Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pentagon Propaganda: who cares?

It seems that few care about the 1984 style manipulation of information by the Pentagon. The Huffington Post has been on the job though. It even gave them a chance to criticise the New York Times for going soft on their own exposé. In Pentagon Suspends Military Media Analysts Program Jason Linkins argues that

...the Times has done little to advance its blockbuster story since it was first reported.
Their other bloggers, Robert F Kennedy jr and Brendan Demelle use far more colourful rhetoric:
In a sophisticated propaganda effort that would make Joseph Goebbels and Edward Bernays green with envy, the Pentagon had turned some fifty former officers, posing as independent experts, into hand puppets mouthing pro-war talking points on Fox News, ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC. Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report
Media Matters preferred to contrast the Pentagon sideshow with the real Planet Hollywood news:
Since The New York Times reported on the hidden ties between media military analysts and the Pentagon on April 20, ABC, CBS, and NBC have still not mentioned the report. By contrast, during their April 28 evening news broadcasts, all three networks reported on the Vanity Fair photo of Miley Cyrus.
Apparently, Miley is the star of Disney Channel's Hannah Montana. You learn something important everyday.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Truth: The First Casualty of the Iraq War

The aftermath of the 2020 Summit seemed to distract the Australian mass media and the blogosphere from yet another case of U.S. government manipulation of political coverage. It was the Iraq war again, of course.

Anthony Lowenstein's blog and Sarah at The Voice of Today's Apathetic Youth did alert us to the New York Times report which exposed the use by the Pentagon of retired military officers to sell the war. According to the NYT as well as attending special briefings:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his propaganda team courted as many as 75 retired military officers who could best market the Pentagon line, particularly on television. As detailed in The Times on Sunday, many of these officers used their access to Pentagon bigwigs to promote their private businesses.
A PBS NewsHour report followed up these allegations but could not get any response from the major US networks who were the main beneficiaries of this deception. Perhaps they were just too embarrassed. Apparently they ignored the Times story just as they had been ignored their responsibilities to check their sources. PBS's take:
...the Pentagon targeted many of these analysts as part of an information apparatus to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance.

Pentagon officials organized hundreds of private meetings with senior military leaders and the military analysts. They included talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

According to the Times, analysts were also taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated.

It was also disclosed that most of the analysts have ties to military contractors.
The Australian media seem to have joined their American counterparts in not covering this story adequately.

I often wondered what credence we could give to the independence and objectivity of the regular war experts used by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and other Australian media during the Iraq invasion. Former SAS commanding officer Jim Wallace was frequently used by the 7.30 Report.

His interview with Four Corners just before the invasion could have been scripted by Rumsfeld. Wallace is the Managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby. I wonder if he agreed with George W. Bush's initial metaphor for the war on terror as a "crusade". I do not recall any occasions on which Wallace's militant christianity was mentioned when explaining his credentials as an expert commentator on the war.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

NT Intervention: We must do better!

If there is much truth in this story from The Age, then Jenny Macklin's mid-year review of the NT intervention is going to be extra difficult: NT intervention 'creating unrest' in big towns

Could these problems have anything to do with the total lack of planning and consultation when the emergency was declared last year? There needs to a comprehensive strategy to issues such as alcohol abuse, not just piece meal solutions that just shift things around.

Who could have imagined a quarantine card black market emerging or people moving to regional centres to get grog.

We must do better!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Penn Primary Blues

Michigan and Florida will hang over the Democrat 2008 primaries for a long time. An internal party dustup might have cost Hillary Clinton the nomination and almost certainly the presidency as a result. She has been playing catchup with a stacked deck (love those mixed metaphors). The job of the Super Delegates will be tough if it stays close. They are part of the process just like its many other imperfect aspects.

Take Texas for instance. Clinton won 50.89% of the primary vote in the primary and captured 65 delegates to the national convention. Obama's 47.37% gave him 61. When the caucus convention process finishes in June, Obama should win 38 national delegates to Clinton's 29. Seems fair except that to vote in the caucuses they had to vote in the primary first. Barack did well in caucus votes probably because of the nature of the these meetings. Please see Obama: King of the Caucuses for more on this.

The outcome of all this was that Clinton won the Texas popular vote clearly but could end up with less delegates than Obama, 94 to 99.
Doubtless Obama supporters will scream from the rooftops if Clinton wins at the National Democratic Convention in August without a majority of the popular vote or primary/caucus delegates. The strategy is only to object to the rules if they work against your side.

Who would ever have imagined that Indiana would be a real player in this enervating scenario?

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Hillary Hangs (on with) 10

A 10% margin is just what uncommitted Democrats, or committed ones for that matter, did not want. Not quite enough to change the likely Obama nomination, not small enough to finish off Clinton, no end to the primary season.

Obama supporters see the result as a plus for McCain. Bob Cesca at the Huffington Post :

I don't mind so much that it was a disappointing night for Senator Obama in terms of the popular vote spread, but I'm not thrilled with the fact that every day this race continues means a better November for Senator McCain.
Best post of the last day or so is tigtog's Pennsylvania Primary: what are the good reasons and what are the bad reasons to vote for either Dem candidate? She argues that:
I would vote for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama for two particular reasons which tip the scales for me:

1. The GOP smear machine: Clinton has spent the last 15 years being smeared by it, she has stood strong against the dirt, and there is no new dirt that Rove’s apprentices can throw at her. Kerry folded when he was Swiftboated, Clinton has shown that she never will. Obama is untested by comparison.

2. Reproductive Choice: Clinton is rock-solid. Read that linked transcript - Obama wants to find “common ground” with anti-abortion zealots.
It's the complete opposite of Michael Moore's negative and cynical endorsement of Barack Obama. Moore would vote for any Democrat including the donkey:
I'll tell you why. Because I can't stand one more friggin' minute of this administration and the permanent, irreversible damage it has done to our people and to this world.
He is frankly more interested in promoting a new political force:
Any endorsement of a Democrat must be done with this acknowledgement and a hope that one day we will have a party that'll represent the people first, and laws that allow that party an equal voice.
So it seems that all this politicking is good for democracy, if not necessarily for the Democrats.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grey Gurus for 2020 Portal

A recommendation from the Productivity (Education, Skills, Training, Science and Innovation) group at the 2020 summit, which has received some publicity is:

Business – school connections

Creating a coordinated partnership program between Australia’s top 100 companies and schools. This program could also include universities and vocational education and training institutions
The idea of businesses adopting schools is hardly new. It has been evolving in Australia for more than 30 years and is well and truly alive. Every new education minister seems to rediscover this idea as their own. Julie Bishop did the same. One longstanding program is Adopt a School. Certainly we should be trying to extend these initiatives.

I like the next suggestion:
Golden Guru: retired people acting as mentors in the workplace
Grey guru in my case. I recommend the Indigenous Community Volunteers as a starting point for those interested. This program is open to young and old.

The Artists in Residence idea from the Creativity mob isn't new either.
Bring art into our schools by introducing ‘practitioners in residence’ via a national mentoring plan funded by philanthropic funds and tax incentives
Artists in Schools, from the Northern Territory, is just one such program.

This isn't meant to be nitpicking. They are good ideas and programs that need more publicity and support. Perhaps a Golden Guru or two at the new 2020 website and the proposed government portal would help a lot.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

19th Century Federation Failing

The 2020 summit discovers New federalism. Gough Whitlam should be proud of them. The proposals to cut down on duplication and conflicting State laws have been brewing for 35 years.

Needing a police check recently for a national volunteer organisation, I applied to the WA authorities and received a "National Police Certificate'. It certified that the applicant did "not appear on the disclosable court history records of any Australian Police jurisdiction". It wasn't good enough. Apparently Australian Federal Police have their own check so you have to be cleared by them as well.

Waste? A waste of time? Potentially disastrous if one database has serious convictions which the other doesn't reveal? Draw your own conclusions!

There is supposed to be a national system of teacher registration. However, when you move interstate you must take out and pay for the local version. Classes in WA go without teachers while the system goes slow and discourages potential applicants. More wasteful duplication. Another disincentive for the teaching profession.

Good thing we only need only one passport!

Good ideas need political will. Let's hope that the summit adds some backbone to our decision makers. I wonder if anyone mentioned plastic bags?

(Personal disclosures: I was an unsuccessful applicant for the summit. It looked like a success to me: ✭✭✭✭✰.)

Update: I forgot to mention that you have to get a police check for teacher registration as well.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sitting Duck: Hillary sticks her neck out

Blue Collar Hillary is a product of SuperNews. Never explain a joke. Enjoy!

Looks like Obama has the multi-media community in the US on side. Well, US politics is Planet Hollywood.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Incentives for green bags

This can't be an original idea but here goes. Instead of a dis-incentive scheme for plastic bags we should try an incentive scheme. No charge for the plastic bag but a discount or refund for using your own bags.

Haven't seen anyone else use a green bag at the supermarkets in Broome for weeks if not months and we're on the lookout. How about a refund from Coles and Woolworths for the bags we don't use? Let the plastic bag users pay more for their groceries so that we don't have to pay for something we don't want.

Might help others to bring those bags from home.

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Democratic debate: God and Guns

There was an odd coincidence during the latest Democratic debate in Philadelphia. Barack Obama was defending himself regarding his remarks that small townspeople retreat to their passions for religion and guns during tough economic times. Hillary Clinton was trying to explain her slip about being under sniper fire in Bosnia, a conflict rooted in religious passions if ever there was one.

Barack claimed that he messed it up in San Francisco:

Well, I think there's no doubt that I can see how people were offended. It's not the first time that I've made, you know, a statement that was mangled up. It's not going to be the last.

...the point I was making was that when people feel like Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change, and it doesn't, then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion.
Hillary was also frank:
On a couple of occasions in the last weeks I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book. And, you know, I'm embarrassed by it. I have apologized for it. I've said it was a mistake. And it is, I hope, something that you can look over, because clearly I am proud that I went to Bosnia. It was a war zone.
The Fix, the Washington Post political blog, seemed to score it a draw:
The choice between the candidates crystallized tonight. It is not, fundamentally, a choice about issues or even ideology -- it is a choice about approach. Obama is an idealist, using nearly every question to appeal to the better angels in people; Obama sees the world as he wants it to be and believes he can make it. Clinton, on the other hand, is an unapologetic pragmatist; she has been through the wringer that is national politics before and knows how to play the game.
Most other blogs such as Huffington Post are so one-sided at the moment, it's hard to get any useful news or views from them.

A transcript of the debate is available online at The New York Times.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Broadband for Kimberley Indigenous Communities

As part of the continuing Community Cabinet visit to Broome, Fran Logan, WA Minister for Industry and Enterprise, announced the connection of Broome and the remote Indigenous communities of Ardyaloon, Bidyadanga, Djarindjin and Lombadina to high-speed broadband.

It was hot and windy at the Port where the server is housed. Wish my ADSL broadband was as good as this new service is supposed to be. Downloading video to Youtube and Teachertube has been frustrating, with frequent lost connections and poor quality when it gets there, especially on Youtube.

Once the dust settles I'll review the Community Cabinet.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Questions Without Notice

Community Cabinet in Broome has been a public relations blitz with 20 media events planned for the visit. The local journalists have warmed to the task with an increasing number of questions off the topics of the ministerial announcements.

Opt-out organ donation, health rehabilitation centres, alcohol bans and liquor licensing issues, and doctor shortages are just some of those raised in 'Questions Without Notice'.

Not included from my footage were questions about the Fremantle football club, the West Australian newspaper, and ALP membership rules and pre-selections. Thought they are getting enough coverage in the mass media.

There are still some more ministerial events to come, so watch this space.

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Second Magistrate for the Kimberley

Law and order is an expensive business. When announcing a second magistrate for the Kimberley, the WA premier Alan Carpenter explained that the need for a second magistrate in the region is not just a question of geography and population.

We have also put a lot more emphasis on law enforcement in the Kimberley. We have put into place our multi-function police stations. They obviously have an impact, and therefore an impact on the workload of everybody involved in the legal system, not the least of which is the magistrate.

More laws, more police, more judicial staff, more legal aid, and more prisons. And more indigenous people in those prisons. We can only hope that the better schools, medical care and employment opportunities promised will help to break this vicious cycle.

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WA Cabinet Meets in Broome

The Western Australian State cabinet meets in Broome as part of its regional community consultations. Local public sector workers rally outside about the cost of living. Diesel is $1.76 per litre and rising, and bananas fetch $3.98 per kilo on a good day.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

New pool for Fitzroy Crossing

The previous post explains the context for this video.

For the official media statement, please see: Premier announces swimming pool for Fitzroy Crossing

Was thinking of tagging it "good news indigenous story" but couldn't face the cynics.

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Carpenter's Community Cabinet Courts Kimberley

The WA Premier, Alan Carpenter, has announced a new swimming pool for Fitzroy Crossing and funding for a second magistrate for the Kimberley. This comes as part of the State Community Cabinet visit to Broome this week.

$5.4 million has been allocated for the pool's construction and operating costs. The Premier supported a 'no-school no-pool' policy for stuents, arguing that it is an opportunity, "to not only provide the physical health benefit, the social benefit, but to encourage them to go to school." He also indicated that the government aims to employ and train local indigenous people not only in the construction phase but also in ongoing employment.

At Broome Courthouse the Premier and Jim McGinty, the Attorney General, announced that $700,000 will be spent on a second Kimberley region magistrate and two support staff based in Kununurra. There are also plans to open a new Legal Aid office in Kununurra next year. The Premier said that it was not only a matter of geography but that the workload has gone up because of the government's increased law enforcement in the Kimberley.

When questioned about the backlog caused by lack of jurors, Mr McGinty explained that less than 20% of those summoned to jury duty in the region turned up. In response the government will spend $40,000 on a campaign to increase that number.

Further announcements about law and order issues are expected this week. There is no doubt that it is a major issue for the State election later this year. Many people will be looking for comprehensive policies from all parties to lower the crime rate and incarceration rate, particularly for indigenous people. Hopefully the attempts to get bi-partisanship on indigenous issues will disappear in the crime and punishment mood of most State campaigns.

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Clinton: Working Class hero?

Clinton plays working-class hero after Obama gaffe (ABC News 14 April 2008) is an online edited version of a Reuters story from the Australian Broacasting Corporation (not the American Broadcasting Company).

Clinton has toured a working-class neighborhood to stress her blue-collar background...

But it was Senator Obama's week-old comments saying economic problems led many "bitter and frustrated" voters in small towns to "cling" to their guns and religion that still ruled the political agenda.

The furore could threaten Senator Obama's chances in Pennsylvania, which votes on April 22 to help pick a Democratic candidate to run against Republican John McCain in November's presidential election.

It was the sort of slip that Barack didn't need. Firstly in his continuing struggle with Hillary and later if he is Presidential candidate. Hillary certainly cannot afford any more mistakes. As this story indicates, she will continue to push her perceived greater economic credibility over Obama and McCain as a key campaign focus. She must win the Democrat heartland of working class America to have any chance.

Clinton just won't give in. Unless she has a disaster in Pennsylvania it will be up to the Super delegates. More on their role in future posts.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Al Gore: It's not just changing lightbulbs

Al Gore's latest talk and slideshow is brought to us by TED, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design.

In it he argues for "a higher level of consciousness, a change in commitment, a new sense of urgency, a new appreciation for the privilege that we have of undertaking this challenge" of global warming.

We must not just "change the lightbulbs, but change the laws."

He asks the question: How dare we be optimistic? It's worth the 28 minutes to find out why Al Gore thinks the answer should be yes.

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Dear American Voter: having our say

Link TV has an election project called Dear American Voter It's a place to watch and read the views of non-US citizens about American politics. And post your own thoughts.

The upcoming U.S. election will affect people all over the world, but only Americans will get the chance to vote. Would you like to send American voters a message? Make a video that tells how you would vote, and why. Even better, don't just tell them, show them: How have U.S. policies already changed the place where you live? What about the lives of your friends and family? You may not have your say in the ballot box, but you can still be heard!

Videos include: Why People Hate The USA; The WAR party and Leave the Arab World In Peace (now showing below).

This site is an excellent complement to Voices Without Votes, which I have mentioned before. Have your say!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WMD: Words of Mass Deception

There was nothing particularly new about Frontline's Bush's War on SBS last night but it was frightening to see it all spread before us. The amorality of the key players in the Iraq invasion was astonishing. Dick Chaney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenant, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perl, and countless others should not be able to sleep at night. The idea of Condoleezza Rice as McCain's ruuning mate is gob smacking.

Most aren't even prepared to front programs like Frontline to defend themselves anymore. Those who did like Richard Armitage left me feeling disgusted. He and Colin Powell should have resigned in protest rather than do Bush and Chaney's bidding. Powell's performance at the UN was Machiavellian except that its content was so ametuerish. How did so many people fall for it?

I tuned in after seeing Kite Runner at Broome's Sun Pictures. Perhaps it was the outdoor atmosphere, in particular planes landing on top of us, but I quite liked the film. The anti-Russian and anti-Taliban sentiments did not dominate too much. I enjoyed the fact that it is an Afghan languages film with little English even in the US scenes.

If Iraq may need a 100 year occupation, as John McCain has suggested, then Afghanistan may wait millennia for sanity to prevail.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Vale John Button: a unique politician

John Button, a great Australian and a much loved Labor politician is dead. He was all the things that will be said of him in the coming days and more. Many will remember his genuine humility, sharp mind and dry wit. Can' t remember him losing it or becoming flustered though he's sure to have done both given the sacred cows he regularly prodded out of the way. He was a great believer in the power of ideas and the spoken and written word. He was dedicated to winning people over, not through spin but by gentle persuasion.

For more, especially the tribute from The 7.30 Report's Mark Bannerman please see: Former senator John Button dead (ABC News 8 April 2008)

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Arise Lord Nelson

Living costs more important than republic: Nelson

Is Brendan Nelson angling for royal honours like every Liberal's hero and mascot Sir Robert Menzies, perhaps as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports? All the Liberal Party needs is another monarchist as leader. Maybe it's a way of achieving some product differentiation from Malcolm Turnbull.

Nelson hasn't quite mastered the Rudd salute yet either.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Return to the Mountaintop

Forty years ago last week Martin Luther King Junior returned from the mountaintop to continue campaigning for civil rights in Memphis Tennessee. On 4 April he was gunned down by James Earl Ray.

I've been offline for much of the last fortnight but felt this should not pass without comment. On the anniversary Barack Obama invoked that mountaintop visit quoting King: "Either we go up together or we go down together". No doubt that is a thought uppermost in the mind of progressives in the US at the moment. Both speeches are worth the visit.

King made his historic “I have a dream” speech in 1963, 3 months before John Kennedy’s assassination. King's own murder took place not long after he had said, “Let me close by saying that we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair.”

In an age of cynicism, we need to spend some time reflecting on those sentiments. A renewed desire to reject political despair clearly accounts for a lot of Obama's popularity.

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