* Radio: Southern Cross, Austereo, Australian Radio Network, DMG (4)

According to The Fin, the five-company diversity rule will be the only cross-media restriction under the government's new plan – which means that companies could own newspapers AND television AND radio in one city (subject, of course, to ACCC approval).

And you don't need to be a mathematics professor to work out the answer to this primary school arithmetic test:

Question: If there are nine companies in the market now, and only five must remain after Mr Howard's new rules are introduced, how many companies can disappear to still ensure "diversity"?
Answer: Four.

Under the government's proposed "diversity" test, four major media companies in the country's major cities could be taken over by, or merged with, the remaining companies.

This is a media reform recipe that will bury Australian democracy. It will leave the country's key markets – where all the major commentary, analysis and media influence resides – with a handful of the most powerful media owners anywhere in the world.
SOURCE: ibid.

Kim Beazley has also been critical, according to the ABC:
Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says the Government's planned overhaul of media laws is another example of its extreme activities now that it has control of the Senate.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan is considering a raft of changes, including scrapping restrictions on foreign ownership and allowing companies to control more than one form of media in the same metropolitan market.

Senator Coonan has also reportedly proposed a forum of media executives be formed to allow them to discuss the changes.

Mr Beazley says the moves will simply harm diversity in the media.

"An essential part of democracy is diversity in the media and the media laws that were put in place by the previous government at least guaranteed a certain diversity," he said.

"It seems to me that what Senator Coonan proposes to do is to move away from that. That's not good for democracy here."

The time has come for us, in the independent media, to step up to the plate. We need to both be a watchdog on these policy changes to make sure that they are implimented in a manner benefitting the Australian public, and also to fill the need for new voices (especially if our media laws are mangled in favour of big media interests). For those of us who take up the challenge, there are unique opportunities in the months and years ahead. And by independent media, I mean across the spectrum: from independent and community TV, to the street press, and especially online, and in the blogosphere. And it is a duty: the consequences of inaction on civic life in an Australia with few alternative voices means a concentration in the agenda setting power of the media; and we will all suffer as a result of this.

And the message to the Coallition needs to be simple: we are watching. The Australian people have entrusted you with a double majority (even though I personally don't think you deserve it). And we are watching Ministers, like Helen Coonan, closely. And if you abuse your power to reduce the number of agenda setting voices in the media and weaken our democracy, or abuse your power in other ways, we will make sure you are never entrusted with such power again.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Important Site Update

Posted by AmishThrasher at 11:22 pm
Something I may be needing a little more of...
Well, my mid-year holidays are just about over, and this has implications for the site. Over the past couple of months, I have endeavoured to try to update the site at least once a day (sometimes more often, sometimes less). But as of tomorrow, I start back at uni and - coupled with work - I won't have anywhere near enough time to update the site everyday. Given this, I have decided to drop back how often I post articles here to maybe once a week. But there is some good news on the horizon in regards to the site too, click on for details.My reason for making this decision is simple: as it stands, this site is just a hobby. While I would honestly love to be able to earn a living by running the AmishThrasher, at this stage it isn't half popular enough to do that. Oh, and I won't get a degree when I'm done with it.

During the past week or so, you will have noticed that I've tried a number of different formats for articles, including the AmishTrasher Wrap, and my reason for trying these out is to try and find a format in which I can cover a variety of issues in a single weekly post. While on some weeks I may write a whole post on a single issue, it may also be that there are a number of things that I want to tackle. Again, given the time constraints I have, I'll see if doing more AmishThrasher Wraps and Digests (like the Public Transport Digest I did a while ago) is a better way of going about it. Given I have a fairly long commute, another thing that you may see start to appear is 'quick updates' that I put together on the bus ride to or from uni.

For those of you out there who read this site regularly, don't dispair about a lack of updates just yet. I have invited a number of my friends to contribute to the site, if they wish to do so. And if they do, I'll set up accounts for them - again, hopefully over the coming few weeks. What this will mean to you, the reader, is site that covers a broader variety of subject matter far more regularly than I could hope to provide. Personally, I think this is a very exciting development.

I mentioned that I wanted to try doing some Podcasts or video clips on the blog, which is something I unfortunately haven't had a chance to do as yet. I'm not a politician, and given this I'd liek to appologise to anyone who has looked forward to seeing these. The reason that they haven't appeared is that I need to find a good webhost upon which I can store these features. Don't worry though; I am keen to add these at some point in the future. That said, over the past month (beyond redesigning the layout of the site), I have added a number of new features, including headlines from BBC News, daily horoscopes, and a chatroom. The thing about some of these interactive features (like the message board) is that the more you use them, the better they become. My hope is that the AmishThrasher will eventually become an online community, rather than just a blog.

Over the past couple of days, I have changed the format for most of the archives covering the articles I've posted over the past few weeks so that it's easier to find what you are looking for. If you haven't checked out the archive yet, there is a lot of cool stuff there and it's well worth checking out between updates. The other sites that I have linked to - including Sterne and Anonymous Lefty - are also well worth checking out in between updates.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, if you come here and see that I haven't updated in a number of days, don't worry; the site hasn't 'gone dark'; it's just that for practical reasons I haven't been able to update as regularly as I would have liked. Like always, if you have any feedback about anything I've talked about

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Iraq Today Part II: The Insurgency, and Iran in Iraq

Posted by AmishThrasher at 12:12 pm
Iranian flag
Did we give them control of Iraq?
I noted in Part I of this series that "an alliance of Pro-Iranian Shi'ite parties is the main group in Iraq's transitional government. Al-Jaafari, the transitional Prime Minister, is a member. The Kurds - as I estimated earlier, around 20% of the population, have also done well: they got Talabani as a Prime Minister. But this leaves the 18% of the population who are Sunni but aren't Kurdish unrepresented." As I will discuss in this article, leaving 18% of the population unrepresented does have implications for the Insurgency we are currently facing. But first, given the shift in 'justification' for the war in Iraq from weapons of mass destruction to 'freedom for Iraq', a recent article at suggests that the transitional government, and the Iraq thus far, may have resulted in a more powerful Iran. The article, by Juan Cole, is entitled "The Iraq war is over, and the winner is... Iran." To read it, you need a "Day Pass" to their site (but it's worth it). For those who can't be bothered, I will post a few key excerpts here.

The first alarming development out of having the Shi'ite fundementalist-led transitional government in Iraq is the closer ties it is seeking with Iran:
On Saturday, Jaafari made a ceremonial visit to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, on which he laid a wreath. In a meeting with Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei on Monday, according to the Tehran Times, Jaafari "called the late Imam Khomeini the key to the victory of the Islamic Revolution, adding, 'We hope to eliminate the dark pages Saddam caused in Iran-Iraq ties and open a new chapter in brotherly ties between the two nations.'" The American right just about had a heart attack at the possibility (later shown false) that newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been among the militants who took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979. But the hostage takers had been blessed by Khomeini himself, to whom Jaafari was paying compliments.

When Jaafari met the head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, on Tuesday, the two discussed expanding judicial cooperation between the two countries. Shahrudi said that cooperation with Iran's Draconian "justice system" has had a positive impact on other Muslim countries. He called for Iraq to coordinate with something called the "Islamic Human Rights Organization" -- an Orwellian phrase in dictatorial Iran, a state that tortures political prisoners and engages in other acts of brutality. And he urged the Iraqi government to put greater reliance on "popular forces" (local and national Shiite militias) in establishing security.
The previous week, Defense Minister Saadoun Dulaimi had made a preparatory trip to Tehran, exploring the possibility of military cooperation between the two countries. At one point it even seemed that the two had reached an agreement that Iran would help train Iraqi troops. One can only imagine that Washington went ballistic and applied enormous pressure on Jaafari to back off this plan. The Iraqi government abandoned it, on the grounds that an international agreement had already specified that out-of-country training of Iraqi troops in the region should be done in Jordan. But the Iraqi government did give Tehran assurances that they would not allow Iraqi territory to be used in any attack on Iran -- presumably a reference to the United States.

These is no understating how closer ties between Tehran and Baghdad has been a gift to Shi'ite fundementalist reigime in Iran:
The Iranians hold a powerful hand in the Iraqi poker game. They have geopolitical advantages, are flush with petroleum profits because of the high price of oil, and have much to offer their new Shiite Iraqi partners. Their long alliance with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani gives them Kurdish support as well. Bush's invasion removed the most powerful and dangerous regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein, from power. In its aftermath, the religious Shiites came to power at the ballot box in Iraq, bestowing on Tehran firm allies in Baghdad for the first time since the 1950s. And in a historic irony, Iran's most dangerous enemy of all, the United States, invaded Iran's neighbor with an eye to eventually toppling the Tehran regime -- but succeeded only in defeating itself.
SOURCE: ibid.

This is important to remember, given that the current justification for our involvement in the Iraq War. George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard, in my opinion, lied through their teeth about Weapons of Mass Destruction. When the WMD's failed to show up, the excuse shifted to justifying that the Iraq war was worthwhile because it bought 'freedom' and 'democracy' to Iraq. Well, our idea of 'freedom' and Iran's are two very different things. Bush said it himself when he called Iran one of the world's most dangerous reigimes. While it may be noble to send over 1,700 troops and 25,000 civilians to their deaths in the cause of bringing democracy and freedom to an oppressed people, to waste those same lives to shift the oppression of those oppressed people from Saddam to Iran is a callous waste; one which our so-called leaders should be called on.

One of the worst kept secrets of recent times is that the War in Iraq was never about fighting terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, or bringing Freedom and Democracy to the middle east; it was always about oil, and geopolitical power. By inadvertantly handing power in Iraq over to Iran, Bush's poor planning has lead to a deterioration in the west's geopolitical power in the region:
The ongoing chaos in Iraq has made it impossible for Bush administration hawks to carry out their long-held dream of overthrowing the Iranian regime, or even of forcing it to end its nuclear ambitions. (The Iranian nuclear research program will almost certainly continue, since the Iranians are bright enough to see what happened to the one member of the "axis of evil" that did not have an active nuclear weapons program.) The United States lacks the troops, but perhaps even more critically, it is now dependent on Iran to help it deal with a vicious guerrilla war that it cannot win.
SOURCE: ibid.

The current situation in Iraq is the product of massive incompetance and poor planning, pushed on the Australian public by a pack of liars, and paid for in blood. The weapons of mass destruction was a lie, and if Iran is allowed to reign over Iraq, bringing freedom is a lie. And as the general public wake up to this, there will be a massive backlash against the guilty.

The question, then, is what is Iran's new-found power in Iraq doing to the insurgency? Again, the answer is chilling:
Not surprisingly, the warming relations between Tehran and Baghdad have greatly alarmed Iraq's Sunni Muslims. They know that Iranian offers of help in training Iraqi security officers, and Iranian professions of support for a united, peaceful Iraq are code for the suppression by Shiite troops and militias of the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. Many Iraqi Sunnis believe that the Sunni Arabs are the true majority, but that millions of illegal Iranian emigrants masquerading as Iraqi Shiites have flooded into the country, skewing vote totals in the recent elections. This belief, for all its irrationality, makes them especially suspicious of Shiite politicians cozying up to the ayatollahs in Tehran. A recent BBC documentary reported that the Sunnis of Fallujah despise Iraqi Shiites even more than they do the Americans, in part because they code them as Persians (in fact they are Arabs).
SOURCE: ibid.

Early this month, and late last month, I ran a series of articles examining some of the reasons behind the current insurgency in Iraq. Well, the reasons discussed in those articles have been augmented by the transitional government in Iraq.

As you will no doubt recall, around the elections there were bold predictions that the insurgency would end after the Iraqi elections; that a democratically elected transitional government would temper support for the insurgency. And this, to a degree, may have been the case in Kurdish and Shi'ite areas: for the reasons outlined, they still don't like the American Coallition, and in some cases may still be willing to attack it, but the democratically elected government does represent them.

In contrast to this is the 18% (or so) of the Iraq population who are Sunni but not Kurdish. The Shi'ite government cutting deals with Iran clearly doesn't represent them, and they dislike the Americans (and the coallition partners) for the reasons I've outlined in that series. And, in spite of protests to the contrary by Bush, Blair and Howard (and let's face it, they wouldn't admit that the situation in Iraq has made the terrorist threat more dangerous, now would they?) this is a dangerous mix of circumstances that have been created in Iraq.

And if the only light at the end of the tunnel is an Iraq controlled by Iran, perhaps it's time we re-assessed our continued support for it.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Iraq Today Part I: Who's Running Iraq?

Posted by AmishThrasher at 12:57 pm
Ibrahim al-Jaafari:
The new Prime Minister. But who is he?
From across the globe, the current situation (which Australia is involved with) in Iraq can be confusing. To help, I've decided to run a series here at the AmishThrasher covering the basics of current events in Iraq. In part I, I look at who 'won' the Transitional Elections over there, who they are, and who they represent. Given the critical importance of Iraq as an ongoing issue, if you are unfamiliar with events over there, it is well worth reading on. Note that if you are interested in events in iraq, I highly reccomend Steve Gillaird, who I mentioned here earlier, and Juan Cole, which are excellent resources on current events in Iraq.

First, to understand the balance of power in Iraq, it is critical to understand its demographics:
There are more Arab Iraqi Muslims members of the Shiite sect than there are Arab Iraqi Muslims of the Sunni sect, but there is a large Sunni population as well, made up of mostly Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans, (Shiite 60% of total population). Small communities of Christians, Baha'is, Mandaeans, Shabaks, and Yezidis also exist. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

Demographic information from the 2004 edition of the CIA's The World Factbook:
* Ethnic groups: Arab 70%-75%, Kurdish 20%-25%, Turkoman, Assyrian or other 25%
* Religions: Muslim 93-95% (Shi'ite 60%, Sunni 40%), Christian,Yezidi or other 5-7%

In other words:
* Approximately 20% of Iraq's Population are Kurdish, who are mostly Sunni Muslims. They are concentrated in the North.
* Approximately 18% of Iraq's Population are Sunni Muslims, who are not Kurdish. They are concentrated in the "Sunni Triangle", which includes Baghdad.
* Approximately 57% of Iraq's Population are Shi'ite Muslims. They are concentrated in the South of the country.
* Approximately 5% of Iraq's Population are none of the above.

Keep these in mind, as (like I said above) it is critical to understanding what's going on Iraq.

Just for some background, Iran is a Shi'ite Islamic state. Similarly, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is a Shi'ite.

In contrast to this, most of the rest of the Islamic world are Sunni Muslims. Similarly, Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein are Sunnis. Even though nearly 60% of Iraq's population is Shi'ite, Saddam Hussein belonged to the 18% who were Sunni.

A good place to start our look into who is in control in Iraq is the election of the Transitional Government in Iraq:
In the January 30, 2005, Legislative elections, the Iraqi people chose representatives for the newly-formed 275-member Iraqi National Assembly. The voting represented the first general election since the United States-led 2003 invasion of Iraq, and marked an important step in the transition of turning control of the country over from US occupation forces to the Iraqis themselves.
Provisional results released on February 13 showed that the United Iraqi Alliance, tacitly backed by Shi'a leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, led with some 48% of the vote. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan was in second place with some 26% of the vote. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party, the Iraqi List, came third with some 14%. In total, twelve parties received enough votes to win a seat in the assembly.

So who is the United Iraqi Alliance; the main political alliance in the transitional coallition currently running Iraq? Well, for a start, they are an alliance of the main Shi'ite parties in Iraq. here are some details:
The United Iraqi Alliance is one of the electoral coalitions that participated in the January 30, 2005, National Assembly election in Iraq.

The alliance is made up of mainstream Shi'ite Islamic religious parties in the Iraqi Interim Government, liberal secularists, nuclear physicist Hussain Shahristani, some independent Sunni representatives and representatives of the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, a leader of disaffected Shi'a who is suspected by American occupational authorities of having ordered the 2003 murder of Ayatollah Abd al-Majid al-Khoi. The coalition is generally believed to be supported by senior Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most widely respected religious figure in Iraq, and although the Ayatollah has offered no official endorsement, many in the Iraqi public refer to the UIA as "al-Sistani's list."

This alliance has two key parties in control: the SCIRI (or Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and the Dawa Party. But who are these groups, and what do they believe? First, the Dawa Party:
The Islamic Dawa Party (Arabic transliteration: al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya) is an Iraqi political organization. It is one if the main Shi'ite parties. In the lead-up to the 2005 Iraqi election it cooperated with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and other Shi'ite groups in the United Iraqi Alliance. The party is led by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a doctor, who now serves as Iraq's Prime Minister.

The party was formed in the late 1950s by a group of Shi'ite leaders, with Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr, the uncle of Muqtada al-Sadr, playing a prominent role. It was created to combat atheistic communism and Baathist Arab socialism which were then ascendant in Iraq. While founded and led by Shi'ites it worked closely with Sunni Islamic groups and a significant minority of the group's members were Sunnis. Al-Dawa rose to prominence in the 1970s when it waged a terrorist campaign against the Iraqi government. It supported the Islamic Revolution in Iran and in turn received support from the Iranian government, especially during the Iran-Iraq War. Despite this cooperation the Islamic Republic envisioned by al-Sadr differed sharply from that of Khomeini. While Khomeini, and the SCIRI, argued the power of the state should rest with the ulema al-Dawa supported the notion of power resting with the ummah.

Next, the SCIRI:
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is an Iraqi political party; its support comes from the country's Shi'ite Muslim community and from their fellow religionists in neighbouring Iran. Prior to August 2003, SCIRI was led by Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim; its current leader is the ayatollah's brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Ayatollah al-Hakim was killed in a car bomb attack in the Iraqi city of Najaf on August 29, 2003. The car bomb exploded as the ayatollah was leaving a religious shrine in the city, just after Friday prayers. At present no group has admitted responsibility for the attack, although many believe it is intersectarian violence.

The party was founded in 1982 after the near annihilation of the Islamic Dawa Party after the latter's failed assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein. It was largely based in Tehran and during the Iran-Iraq War the Iranians recognized the SCIRI as the government of the Islamic Republic of Iraq. The SCIRI ideology was closely based on that of Khomeini, and was far closer to the Iranian model than al-Dawa supporting the control of government by the ulema.

With the fall of Saddam after the 2003 invasion of Iraq the SCIRI quickly rose to prominence, working closely with the other Shi'ite parties. The party leaders toned down many of party beliefs and committed it to democracy and peaceful cooperation. SCIRI's power base is in the Shi'a-majority southern Iraq. It still has an armed wing, the Badr Brigade, with an estimated strength of between 4,000 and 10,000 men. Its Baghdad offices are based in a house that previously belonged to Ba'athist Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

A member of this Shi'ite Alliance (including the SCIRI and Dawa), which won 48% of the vote, has become Iraq's Transitional Prime Minister:
Dr Ibrahim al-َAshaiqir al-Jaafari (إبراهيم الأشيقر الجعفري) (born 1947) is the new Prime Minister of Iraq in the Iraqi Transitional Government following the elections of January 2005. He is a Shiite and was previously one of the two vice-presidents of Iraq under the Iraqi Interim Government in 2004, and the main spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Shi'ites partners in government, the Kurdish Alliance, have gotten their leader appointed as President:
Jalal Talabani (born in 1933), is a seasoned Iraqi Kurdish politician, who was named State President of Iraq on April 6, 2005 by the Iraqi National Assembly. Talabani is founder and secretary general of one of the main Iraqi Kurdish political parties the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) . He was also a prominent member of the Interim Iraq Governing Council, which was established following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

So an alliance of Pro-Iranian Shi'ite parties is the main group in Iraq's transitional government. Al-Jaafari, the transitional Prime Minister, is a member. The Kurds - as I estimated earlier, around 20% of the population, have also done well: they got Talabani as a Prime Minister. But this leaves the 18% of the population who are Sunni but aren't Kurdish unrepresented. As a result of the "one person, one vote" system that was implemented (rather than having a quota from each major Iraqi demographic group), many boycotted the elections.

And, as we will see in Part II, the power of the Shi'ite religious parties has come to a great benefit to Iran.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Time to Help the RSPCA

Posted by AmishThrasher at 1:39 pm
The RSPCA, in association with the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and HSI (Humane Society International), has launched a last-ditch effort to stop Thai elephants, which do not survive well in captivity, being imported by Australian Zoos. In a press-release on the subject, the RSPCA states that "Elephants in zoos breed poorly, with a high level of stillbirth and a very high rate of infant mortality, and also generally die at a younger age." The full press-release on the issue, in PDF format, is available here. For those of you who are interested in helping them out, information is available here.

The full Press Release Reads:
The RSPCA believes the welfare of elephants in zoos is severely compromised. The RSPCA will join IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and HSI (Humane Society International) in appealing the decision by Environment Minister Ian Campbell to approve the importation The non-government organisations will also ask for an injunction to stop the zoos from moving the elephants before the AAT appeal is heard.

RSPCA Australia spokesperson Dr Hugh Wirth said today the RSPCA’s opposition to the plan was based on serious animal welfare concerns. “There is no doubt that the weight of scientific evidence goes against expanding the current zoo elephant population,” said Ms Speechley. “In allowing this importation to proceed, Minister Ian Campbell has condemned these elephants to a life of suffering in captivity,” she said.

The RSPCA is not opposed to zoos but points to recent scientific evidence which demonstrates that elephants are not suitable to be kept in captivity. RSPCA, IFAW and HSI also reject the zoos’ claim that the plan is in the interests of elephant conservation, rather than in the interests of raising profits for the zoos involved. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) states that endangered animals can only be imported for conservation and breeding purposes, not for commercial benefit. However, despite over 100 years of keeping elephants in captivity, Australian zoos have been unable to breed even one single Asian elephant. Furthermore, there is no plan to ever release any elephant back into the wild, placing any perceived conservation benefit in serious doubt.

“Taking elephants way from their home and family groups in Thailand, and sticking them in a zoo in the middle of Sydney or Melbourne, is no way to contribute to elephant conservation,” said Dr Wirth. “The elephant is a precious and endangered animal, not a tourist attraction,” Dr Wirth said. Elephants in zoos face restricted space and opportunity for exercise, unsuitable climate, small or unstable social groups and lack of opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours. Subsequent health problems suffered by elephants in zoos include serious foot and joint complaints and obesity. Elephants in zoos breed poorly, with a high level of stillbirth and a very high rate of infant mortality, and also generally die at a younger age.


Speaking of the RSPCA, a group that does a lot of extrodinary work in helping animals, if you are interested in helping them out, you may want to check out their Animal Art Exhibition; it sounds like a great way to spend a day, and help a great cause:
Date:  14 - 24th July 2005
> Time: Monday to Friday      10:00am to 5:00pm
               Saturday & Sunday  1:00pm to 5:00pm
> Location: Glen Eira Council Gallery.
                      Corner Glen Eira & Hawthorn Roads, Caulfield.  Gallery Ph: 9524 3214
> Entry: Via donation

More Details at

The AmishThrasher Wrap, July 21st

Posted by AmishThrasher at 10:44 am
AmishThrasher Wrap:
Mmmm... souvlaki
Today on the AmishThrasher Wrap: Remember Senator Ian Campbell? He's back, and he's just shocked that anyone would lie to him, telling ABC's 4 Corners that "You know, when a guy looks you in the eye and says he's going to either abstain or walk out of the room and shakes your hand, I come from a tradition of respecting that until proved otherwise... all I know is what's happened is they promised to do one thing, and did the other, and the result is foul." Not that he'd ever do anything like that! Plus a flashback to a Ruddock quote which, in the light of Vivian Solon's deportation, is worth remembering: "And the alternative course that is offered -- and when you recognise that at the moment in detention we have something like 1,600 people and 800 of those people, almost 800 of those people, are being held for removal -- in other words, they're not refugees." All that, and more, today in the AmishThrasher Wrap!Hi, and welcome to the AmishThrasher Wrap. Like I said, I'm looking at different ways of delivering content, especially once I get back to Uni, when the time I have to put this together will be a lot more limited. Anyway, here's a quick round-up of a number of recent issues in one post:

Whale Watching
I'll start the Wrap off by talking about the ABC's Four Corners Program this week, which dealt with the recent Whaling Summit. And while I have recently criticised the Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, for his lies in the lead-up to the last Federal election (which you can read here), he does deserve to be commended for the work he put in in opposition to Japans move to re-legalise commercial whaling, and his opposition to the "Scientific Research" loophole which Japan has used to slaughter whales. During the Program, Japan's Representative to the IWC comes off as particularly loathsome.

That said, keeping in mind the porkies he told before the last Federal Election about Australia's nuclear waste dump being on an off-shore island and that the Northern Territory was not being investigated, take a look at some of his comments during the program. For example when the Solomon Island's Prime Minister lied about abstaining from the vote, Campbell said "You know, when a guy looks you in the eye and says he's going to either abstain or walk out of the room and shakes your hand, I come from a tradition of respecting that until proved otherwise." And I agree, politicians looking you in the eye and telling lies is disgusting. But apparently, in Campbells tradition, politicians telling porkies before an election to thousands over the radio is A-okay. Another quote from the Senator was "...all I know is, what's happened is they promised to do one thing, and did the other, and the result is foul." It's funny, the people in the Northern Territory who heard you tell them there would be no radioactive waste dump in the Territory feel the same way.

The transcript is online here.

The Ruddock Quotes
Moving on, from time to time I like to post past comments from pollies when their comments get exposed for lies. Well, given the recent crisis in the Detention Centre system, it is worth going back to see what, soon after the 2001 Federal Election, former Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock was saying about the detention centre system, in the wake of the illegal and immoral detention of Australian Citizens like Cornelia Rau, and the deportation of Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez-Solon. Here's a transcript of Ruddock on Lateline, broadcast on the 19/3/2002:

Ruddock defends detention of children
...And the alternative course that is offered -- and when you recognise that at the moment in detention we have something like 1,600 people and 800 of those people, almost 800 of those people, are being held for removal -- in other words, they're not refugees.

They have no lawful basis to be in Australia.

They could be removed tomorrow if they were prepared to cooperate with us...

One of those people 'held for removal' - that is, waiting to be deported - would be Vivian Alvarez - Solon.

But if Ruddock was wrong that people slated for deportation had no legal basis to be in Australia, the question arises of how many of those 800 people that Ruddock had deported really were refugees? And just think, if even one of those 800 really was a legitimate refugee, we sent them back to a war-torn country where they would face persecution, and that they had risked everything to leave.

Meanwhile, given that Cornelia Rau, who was a diagnosed schizophrenic, was neither diagnosed correctly by Detention Centre officials, nor given adequate care for her condition, questions have been raised about the quality of health care (especially mental health care) in our detention centres. So what did Ruddock have to say about the state of these health services?

In relation to the others we have a duty of care which we accept and which we honour and we provide a very full and comprehensive set of medical services as well as other related services to ensure that they suffer as least as possible.

But we're not going to unwind the detention arrangements merely because people bring families and then demand with the support of well-meaning groups that they should be free in the Australian community because of potential harm that they may suffer.

This is a situation in which they have placed themselves.
SOURCE: ibid.

As the Rau case shows, the mental health services available to detainees is, at the very least, thoroughly incompetant. Did they suddenly deteriorate between this interview and when Rau was incarcerated? Or was Ruddock lied to by his own department and, for whatever reason, didn't find out for himself? Or was Ruddock simply lying through his teeth when he was saying this? Whatever the truth is, it doesn't look good for Ruddock.

And, as the interview notes, there were clear warnings by experts, as early as 2002, that things were deffinately awry in the system, especially in regard to mental health care. What did Ruddock do? Deny it, of course:

TONY JONES: These doctors are saying, Minister, there is cancer in the system.

You are not taking their advice, you will not allow them to make an independent assessment of what's happening inside these detention centres -- the state, the mental state of not only men and women but their small children.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: What we have is a number of doctors, and you've dealt with this earlier in the program, who made it their business to go and offer advice and consult with people without them very often knowing that's what was happening and who were under the professional care of other practitioners.

I don't think that's an appropriate or ethical way in which to undertake inquiries or to come to an informed view.

But we did set up an independent evaluation of all the medical service that we are operating to ensure that they are appropriate.

I'll have a report available fairly shortly which details the result of that.

I mean, I do take advice in these matters.

I take it seriously.

Detention is not intended to be punitive.
SOURCE: ibid.

I wonder what happend to Ruddock's personal inquiry? Regardless, since then, we have gotten the Palmer Report. And it's a shame that things have deteriorated - either during, or since - Ruddock's watch to the point where an official inquiry was necessary. Speaking of which, Crikey have a story about it here, where they highlight where Palmer identifies the immigration system as being “‘Process rich' and ‘outcomes poor'.” And Ruddock undeniably deserves a lot of the blame.

Port Phillip Bay and Coode Island Update
Recently, I ran a story at the AmishThrasher recommending the redevelopment of Coode Island - you can read it here (it's in the July Archives). Well, for those of you who are interested, the Victoria Greens and the Blue Wedge Coallition have a protest coming up over the issue. From the Green's website:
Despite very big questions hanging over the economics of channel deepening in Port Phillip Bay and growing community concern, the Port of Melbourne Corporation and the state government seem determined to push ahead with a nine week, $30 million plus, 'dredging trial' in the north and south of the Bay.

"Trial dredging" - due to commence as early [as the 2nd of August -] is simply the thin edge of the massive dredging operation (four times as big as has been done any where else in the world) which the Independent Panel Report stated in March this year, threatens serious and irreversible environmental damage to the Bay.

There should be a moratorium on any further dredging in Port Phillip Bay until an independent analysis is conducted of all the direct and indirect impacts and costs of channel deepening (not just the cost of the dredging operation).

WEAR RED, CARRY RED, SEE RED and join the Blue Wedges STOP THE DREDGE Protest rally,
1pm, Sunday July 31,
Greenwich Reserve, The Strand, Williamstown
(Melways 56C5)

The Racist Professor
Finally, I'll wrap this up (no pun intended) with another follow-up to a story I did on Eric Rudolph, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Terrorist who was recently thrown in jail. Senator Nettle has put up a press release about Andrew Fraser; the racist accademic who has recently been featured on programs like A Current Affair, and in various newspapers for his hateful views on people from Africa and Asia. It's worth checking out.

If there were a Professor in Australia who actively supported Islamic Extremism, they would rightfully be condemned. Well, Fraser's comments actively support the positions of the Christian Identity movement; an American Neo-nazi Terrorist movement of which Eric Rudolph was a member. He deserves the same sort of condemnation.

And that's a Wrap!
And that's all from the AmishThrasher Wrap for now, though there is heaps more on the website. Thankyou for reading it!

If you think that this is a worthwhile feature, please let me know, either by leaving a comment, e-mail, or on the Message Board. Also,I'm thinking about doing something like the AmishThrasher Wrap as an e-mail newsletter - would you be interested in it? or would I be better seved in posting a number of short, paragraph longstories on the front page? Any feedback would be hugely appreciated!

Andrew S.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Atlanta Terrorist Thrown in Jail.

Posted by AmishThrasher at 9:46 pm
Eric Rudolph
Eric Rudolph:
The face of a terrorist.
According to the New York Times, Eric Rudolph, the terrorist behind a number of deadly attacks including the attack on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has been thrown in jail. According to Wikipedia, "It has been alleged that Rudolph is an adherent of the extremist group Christian Identity, a sect that holds that white Christians are God's chosen people, and that others will be condemned to Hell." The crimes committed by this terrorist and his extremist group, Christian Identity, are disgusting and cowardly. Thankfully Rudolph, whose terrorist acts have seen innocent people killed, is being bought to justice. Arresting domestic terrorists like Rudolph, who has been nicknamed the "Birmingham Bomber" is a clear victory in the War on Terrorism.

Before going any further, here's some background on the crimes committed by this terrorist:
Of the bombings committed by Rudolph, the most notoriety came from the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta on July 27, 1996, during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The blast killed Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others. Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman who ran to the scene following the blast, died of a heart attack.
Rudolph has also confessed to the bombings of an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs on January 16, 1997, a gay and lesbian nightclub, the Otherside Lounge, in Atlanta on February 21, 1997, injuring five, and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing Robert Sanderson and critically injuring Emily Lyons. Rudolph's bombs were made of dynamite surrounded by nails which acted as shrapnel, increasing the destructive power of the bombs. The use of two bombs is a common terrorist tactic: the second bomb is timed to target those responding to the first explosion.


Well, here's an excerpt from the American newspaper The New York Times, describing him facing justice for his horrendous crimes:

Victims Have Say as Birmingham Bomber Is Sentenced
Published: July 19, 2005
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., July 18 - It was Emily Lyons's first chance to address Eric R. Rudolph, the bomber whose attack on an abortion clinic here in 1998 left her half-blind and maimed. And she had plenty to say.

Ms. Lyons, who had been the director of nursing at the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic, called Mr. Rudolph a coward for making a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, and said, pointedly, that the clinics he bombed were still in operation today and that his attack had transformed her into a public figure who had raised thousands of dollars for abortion services.

And she told Mr. Rudolph at his sentencing Monday morning in Federal District Court, "I have more guts in my broken little finger than you have in your whole body."

Mr. Rudolph, who pleaded guilty in April to the Birmingham bombing and three bombings in Atlanta, was sentenced to two life sentences without parole for the Birmingham bombing. Judge C. Lynwood Smith ordered him to pay $1.2 million restitution to the victims, though he acknowledged that Mr. Rudolph had no financial resources. In August, Mr. Rudolph will be sentenced to two more life terms in Atlanta for attacks on another abortion clinic and a gay club and at the 1996 Olympics.


Perhaps a little disconcerting was that Prosecutors, rather than sending this guy to dry out in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, chose to deal with this as a criminal case. Even worse, Prosecutors chose to negotiate with this terrorist:

Prosecutors had agreed not to seek the death penalty if Mr. Rudolph helped them recover more than 250 pounds of explosives he had hidden in western North Carolina, buried in the wilderness where he had taken cover while in hiding. Officials announced the deal in April, after law enforcement agents recovered the explosives.

SOURCE: ibid.

Also very scary is the fact that, as shown in the following excerpt, Rudolph was able to obtain the ingredients for this bomb in a local Wal-Mart store. Also kind of creepy is the fact he wrote 'bomb' in his Bible:

Ms. Lyons, who has been vocal in her disappointment that Mr. Rudolph would not face capital punishment, read a seven-page statement recounting the many ways in which he had worked against himself: he saved the receipt for bombing components bought at Wal-Mart; he left explosive residue all over his trailer; he failed to notice that his intended target in Birmingham, the doctor providing abortions, did not use the clinic's front door; he left the bomb in plain sight instead of hiding it in the bushes; he wrote the word "bomb" in the margin of his Bible; and, ultimately, he failed to stop women from obtaining abortions.

SOURCE: ibid.

Fundementalists like Rudolph, who hijack a religion of peace and compassion and use it to further a violent agenda of hate - to put it bluntly - piss me off. These people do not represent Christianity, its values and morals, and its spirit of compassion. As you can see, this terrorist didn't achieve his end goal, and we must make sure he doesn't. As you may recall, a few days ago I wrote the following (about people like Rudolph) right here on the AmishThrasher:

The real enemy, both for compassionate people of faith and secular Humanists alike are those who try to hijack religion to push for radical, destructive agendas. Personally, it makes me thoroughly sick when I hear someone use religion as an excuse for racism; especially when it cuts against the fundamental message of their religion. Unfortunately, even within Australia, there are numerous so-called 'religious' groups actively trying to recruit people to their hateful cause. Such groups don't put their effort into social justice, but rather they actively undermine it. The goal of such wackos is to further their agendas of personal power, wealth, and hatred. And unfortunately, both in Australia and abroad, they seem to be growing in power, while giving people of good faith a bad name.


The first thing authorities in the US should do is track down this extremist 'Christian Identity' group, and all those who support it or give it comfort, and bring them to justice. Meanwhile, here in Australia we need to seek out Fundementalist Christian groups and cults which seek a similar agenda and seek to use similar tactics, and bring those groups to justice. Like any terrorist groups, they need to be thoroughly infiltrated - top to bottom - by intelligence and law enforcement officials, neutralised, and its members bought to justice. We must apply a post September 11th mindset to all religious extremism, and crack down on all these groups.

Like any terrorist group, we need to find out what it is about this group, which makes it alluring to recruits. What makes people turn out like this terrorist,

And finally, all of us who believe in social justice and humanity - whether actively religious, or aethiest - must unite. For those of us who are actively religious, we need to reclaim the name of religion in the name of peace and justice from those religious wackos of all stripes - be they Islamic extremists, or other groups like Christian Identity or the Klan - who seek to use it to propogate hate. And it is up to us to set an example of social justice, progress, human rights, and compassion. To unite and work together to build and strengthen the cause of social justice in Australia and the world, against the thugs and wreckers who seek to undermine and attack it.

We must not give in to terrorists like Rudolph.

Why does Global Arms Control Matter?

Posted by AmishThrasher at 5:14 pm
Should they be sold
for human rights abuse?
In a good piece of news, according to Amnesty International, "In the last week, thirteen more governments have announced their support for the international Arms Trade Treaty at a UN arms control meeting in New York. The governments of Benin, Colombia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, the Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Turkey, Uganda and the Vatican gave their support, bringing the treaty much closer to being a reality." While there is more work needed for a legally binding treaty selling or giving arms to those who want to commit human rights abuse, this is a clear step in the right direction. But why should the issue of arms control matter to ordinary Australians? Read on to find out.

Well, think about some of the horrific human rights abuses of the past few decades - the wholesale murder of civilian men, women and children in places like Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and more recently in the Darfur region of Sudan. The thousands of innocent people killed as a result. The idea that people would commit such horrific acts against their fellow man makes me sick to my stomach. Thinking about these situations, you have to wonder where exactly these monsters got their weapons - the hundreds of guns and thousands of rounds of ammo used in these protracted tradgedies.

And the answer is points to something that is perhaps as sickening as the acts themselves: there are people who either gave these armies their weapons for some sort of personal gain, or worse, knowingly sold those weapons for profits. Somewhere out there sleeping in their mansion after selling guns and ammo to some 3rd world tinpot dictator with the weapons, while knowing that thousands of kids would be shot and needlessly slaughtered as a result. It's thoroughly immoral, and it should be illegal too: globally.

And this is what Amnesty International is trying to do with Global Arms Control.

John Howard and George W. Bush claim that the reason for invading Iraq (after the Weapons of Mass Destruction failed to show up) was to stop human rights abuses by Saddam Hussein. Well, they should get behind Amnesty International in supporting Global Arms control to ensure that no other dictator, like Saddam Hussein, ever gets the opportunity to commit such large scale attrocities ever again. Australians who knowingly sell weapons that are used to abuse human rights deserve to be thrown in jail, and foreigners - and foreign businesses - that do it should be banned from doing business in Australia. And those tough laws must be adopted worldwide.

The fact is that Global Arms control matters because thousands more people will die - like they did in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Darfur, if we do nothing. It's time our so-called 'leaders' stepped up to the plate and showed their leadership in arms control.

Here's the full text of Amnesty International's Press Release:

Thirteen more governments announce support for Arms Trade Treaty
18 July, 2005 | IOR 40/019/2005
In the last week, thirteen more governments have announced their support for the international Arms Trade Treaty at a UN arms control meeting in New York. The governments of Benin, Colombia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, the Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Turkey, Uganda and the Vatican gave their support, bringing the treaty much closer to being a reality, said campaigners today.

A number of other governments, including the EU countries, some East African states and the Mercosur grouping of Latin American states also made positive statements in favour of stronger export controls based on global minimum standards.

The proposed Arms Trade Treaty has the support of Nobel Laureates and citizens around the world. It would be legally binding and would ban arms transfers if they are likely to contribute to human rights violations or fuel conflict, or undermine development. The treaty would close the loopholes that currently exists between incompatible national arms export laws.

The new expressions of support for the Arms Trade Treaty came during a week-long conference at the UN in New York to review progress in curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons under a 2001 agreement, the UN Programme of Action.

"While many governments are still failing to meet their obligations under the Programme, it is encouraging that momentum is building towards the agreement of a new legally binding treaty on export controls", said Brian Wood, arms control manager of Amnesty International.

"Governments at last seem to be waking up to the fact that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are killed every year by armed violence. So many governments backing the treaty in just one week is a massive step towards enforcing stricter arms controls", said Anna MacDonald, Director of Policy at Oxfam.

"This is a major shift from the last UN review meeting two years ago, when export controls were barely on the table. As a result of strong campaigning from a global network of NGOs, along with the support of states including Kenya, UK, Costa Rica, Norway and Finland, states are recognising the necessity of a legally binding treaty," said Rebecca Peters, Director of IANSA.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Rewarding Politicians for Incompetence.

Posted by AmishThrasher at 5:58 pm
Peter Beattie
Meet Peter Beattie:
He wants to curb your freedom.
If nothing else, you have to credit the politicians for audacity. Within a week of the Palmer Report showing clear incompetance by government with mandatory detention, politicians like Queensland's Premier, Peter Beattie, have come forward to the Australian public asking us to, essentially, trust the government with even more power; this time, with a mandatory national ID card. Perhaps the most audacious aspect to all of this is that Beattie, whose state illegally held Rau as a prisoner, wants the government powers extended because of their incompetence with the powers that they already have! Beattie made the point in a recent interview where he stated that "The other thing about it, too, is we've had the problems with Cornelia Rau and the Alvarez case... Now a national ID system will have benefits in that." In other words, dangerously incompetent government departments and politicians should be rewarded with even more power, while we - the public - should be punished by being forced to give up more of our civil liberties. Really, it should be the other way around: incompetent government departments should be punished by having their power cut back, and incompetent politicians should be fired.

First, some history. In 1992, the Federal Government (under Paul Keating) gave itself (through the Immigration Department) the power to be able to detain, or deport, anyone who it thought was in the country illegally, without trial. After the 2001 Federal elections, those powers were strengthened and extended by the Howard government. The incompetence with which these powers were used by the immigration department was revealed when Cornelia Rau, an Australian citizen, was illegally arrested and detained while another Australian, Vivian Solon, was illegally deported. This incompetence with the powers the department already has been criticised in the resulting Palmer Inquiry. In the wake of this report, the guilty government bureaucracy either needs a serious overhaul, or to have their powers slashed dramatically - or both. To reward this bureaucracy for its utter ineptness with even more power would be an act of monumental stupidity.

An excuse often used to extend government powers is that if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to fear. Well, neither Rau nor Solon had anything to hide - they were both Australian citizens; so they really should have had nothing to fear either. Nothing to fear, that is, except for the abuse of power by a pack of over-zealous bureaucrats. And with the Australia Card, those same bureaucrats would gain access to a Soviet-style centralised government database potentially linking all your personal information, both public and private. Your right to privacy goes out the window, and the potential for abuse is enormous. Do we really want to give the same government bureaucracy and politicians that have already been shown to be incompetent that much power?

I, for one, think that it would be an incredibly stupid thing to do, which is why I don't support it.

John Howard has found a different excuse for attacking your privacy with an Australia Card, when he stated (according to The Age) that "This is an issue that ought to be back on the table but back on the table as part of inevitably looking at everything in the wake of the terrible tragedy in London." The problem is that most of the London terrorists were born and raised in the UK. Using such a large scale database would mean scouring through the personal details of millions to find a couple of dozen people, and would necessitate both a massive and comprehensivefile on everyone; resources that should be spent on human intelligence; on infiltrating and undermining extremist organisations both at home and abroad.

Howard and Beattie think we should have a national debate over whether we should introduce the Australia Card. Well, in the wake of the Palmer Report we do need a national debate, alright. But it should be a very different one to the one Howard and Beattie have in mind: the debate shouldn't be over introducing an Australia Card, but rather over how many of these pollies deserve to get fired at the next election. And how many more deserved to be fired if they pull through with this scheme.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Challenge: How the Pollies Responded.

Posted by AmishThrasher at 11:51 am
Victorian Parliament House, Spring Street
Spring Street:
Who bothered to Reply?
One week ago (between 1:09 and 1:25 PM on the 9th of July), I sent e-mails to the ALP, Liberals, and Greens. The aim of the excercise is simple: to see what kind of responses I would get to a bunch of simple questions about their policies on public transport. Given my commentary on the delapidated and underused state of metropolitan Melbourne's public transport infrastructure, this would provide the parties with both a right-of-reply, and an opportunity to address some of the problems I had identified. It would be interesting to repeat the excercise in the lead up to the next state election to compare how much more prompt the replies are. So which of the 3 parties performed best in our challenge?

It took a couple of days for any of the parties to reply to the request: the first reply I got back was on Tuesday (the 12) when, at 12:55, I got the first e-mail back. Who was the first party to respond? The Greens, with the following e-mail (some names and e-mails have been removed):
Subject: Re: Public transport policies etc.
Date: 12 July 2005 12:55:14 PM

Andrew (? surname?),

thanks for your enquiry. I have responded to the particular issues
below. I would have copied this query to our public transport
spokesperson, but unfortunately we are in the process of re-appointing
this person.

So please see if this helps. And get back to me if necessary.

On Sat, 2005-07-09 at 13:25 +1000, Andrew wrote:
> To whom it may concern,
> I would like to make some inquiries in regard's to the Greens current
> public transport policy. Here are some specific questions I have in
> regards to such policies in metropolitan Melbourne. Any assistance
> would be greatly appreciated:
> 1) In brief, what are the key priorities of the Greens public
>transport policies, and where is more information about it available?

Our state policies are at: Transport.

> 2) How do current Green policies in regards to public transport differ
> from those under the Bracks Government?

I am not able to give you this analysis, in my role. Perhaps the spokesperson can do this, once appointed. Similarly with the specific queries below.

Your patience in this matter is most appreciated.

??? ???
Party Administrator
Direct Email)
From the Front Desk, Vic State Office.

Australian Greens (Victoria)
GPO Box xxxx
General email)
Ph: (xx) xxxx xxxx
Fax: (xx) xxxx xxxx
Web site:

NOTE: the AGV State Office is open Mon-Thur 10.00 am - 6.00 pm.

In other words, in spite of not currently having a Public Transport spokesperson, the Greens were the first of the 3 parties to respond to my e-mail. While they didn't reply to any of my questions, they did provide a link to the website where they present their public transport policies. I'll have a look at these policies in greater depth later.

Anyway, less than an hour after recieving the e-mail from the Greens, I got a letter back from the ALP. Basically it was a stock e-mail simply acknowledging that they had recieved an e-mail from me, and that it was being "receiving attention" with a response coming as soon as possible. What I suspect it means is that it landed in some secretary's inbox, was deemed unimportant. and will get replies to me whenever they get around to it - if they get around to it. If they do eventually reply, I will post the e-mail here in full with comments.

So what of the Liberals? Well, thus far, no response or acknowledgement whatsoever. In thsi challenge, they have clearly performed the worst of the bunch. This really is a poor communications effort, from the State Liberals, to an active voter. Or do voters only matter before elections?

So far in our challenge, the Greens have clearly performed best, even with one hand tied behind their backs, making a genuine effort to reply to my concerns. It's appreciated. As I said earlier, if I get any more replies I'll post them, but after a week, I'm honestly not holding my breath on it. In contrast to the Greens, both of the major parties have performed very poorly - thus far - at this challenge.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Forget Nuclear Waste, Let's Dump Some Pollies!

Posted by AmishThrasher at 1:16 pm
Radioactive Lies:
Another day in Canberra.
During the last election campaign, the Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, promised that "The only options that we're pursuing are on offshore islands. I think the reality of this is that there's no one on the mainland who particularly wants a nuclear waste dump in their backyard, and that is why we're pursuing the practical option of going to an offshore island, so the Northern Territorians can take that as an absolute categorical assurance." Less than one year on, the ABC reports that "The Federal Government has announced that a new radioactive waste facility will be located at a Commonwealth-owned site in the Northern Territory." With liars like Campbell, perhaps radioactive waste isn't the only thing needing to be dumped?During the 2004 election campaign, the Liberal Party's Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, categorically assured voters in the Northern Territory that Australia's nuclear waste would be dumped on an offshore island, rather than on Australia's mainland. During the radio broadcast, he told thousands of radio listeners that:

Coalition rules out nuclear waste dump for the mainland
PM - Thursday, 30 September , 2004  18:38:00
Reporter: Anne Barker
IAN CAMPBELL: The only options that we're pursuing are on offshore islands. I think the reality of this is that there's no one on the mainland who particularly wants a nuclear waste dump in their backyard, and that is why we're pursuing the practical option of going to an offshore island, so the Northern Territorians can take that as an absolute categorical assurance.
IAN CAMPBELL: It's going to be an Australian offshore island. I'm not going to get into the business of ruling out every one of the thousand Australian islands, we're going to get the very best scientific advice which makes it a safe, secure environment on an offshore island for the future of Australia.

When a senior Government Minister promises that the only options being investigated are on offshore islands, and offers it as a categorical assurance (his words, not mine) to voters, you would think that the waste dump would end up being built on as offshore island, right? Fast forward to Friday, the 15th of July:

NT chosen as site of new waste dump
The World Today - Friday, 15 July , 2005  12:10:00
Reporter: Samantha Hawley
After months of speculation, the Federal Government has this morning announced that the nation's new nuclear waste dump will be located in the Northern Territory.
BRENDAN NELSON: The Keating Labor Government in the early 90s did look at a range of sites and chose the Woomera site. We spent specifically eight years building up that site. The parochialism and the efforts undertaken by the South Australian Government were such that in the end we had to abandon that site last year.

Whether these sites were considered in the early process, I'm not able to tell you. After the decision to move away from Woomera, we did examine very closely an offshore site. We looked specifically at Christmas Island, which we considered to be unsuitable for security, geological, environmental, and other reasons.

We have concurrently been looking at several sites in the Northern Territory, and we have chosen these three.

It's abundantly clear that, as well as the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, this is another massive lie from the Federal Government. It is a lie on two counts - first, the "categorical assurance" that "It's going to be an Australian offshore island". The second lie is the one about "The only options that we're pursuing are on offshore islands", and this is clearly contradicted by Brendan Nelson's announcement that "We have concurrently been looking at several sites in the Northern Territory, and we have chosen these three." And if the only options the Government really was persuing were on offshore island, then Nelson would have no problem saying so now. In other words, at the very moment that Ian Campbell was making those promises, his department was concurrently, actively investigating 3 sites in the Northern Territory. If Campbell, the responcibile minister, didn't know what his own department was doing in concurrently investigating the NT sites, then that in itself is sheer utter incompetance for which he deserves the sack. On the other hand, if (as I suspect) he knowingly lied to the public, then that's even worse, and he must be held accountable.

Meanwhile, John Howard has stated that "This country has enormous supplies of uranium and it would strike a lot of people as an odd contradiction that we would not allow a debate on nuclear power in Australia yet we would be quite happy under appropriate safeguards to export large amounts of uranium." (SOURCE: Okay, how's about we start the debate with this: which offshore island will we dump the waste from these powerplants on? And if there is no island chosen for this nuclear waste dump, then we really need to debate exactly how many votes the Government - especially the likes of Campbell - deserve at the next Federal election.

According to a Press Release from the Greens, I'm not the only one angry at these liars:
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today accused the federal government of cynical political manipulation by promising Northern Territorians during last years election campaign that there would be no nuclear waste dump in the NT but today announcing that there will.

"This is another election promise back flip that underlines the untrustworthiness of this government," Senator Nettle said.

"The Minister for the Environment Senator Ian Campbell told ABC Radio on the 30th of September 2004 that 'the only options that we're pursuing are on offshore islands. I think the reality of this is that there's no one on the mainland who particularly wants a nuclear waste dump in their backyard, and that is why we're pursuing the practical option of going to an offshore island, so the Northern Territorians can take that as 'an absolute categorical assurance' .

"Dr Nelson has made a liar of Senator Campbell.

"Territorians should be very concerned about this dump at a time when the federal government is talking up the development of nuclear power in Australia, building a new nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights and pushing for an expansion of nuclear power worldwide to boost Australian uranium
"The Greens are concerned that establishment of a dump will encourage an expansion of the nuclear industry in Australia. The nuclear industry produces the most dangerous pollution on earth and facilitates nuclear weaponary proliferation and should be wound down not expanded."

Which raises the question: why do these lying pollies, like Ian Campbell, get away with it? In many cases, because we let them. In fact, in some cases we reward the liars with bigger majorities and more seats. We, as voters, need to make it clear to these liars that their lies will not be tollerated any longer; that the liars will be voted out of power. The message to the pollies if this happens will be simple: You lie and you're fired.

Look, I can understand that sometimes things don't always go to plan. But even in such cases, politicians shouldn't make such outlandish promises about things that they know they won't be able to deliver on, and the person responcible at the very least should appologise, and then possibly step aside. That isn't the case here. As we can seen, by Brendan Nelson's own admissions, Campbell lied. And we will continue to have a lying Federal Government until they are held accountable for their lies.


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