31 Mar 2007

Hicks verdict: transparently political

So, the long-awaited trial took two days. Next to no evidence was presented. A man is convicted of terrorism, apparently the most dastardly crime on the planet, a crime so dastardly that it warranted keeping Hicks locked up without trial in judicial limbo for five years, a crime which, however, apparently warrants a sentence of only nine months, a sentence more commonly handed out for – what? Bar-room brawling?

Nine months of course is almost exactly the time frame in which the next Australian federal election must be held, although to be on the safe side, Hicks has been slapped with a one-year silence order (although I suspect that this order will not be enforceable once Hicks is back in Australia).

Hicks: Stockholm Syndrome?

The latest news from the Hicks trial is disturbing indeed. Hicks is not only confessing, apparently, but has promised to lag on others. Hicks has renounced a religion he believed in so fiercely before his incarceration that he was willing to put his life on the line for it. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, the five years of incarceration will not even be retrospectively declared punishment for his crimes, meaning that the prerogative of the US government to imprison foreign nationals for such periods without any wrongdoing being proven is to be upheld.

Hicks's renunciation of Islam is in itself neither disturbing nor reprehensible from a non-Islamic perspective. Still, it forms part of a pattern by which Hicks has effectively completely surrendered to the will of his captors. After five years of psychological tricks and torture, such a general change of allegiance should not surprise us. There is no doubt that what is done to inmates in Gitmo has been done precisely, technically, purposively to break their spirit and change their allegiances. That Hicks is willing to turn on his erstwhile comrades shows the completeness of the conversion. Of course, we don't know what, if anything, he will say. People under torture will say anything, which is why it is so ineffective, and it is possible that Hicks will say things that are made up to get released – it is quite possible that he does not actually have any information useful to the US.
Still, it is also possible that Hicks will simply assist to US state by fingering others, perhaps even innocents, to save himself. We will have to see, and one suspects that the full facts will be late in emerging.

28 Mar 2007

Of the $24 billion set aside in the Commonwealth budget for housing, 80 per cent was spent on tax breaks for "the big end of town" such as capital gains tax exemptions and negative gearing, the group estimates. Just $933 million would be spent on public and community housing, $1 billion on the first home buyers grant and $2 billion on rent assistance.

100,000 people could have been properly housed with that money.

David Hicks's conviction is a ludicrous political stitch-up. We will never accept it.

Hicks is the first person from Gitmo to be tried. There is no obvious procedure for trying people, nor for meting out the sentences handed down from any trial. Hicks is unique moerover in the fact that, more than any other prisoner, he is the subject of a significant campaign with majority support in his homeland, which is one of significant influence with the US administration, to have him returned.

As Tom Allen points out, it is all a "perfect solution" for the criminal Australian Howard administration. The Howard government needs to make the issue go away, the issue that it allowed Hicks to rot on Cuba, while convicted of no crime, a victim of the imperial hubris of Australia's international patron. By convicting Hicks, this means that his time in Guantanamo becomes legitimised as a punishment, so all ends well. By having Hicks confess, they avoid a legal battle in which the absurdities of the kangaroo trial would become clear.

It looks like it was planned from the get-go. There is no question I think that Howard orchestrated the latest trial through explicit representations to the US government. It seems most likely that what was decided was precisely that Hicks must be sent home, but first be found guilty, to legitimise the injustices so far heaped upon him. The big remaining question is whether Hicks will be sentenced to further time, to be served in Australia. Doubtless, the Australian government would rather he be locked up, but their carrying out of a dubious American sentence is hardly to their advantage. We will see. But a deal with Hicks of the form that Hicks confess and recognise the righteousness of his own mistreatment in return for repatriation seems to be what has happened. If Hicks is imprisoned in Australia, a vigorous cmapaign will surely erupt for his release. If he is not, the campaign for justice will I think still not completely evaporate, since this military court surely does not convince Australians.

27 Mar 2007

A confession made under duress cannot be given credence. David Hicks's apparent plea-bargain with the USonian kangaroo court is perhaps even the best thing for his well-being under the circumstances, but it has nothing to do with justice, or the truth. Hicks has apparently copped to being a 'member of a terrorist orgnisation', presumably meaning the Taliban. But the Taliban was not and is not a terrorist organisation, despite its obvious character as a gross suppressor of human rights. Suppressing human rights is not terrorism. Using terror as a political tool is. Perhaps the Taliban do that, but if so it is rather incidentally to their overall function as Draconian civil authority and partisans of national liberation and unification. Moreover, it's hardly clear that Hicks was a 'member' of the Taliban – one wonders whether that organisation even has a membership structure, and moreover if it does, whether Hicks was part of it. Hicks was a foreign fighter, a blow-in, someone who does not look like he was committed to the long-term future of the organisation in question, merely someone who found common cause with the rather questionable project of political Islam it represented, but at that time represented not as a terrorist force but as the de facto national government of Afghanistan.

What a surprise, the Hicks trial is a fucking farce.

21 Mar 2007

Murdoch looks like getting what he paid for from Kevin Rudd, with Kev promising to splurge big on broadband (story). Non-business interests shouldn't get too excited: while faster broadband is good for a lot of people, Rudd's plan invokes public-private partnerships (read taxpayer subsidise for corporate profits) and taking money from the Telstra Future Fund (read privatisation of existing telecommunications infrastructure, to subsidise coroporate profits).

17 Mar 2007

Anti-corruption campaign runs away from politicians

The Howard regime, in their desperation to destroy Kevin Rudd, accused him of corruption. I always though this was a case of people in a glasshouse throwing stones, and now it is clear that those stones have broken more of the Coalition glasshouse than the Labor glasshouse they were launched at.

This is great to watch, because a fight between the two parties on the corruption of their rival can only show up their mutual corruption and lead to a general reduction of corruption in public life in the short-term.

This can be an important ground on which to fight, since anti-corruption campaigning can go much further. Essentially, bourgeois democracy under capitalism is corruption, given that both the major parties are completely tainted by the patronage of capital. I think the mass of the public would support measures to clamp down on such patronage, and this glasshouse stone-fight provides a moment of opportunity to push such an agenda. Of course, there is both a lack of a force capable of pushing it forward, and of course a lack of a non-corrupt media willing to publicize it to the masses.

15 Mar 2007

Villification of the Greens' drugs policy

The most focus we've seen on the Greens all NSW campaign came when they announced a policy which was actually outside the generally-accepted political frame: a demand for the general decriminalization of drugs.

The Daily Telegraph's coverage of this, focusing on criticising Labor for even dealing with the Greens, rather than on the Greens themselves, indicates a complete unwillingness to even engage with the policy proposal – presumably because any analysis would lead their readership to some kind of understanding. Both smh.com.au and the Tele give the most hysterical reading of the policy possible, focusing on the decriminalization of methamphetamine ('ice') almost exclusively. The normally relatively sober smh.com.au ran a poll on the topic 'Greens and Ice : Rate the Greens' policy to decriminalise ice'. The SMH website didn't give any prominence to the topic other than this though, and this is not so much a lack of hysteria, so much as a complete lack of interest in the Greens' campaign.

The policy proposed by the Greens, while well outside of the mainstream of political opinion reported in the media, is well inside the mainstream of opinions by researchers on the subject. It's not pro-drug, and only supports decriminalization of drug use, not supply or manufacture. Indeed, I think this actually puts it well within the range of sensible popular opinion. See the Greens' clarification here.

While one can perhaps understand ignoring the Greens while covering the campaign given that it will certainly not be the Greens who form the state government, the overall lack of interest in the Greens by the papers cannot, I think, be explained without some imputation of anti-Greens bias, since fairness and the commercial imperatives of reporting the election would seem to me to imply a greater amount of coverage of the campaign of a party which enjoys such support in the electorate (I cannot find data for any NSW polling – anybody?). Fred Nile's policy pronouncements get more coverage in absolute terms, hence vastly more in relative terms.

12 Mar 2007

This is a light post, because its subject-matter is a couple of internet polls on smh.com.au. Internet polls are of course pretty much useless – self-selecting samples are completely unscientific, not to mention the imbalances caused by only polling those who visit smh.com.au. Still, smh.com.au polls can normally be relied upon to sit to the left of centre, with some exceptions. The most recent two polls in connection with the state election turned up results that at least demand real attention. Yesterday's was on a Democrats proposal to abolish the states. I wouldn't have thought this would be a very mainstream idea, but the 1789 votes were two-thirds for abolition and on-third against.

A more worrying poll result is today's, about Fred Nile's call for a moratorium on Muslim migration. 49% agree with him. 10% correctly state that this is not a state issue (migration policy is of course administered federally, whereas Nile is a state parliamentarian). Only 41% disagree, out of 3244 IP addresses. Given that the Herald tends to poll relatively-left, though disproportinately-Anglo, opinion, one wonders what the hoi polloi think on this issue – presumably they back Nile fairly strongly.

Nile's suggestion is, of course, fairly ridiculous: the practical exigencies of excluding only Muslim migrants are unassailable. Will people be banned from bringing non-Australian Muslim family members into the country? This not only attacks migration, but devalues the rights of Muslim Australian citizens. Will skilled Muslim migrants be disallowed on the basis of their religion? Are skilled migrants really a problem? And how will their religion be determined? Muslim refugees presumably will be disallowed, regardless of their need, which is going to be pretty difficult to enforce, considering that Nile wants Australia to slacken migration controls on Christians from the very same countries.

The fact of course is that at present in Australia, Muslims tend to occupy a low socio-economic position because large numbers of Muslims were allowed into the country as a wave of refugees during the Lebanese Civil War who were relatively poor and uneducated and hence tended to settle towards the bottom of Australian society. A similar effect is visible among Vietnamese migrants. Muslim migrants to Australia today are, by contrast, like all migrants filtered through a much harsher migration regime, which attempts to ensure that migrants are better than the current average Australian. Hence there are no calls to restrict Asian immigration these days, since the Chinese and Indian migrants of recent years tend to be prosperous, educated (often Australian-educated) and well-behaved. Nile's disgusting premise is that it is Islam that has made Lebanese migration a social problem, and thus that any Muslim migrant, whether they are an illiterate refugee or a cardiologist, is a danger to Australia.

Police dog savages child in Sydney. It turns out that police dogs are completely exempt from legislation against this – police dogs and their handlers cannot be prosecuted when the dogs hurt people, which means that police dogs can savage anyone they want. Presumably to death.

11 Mar 2007

Interesting legal case: are diplomatic missions in Australia allowed to use slave labour?

The flagrant mudslinging

The Coalition have launched a campaign to neutralize Kevin Rudd, who clearly, and personally, threatens their ten-year domination of the Australian federal state apparatus. First came the ludicrous beat-up around Brian Burke. Clearly, the Coalition's muck-rakers had been out in force and had dug this up. It still seems to have absolutely no substance to it, but of course the principle of mudslinging is that some of it sticks, regardless of its provenance. And now this. Suddenly, a Queensland family are up in arms about Rudd's alleged defamation of them. One wonders why they had kept silent about it for so long? Perhaps it's only now that the National Party put them up to making a fuss. Quite why the reputation of their father is so important in all this, when he is dead and Rudd has never mentioned him or them by name, well . . . Rudd of course was all of 11 when the events concerned happened, so obviously one should expect crystal-clarity in his recollections. But it seems to be even more serious than that, in that this piece of muck seems to be without substance: at least in the linked SMH piece, there is not one iota of contradiction between Rudd's remarks and the 'other version' of events – the two are entirely in sync! Rudd says that his family were given notice mere weeks after his father's funeral, but this in no way implies that he was evicted at that time. Moreover, the 'other story' explicitly claims that the Rudds were not evicted, but their own story contradicts this, since they claim that the Rudds were only at liberty to remain in the property for a fixed period. To distinguish between terminating someone's residence in a property and evicting them is hair-splitting, if not downright delusional.

I hope that Australian electors see through these stories to the desperate and underhanded force behind them, and react with redoubled determination to remove these people from office.

Update: Yes.

4 Mar 2007

The Aussies have attacked Same, using "tanks, helicopters and airplanes" killing four Timorese, but Reinado has escaped. No mention of how many were wounded. The Timorese government describes those killed as not being 'civilians', which seems rather extraordinary – is Timor in a state of civil war? in which Australia is intervening? They can surely expect some mighty quid pro quo from the side they support. – DOWN WITH IMPERIALISM

3 Mar 2007

SAS allegedly dispatched

100 members of the Australian elite SAS regiment have allegedly been deployed to East Timor, in an apparent indication that Australia is planning some bloodletting there soon.

2 Mar 2007

East Timor under Australian occupation

There are some extraordinary things in this article today. Rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinhado has called on Australian forces to leave, identifying them as an illegal invading force. This is unsurprising, of course. What is surprising, indeed shocking and appalling, is the action being taken by Australians, which is apparently to cut off water and food supplies to the settlement in which Reinhado is located. It is also alleged that Australian forces are ready to wipe out Reinhado and his contingent, in what would be a disgusting display of imperialist meddling.