Monday, October 31, 2005

It's not how big it is,...

I'm not sure how many constants there are, but one I'm sure of is that nothing stays the same: change is constant, even if the rate or direction of it is not. As has been pointed out too often, the main change agents in coming years are likely to come from the growth of China and India. (See, e.g.,, But we are reminded to keep a perspective, and don't get too far out in front of our anticipation:

"While there is no doubt about the great potential of these two economies in the rest of this century, severe structural and institutional problems will hobble them for years to come. At this point, the hype about the Indian economy seems patently premature, and the risks on the horizon for the Chinese polity – and hence for economic stability – highly underestimated.

"Both China and India are still desperately poor countries. Of the total of 2.3 billion people in these two countries, nearly 1.5 billion earn less than US$2 a day, according to World Bank calculations. Of course, the lifting of hundreds of millions of people above poverty in China has been historic. Thanks to repeated assertions in the international financial press, conventional wisdom now suggests that globalization is responsible for this feat. Yet a substantial part of China's decline in poverty since 1980 already happened by mid-1980s (largely as a result of agricultural growth), before the big strides in foreign trade and investment in the 1990s.

"Assertions about Indian poverty reduction primarily through trade liberalization are even shakier. In the nineties, the decade of major trade liberalization, the rate of decline in poverty by some aggregative estimates has, if anything, slowed down. In any case, India is as yet a minor player in world trade, contributing less than one percent of world exports. (China's share is about 6 percent.)

"What about the hordes of Indian software engineers, call-center operators, and back-room programmers supposedly hollowing out white-collar jobs in rich countries? The total number of workers in all possible forms of IT-related jobs in India comes to less than a million workers – one-quarter of one percent of the Indian labor force. For all its Nobel Prizes and brilliant scholars and professionals, India is the largest single-country contributor to the pool of illiterate people in the world. Lifting them out of poverty and dead-end menial jobs will remain a Herculean task for decades to come.

"Even in China, now considered the manufacturing workshop of the world (though China's share in the worldwide manufacturing value-added is below 9 percent, less than half that of Japan or the United States), less than one-fifth of its labor force is employed in manufacturing, mining, and construction combined. In fact, China has lost tens of millions of manufacturing jobs since the mid-1990s. Nearly half of the country's labor force remains in agriculture (about 60 percent in India). As per acre productivity growth has stagnated, reabsorbing the hundreds of millions of peasants will remain a challenge in the foreseeable future for both countries. By most aggregative measures, capital is used much less efficiently in China than in India, even though in terms of physical infrastructure and progress in education and health, China is better poised for further economic growth. Commercial regulatory structures in both countries are still slow and heavy-handed. According to the World Bank, to start a business requires in India 71 days, in China 48 days (compared to 6 days in Singapore); enforcing debt contracts requires 425 days in India, 241 days in China (69 days in Singapore)."

This and more at:

Nor should anyone overlook the potential for these two countries to turn their engines of growth into vehicles of competition and conflict. E.g., and


Bears watching

My Main Man, Barry Ritholtz (top 'o me links to the right somewhere on this page), shares some bearish commentary here. Notice, though, that the commentary applies mainly to the US markets. The suggestion is that China-linked markets (and where have we NOT heard this story before?) will perform better than the US markets. Notice that "better than". This is a relativity qualifier. If the US sinks hard, the rest will go with the flow, just not as far, not as fast. On that train of thought, the Aussie market ought to be safer, if not altogether safe.

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This is getting Syrious

"Syria's Major-General Amin Suleiman said American attacks into Syria had killed at least two border guards, wounded several more and prompted an official complaint to the US embassy in Damascus. The charge follows leaks in Washington that the US has already engaged in military raids into Syria and is contemplating special forces operations in Syria to eliminate insurgent networks before they reach Iraq.

"No one in the Administration has any problem with acting tough on Syria. It's the one thing they all agree on," said Edward Walker, a former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel and now head of the Middle East Institute think tank. "I've heard there have been some cross-border activities, and it certainly makes sense as a warning to Syria that if they don't take care of the problem, the US will step up itself."

"But he warned that the increased blurring of battle lines between Iraq and Syria could turn a diplomatic stand-off between the two nations into a fully fledged military confrontation. "It could escalate. With Syrian border guards getting shot, it could turn into a major issue."

Related post:


Building wealth

When the Oil-for-food scandal first began to break, blame was laid at the feet of Saddam and the UN for all the corruption, with criticism especially vitupritive from the Bush administration, Fox News and like-minded cheerleaders. There was certainly blame enough to spread there, too, fair cop. But there would have been no corruption, notwithstanding the best efforts of Saddam or the worst efforts of the UN, without the willing and facilitating participation of business (much of it French and Russian), some of which is finally being "outed". ( You might also cast your mind back to the Bush administration's handling of FEMA and the NOLA experience (e.g., Bear that in mind whilst reading the following.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Corruption continues to cost Iraq billions of dollars each year, and Washington and Baghdad should be doing far more to stop it, the top U.S. auditor for Iraq's reconstruction said in a report released on Sunday. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said U.S. efforts to help Iraq build strong anti-corruption institutions were urgently needed and called for an American-Iraqi summit to battle a legacy of corruption. "Creating an effective anti-corruption structure within Iraq's government is essential to the long-term success of Iraq's fledgling democracy," Bowen wrote in his seventh quarterly report to Congress.

"Bowen's office, which has 20 auditors and 10 investigators in Iraq plus staffers in the United States, has made significant progress on cases charging fraud, bribery and kickbacks involving U.S. citizens -- government officials and contractors -- in Iraq, he said. The report said investigators had gathered "an enormous amount of evidence" in these investigations but gave no details on any possible indictments. Bowen said his office, created by Congress in November 2003 to oversee the Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Fund, recently transferred $2 million to the Justice Department to fund prosecution efforts, and four prosecutors were now working full-time on Iraq reconstruction cases. He said it was crucial for the United States to strengthen Iraq's new domestic anti-corruption agencies, noting that Iraq lost more than $2 billion each year in stolen gasoline and diesel fuel supplies. The report said Iraq's Bureau of Supreme Audit charged that up to $1.27 billion from some 90 contracts was lost from June 2004 to February 2005 because deals were given to "favored suppliers" and cash was given to third-party firms to work out contracts.

"Overall, the report said the United States had made steady progress in its $30 billion drive to rebuild Iraq, billed as the biggest U.S. foreign aid operation since the post-World War Two reconstruction of Europe."

"As the money runs out on the $30 billion American-financed reconstruction of Iraq, the officials in charge cannot say how many planned projects they will complete, and there is no clear source for hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to operate the projects that have been finished, according to a report to Congress released on Sunday. The report, by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, describes an array of projects that went awry, sometimes astonishingly, like electrical substations that were built at great cost but never connected to the country's electrical grid. With more than 93 percent of the American money now committed to specific projects, it could become increasingly difficult to solve those problems. Issues like those "should have been considered before," said Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the inspector general's office. "It's very critical right now, with so little of the U.S. money left to be committed, that they're going to have to make these determinations very quickly."

"Overall, the report says, there have been 4,208 death and injury claims filed through the insurance coverage that United States law requires for contractors of any nationality who work on American bases abroad. Although that number includes claims from bases around the world, the majority are believed to originate from Iraq and Afghanistan. Those death and injury tolls, which in the chaos of Iraq are probably underreported to begin with, especially among Iraqi contractors, have come about even though more than a quarter of the reconstruction money has actually "been spent on security costs related to the insurgency," the report says. The security costs have "proportionately reduced funds for other reconstruction projects," the report continues, leading to the cancellation of many initiatives.

"We welcome and value the independent oversight," said a spokeswoman for the State Department, which now largely oversees the rebuilding effort. "Their objective findings have helped improve transparency, accountability and efficiency as we work with the Iraqi people to establish an independent, stable and prosperous Iraq." The five electrical substations examined by the inspector general's office, which is led by Stuart Bowen Jr., were built in southern Iraq at a cost of $28.8 million. "The completed substations were found to be well planned, well designed and well constructed," the report says. Unfortunately, the system for distributing power from the completed substations was largely nonexistent. "No date for installing the distribution system was given," the report says."

"BASRA, Iraq — Laura Bush's gift to the people of Iraq is rising in a dirt lot across from a sheep market here, hidden behind high concrete walls and towers with armed guards. Behind the walls, hundreds of Iraqi workers in blue jumpsuits scurry around a construction site filled with rebar, dirt and trailers. The project, funded by the U.S. government and donations raised with the first lady's help, will someday be a hospital equipped to treat pediatric cancer patients. Nobody denies that Iraq needs new hospitals, but the experts questioned the priorities of Washington's $1-billion rebuilding plan, which has focused on construction instead of basic needs such as better training for doctors and public healthcare campaigns.

"We have more important priorities to solve our urgent health problems," said Abdulamir Khafaji, the chief pediatrician at Basra's largest hospital, citing the need for additional equipment in his emergency room. Meanwhile, the number of clinics to be built has been reduced because of security costs and other problems. It is uncertain whether Iraqis will be able to staff and maintain the health centers that are being constructed.

"The U.S. spent funds on equipment that is now sitting in warehouses and on medications that later disappeared, presumably stolen, according to interviews and federal reports. Iraqis and health experts said more attention should have been paid to refurbishing the country's dilapidated network of 1,700 clinics and nearly 200 hospitals. A 2004 survey of 214 clinics found that only 10% had a regular water supply, only half had electric generators, and less than a third had "functional and relatively clean" toilets. "I saw enormous incompetence which was more costly than even Iraqi corruption," said Richard Garfield, a Columbia University health expert who worked with U.S. and international officials in Iraq last year. The U.S. "was pouring money down the drain."

"To improve things, the U.S. issued a $43-million contract in April 2003 to Abt Associates Inc., a Massachusetts-based consulting firm, to modernize the Iraqi Health Ministry and provide needed supplies. But the company, which has worked on healthcare issues throughout the developing world, quickly ran into problems, according to an audit issued this year by the USAID inspector-general. Company officials were slow to mobilize. They bickered with Iraqis and officials with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led agency that administered Iraq until June 2004. One Abt manager "did not recognize" the CPA as a "legitimate authority," the audit said. Medical kits intended for 600 clinics contained damaged or useless equipment, the audit said. USAID subcontractors questioned the quality of a device that Abt bought to sterilize medical tools, noting that it was manufactured by an Indian firm that hadn't made such an appliance before. The medical kits, which were supposed to be purchased by October 2003, weren't delivered to the warehouse until June 2004, eight months late, the audit said. By February 2005, some clinics still had not received the kits. One subcontractor involved in delivering the equipment said he had "never witnessed such a debacle" in 20 years of working with USAID, the audit said. The audit also criticized USAID officials for constant turnover and failing to move quickly to address problems. In the end, USAID officials cut Abt's contract, paying it only $23 million. Abt officials refused to comment, referring all questions to USAID.

"By the time the Abt contract expired in November 2004, the U.S. already had a new approach to improve healthcare: building and refurbishing hundreds of clinics and hospitals. In March 2004, the Pentagon's reconstruction agency, now known as the Project and Contracting Office, announced the award of a $500-million contract to Parsons Corp., based in Pasadena, to build 150 clinics and refurbish 20 hospitals and other facilities. But violence flared in Iraq that month, causing security costs to soar. Parsons had to relocate its headquarters inside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad and limit trips around Iraq. The U.S. recently cut eight clinics from construction plans, citing security costs. The refurbishment project also became mired in landownership disputes, problems with Iraqi officials demanding kickbacks and poor performance by Parsons' Iraqi subcontractors, State Department officials said. The first of the new clinics is supposed to be complete by the end of this year. Parsons referred questions to the government. In contrast to the delays that have beset other construction projects, Basra Children's Hospital is on track to open its doors in September 2006 — 3 1/2 years after the invasion. That may be in part because of the intense interest shown by Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.",0,1723256.story?page=2&track=morenews&coll=la-story-footer

Somewhat related post:

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Two "peaceful" religions in a fight to death

Three teenage girls merrily on their way to school, books in hand. Six men resolutely on their way to do god's work, machetes in hand. Chop, chop, chop, the young girls will never become women.

"The three headless bodies of the girls, dressed in brown uniforms, were left at the site of the attack. Residents found their heads at separate locations two hours later.

"Muslim-Christian clashes in the Poso area [on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia] killed 2000 people between 1998 and 2001 when a peace deal was agreed. While the worst violence abated after the deal, there have been sporadic outbreaks since. Bombings in May in the Christian town of Tentena killed 22 people."

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Another clash of civilisations

Two stories in the Sun-Herald today make me want to chunder Down Under.

Story #1: There is a dance troupe from Australia touring America, called Thunder From Down Under. Male dancers, evidently. The show's spokesperson, Penny Levin, describes the show as "tasteful adult entertainment, tailored for various audiences". She says, "We're not a bunch of heathens" and "No one is being forced to buy a ticket or see the show".

Nevertheless, Christian religious leaders in North Dakota have forced a cancellation of their show and a breach of their contract to lease a local venue. The Mayor and two Councilors from Jamestown voted to unilaterally terminate the show's contract to appear at the Jamestown Civic Center after the Jamestown Ministerial Association petitioned the Promotions Committee to stop what they described as "a strip show". One of the nay-saying Councilors said, "I talked to advertisers [who] made it clear that this was going to cost us more than if we cancel the contract."

Story #2: "An American evangelist who preaches how to get rich and whose church has its own MasterCard will pack out Sydney SuperDome for three nights next month.". He is expected to "to rival Hillsong's annual evangelical mas meeting". "Mr Jakes, who is the chief executive and bishop of The Potter's House church in Dallas, was named by Time magazine this year as one of the 25 most influential evangelists in the US and has been called the next Billy Graham."

"Mr Jakes, who is being brought to Sydney by the Christian city Church at Oxford Falls, says Jesus must have been rich to support his disciples.... Christian City Church head Pastor Paul Pringle said Mr Jakes believed in giving the poor financial plans to lift themselves out of poverty, 'rather than a model of Christianity where you just be poor all your life and accept your lot'." Reserved seating is $50, entry is free. "He's made a point of encouraging poor people into his church and he's made a point of helping them, but they're pressured to tithe. His church has a lot of money and he lives in a million-dollar mansion."

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Bad Saddam. Bad Kofi. And shame on the rest of youse, too

Oil-for-food. That's gotta be bad for your cholesterol.

"More than 4,500 companies took part in the U.N. oil-for-food program and more than half of them paid illegal surcharges and kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, the committee investigating the program is to report. The country with the most companies involved in the program was Russia, followed by France, the committee says in a report to be released Thursday US time. The inquiry was led by Paul A. Volcker, former chairman of the U.S Federal Reserve Board.

"In my mind," he said, "this part of our investigation, looking at the manipulation of the program outside the U.N., strongly reinforces the case that the U.N. itself carries a large part of this responsibility and needs reform. "Even though we are looking at it from the outside, it kind of screams out at you, 'Why didn't somebody blow a whistle?"

"Those manipulating the program ranged from established trading companies to front companies set up for the purpose, and included some companies of international reputation as well as many well known in their home countries, the investigators said.

"Saddam received $1.8 billion in illicit income from surcharges and kickbacks on the sales of oil and humanitarian goods during 1996-2003, when the program ran, the committee concluded in its last report in September.

"Earlier Volcker committee reports summarising the year and a half of inquiries have examined the activities of the United Nations, finding the institution's management inept and corrupt, and providing evidence that the program's former director, Benon V. Sevan, received kickbacks himself. He has denied any wrongdoing. The $64 billion program was set up by the Security Council to help ease the effects of U.N. sanctions on the 27 million Iraqis by supplying food and medicines in exchange for letting the Saddam government export oil." (

"The final report from the Independent Inquiry Committee aims to show how companies all over the world, as well as individuals and governments, rorted the program on a grand scale, sabotaging diplomatic efforts to bring Saddam under control. The country with the most companies involved was Russia, followed by France, the report is expected to reveal. The surcharges on oil were finally stopped in 2001 by the United States and Britain in the UN Security Council." (,5478,17056405%255E663,00.html.)

"Among companies the report names in connection with a variety of illicit payment schemes are DaimlerChrysler, French carmaker Renault and some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, including Glaxo Wellcome, SmithKline Beecham and Eli Lilly.

"[The report] says the Iraqis received a total of nearly $643,000 in "service fees" when they made four purchases of medical equipment totalling $7.6 million from [Minnesota based] St. Jude's Austrian subsidiary. St. Jude is a global leader in making and selling heart valves and other cardiac devices.
St. Jude issued a statement saying only: "We are studying the report."

"[Minnesota based] Cargill's Malaysia subsidiary sold the Iraqis $1.2 million in palm oil -- vegetable oil used for cooking -- in two contracts in 2000 and 2001, it said. Lori Johnson, a spokeswoman for the privately held agribusiness giant, said company officials were "surprised by the report.

"Cargill's U.S. operations also sold $19.5 million in wheat to Iraq, and its French subsidiary sold $27.4 million in sugar and wheat to Saddam's government, the report said, but it listed no Iraqi records of improper fees in connection with those sales." (

"Australian wheat exporter AWB is defending its role in the Iraqi oil-for-food program after adverse findings from a United Nations (UN) inquiry. The report found no evidence to show AWB knew of the kickbacks, but suggests it should have realised. After the first Gulf War, AWB became the single largest provider of goods to Iraq under the United Nations oil-for-food program.

"In the final report, the now privatised AWB has been found to have paid more than $200 million for transport services that went straight back to the Iraqi regime instead. AWB managing director Andrew Lindberg rejects the inquiry committee's suggestions that at least some AWB employees should have picked up on the illicit activity. "We were an unwitting participant in an elaborate scheme of deception devised by the regime." Mr Lindberg says there were good reasons for not questioning the sharp increase in transport costs for its wheat. AWB says at no time did it know that the money it paid to a Jordanian trucking company was being diverted to the Iraqi Government.

"But the president of the Iraqi Islamic Council of Australia, Dr Mohamad Taha Al-Salami, has rejected the AWB's defence. "If it was a matter of a hundred dollars or $200 you know I would accept that, but when it is millions of dollars they have to justify it and it's naive, a naive defence in my opinion," he said.

"[Australian Prime Minister John Howard said,] "My dealings with the people in the AWB in the past have always been such that I've found them a very straight up and down group of people and I can't imagine for a moment that they would have knowingly been involved in anything improper." Trade Minister Mark Vaile has also defended AWB. "I wouldn't imagine for a moment that any of the management or the board of AWB would have knowingly been involved," he said. Mr Vaile says the AWB followed all UN guidelines while taking part in the program. Mr Vaile has blamed the United Nations, saying it oversaw the contract." (

Personal observation: I've had a wee bit of experience in shipping commodities in bulk, and that small portal on the industry taught me that, generally, most shippers, especially the large ones, know every cent involved in the transport of the product and how it is justified and do a major job heavying the carriers to get costs down. But I have no knowledge of AWB or how it has operated and cast no aspersions, implicitly or explicitly.

"Tariq Aziz, who at the time was Iraq's deputy prime minister, told investigators that beneficiaries received oil barrel allocations based on their level of opposition to the sanctions. The report is filled with records of transactions kept by Iraqi officials who demanded special surcharges. DaimlerChrysler is listed as paying $7,000 for a $70,000 contract, while Volvo Construction Equipment in Brussels paid $317,000 in extra fees for a $6.4 million contract.

"The report also cited Banque Nationale de Paris, or B.N.P., for playing a double role in handling the oil-for-food escrow account, but not revealing knowledge about certain financial relationships that enabled the payment of illegal surcharges. B.N.P., however, issued a company statement that the illicit surcharges were detected only through the "enormous investigative efforts" of the Volcker committee and the C.I.A.. The bank called it "unjustified" to suggest that "alleged deficiencies in its screening of payments contributed to illicit surcharges."

"One-third of the oil exported from Iraq through the program ended up in the hands of Russian companies, the report said. Russia had argued for lifting the sanctions. An Iraqi document accompanying the report contended that Russian companies including Lukoil, the country's largest private energy company, and TNK, now merged in a joint venture with BP, paid surcharges in cash to the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow. The embassy accepted $52 million between March 2002 and December 2002, the report contended. The money was packed in red canvas diplomatic bags sealed with wax and sent by diplomatic courier, the report said. Each bag could hold $1.5 million in $100 bills.

"The report said that three Siemens companies Siemens-France, Siemens-Turkey and Osram Middle East knowingly paid kickbacks of at least $1.6 million. There was no response from Siemens in the report.

"Weir Group, an engineering services company based in Scotland, made about $4.5 million in illicit payments to the Iraqi government, the report said. The report said that when Iraq's regular customers balked in late 2000 at buying oil with surcharges, four oil traders merged to dominate the market.Bayoil Supply & Trading Limited from the Bahamas, Glencore International from Switzerland, the Vitol Group from the Netherlands and the Taurus Group from New Zealand employed intermediaries in Italy, Liechtenstein, Malaysia and Switzerland to purchase 60 percent of Iraqi oil until the overthrow of Mr. Hussein in 2003.

"Afiliates of other American companies were listed in the report, including Coastal Corporation and NuCoastal Corporation. "This was a report that came out with a conclusion they set out to come up with," said Catherine Recker, a lawyer for Bayoil U.S.A. Incorporated, a Houston-based oil trading company named as a defendant in an indictment brought by the United States attorney in New York. The company has pleaded not guilty.

"Oscar S. Wyatt, a Texas oilman who was also named in the report and owns NuCoastal, was indicted Friday on charges that he paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to obtain rights to sell Iraqi oil. He pleaded not guilty Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan." (

"The individuals named as having profited from contracts with Iraq ranged from recognizable politicians like Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in Russia, and Charles Pasqua, a former French interior minister, to unfamiliar names like the Rev. Jean-Marie Benjamin, a Swiss priest who put his profits in his Vatican bank account.

"The abuses were geographically widespread. Kickbacks on humanitarian goods were traced to companies or individuals from 66 countries, while payments of surcharges were made by entities from 40 countries.

"At the center of this activity, according to the report, was Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister who was Mr. Hussein's chief diplomatic emissary. Mr. Aziz now awaits trial in Baghdad, but during the program's life, from 1996 to 2003, he wooed friends for Iraq with profitable oil allocations.

"Among the people he dealt with, identified as "political beneficiaries" in the Volcker report, was Roberto Formigoni, president of the Lombardy region in Italy and onetime under secretary to the Ministry of the Environment. He was a longtime supporter of Iraq and an opponent of penalties, and Mr. Aziz arranged for him to receive 27 million barrels, recording it under "special requests for Italy," the committee said. Mr. Formigoni denied the charge.

"Claude Kaspereit, a businessman and son of a French member of Parliament, flew French men and women opposed to penalties on Baghdad and expressed solidarity with Mr. Hussein, and afterwards received allocations, the committee said. The report said he secretly sold oil rights for 4 million barrels to the financier Marc Rich, who is now a fugitive. The report reproduced a letter of credit from the transaction stamped with the words "Marc Rich and Co. Investment AG whose name must not be mentioned."

"Mr. Aziz was also the contact point for Father Benjamin, an antiwar activist who founded the Benjamin Committee for Iraq in 1999. The report says the priest facilitated an oil deal for a Swiss trader friend by introducing him to Mr. Aziz. The priest received what he called a donation of $140,000, and the committee said his Vatican bank account showed a $90,000 deposit the same day. Father Benjamin told the committee he had no idea of the source of the funds.

"Mr. Aziz also worked with George Galloway, a British member of Parliament, who was accused of receiving more than 18 million barrels of oil in his name or the name of a Jordanian associate, Fawaz Abdullah Zureikat. A portion of the profits went to Mr. Galloway's wife, Amineh Abu-Zayyad, a Palestinian biologist. In his letter denying the allegations, Mr. Galloway noted that his wife had announced on the front page of the Sunday Times of London in May that she was divorcing him.

"According to the report, companies often disguised surcharge payments by funneling them through offshore bank accounts or labeling them as legitimate oil-related expenses. One example the report gave was the substitution of the words "loading fees" for "commission" on payments of the Taurus Group, a large oil trader.

"The report said that putting disclaimers in contracts that no surcharges had been paid did little to lessen trade. "In one instance an agent for BayOil admitted to fabricating an after-the-fact disclaimer to help disguise the payment of surcharges," the report said in discussing a Houston oil trader.

"The committee said that companies it contacted to explain premiums they paid for oil often passed them off as the result of ordinary market forces.
Kickbacks were paid on contracts and disguised as "inland transportation fees" or "after-sales service fees." Contractors would then inflate prices and recover from the United Nations escrow account the money they had secretly paid to Iraq.

"The committee said companies confronted with evidence of illicit payments generally offered one of four justifications. Some said they had been unaware of side payments or the payments had been made by employees in Iraq without authorization; some said they thought inland transportation and after-sales service fees were legitimate expenses; some challenged the committee's evidence as untrustworthy because it came from Iraq; some admitted paying kickbacks, saying they understood it to be part of doing business in Iraq."

"Since Saddam was toppled in April, Iraq has paid out $1.8bn in reparations to the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), the Geneva-based quasi tribunal that assesses claims and disburses awards. Of those payments, $37m have gone to Britain and $32.8m have gone to the United States. That's right: in the past 18 months, Iraq's occupiers have collected $69.8m in reparation payments from the desperate people they have been occupying. But it gets worse: the vast majority of those payments, 78%, have gone to multinational corporations, according to statistics on the UNCC website.Away from media scrutiny, this has been going on for years. Of course there are many legitimate claims for losses that have come before the UNCC: payments have gone to Kuwaitis who have lost loved ones, limbs, and property to Saddam's forces. But much larger awards have gone to corporations: of the total amount the UNCC has awarded in Gulf war reparations, $21.5bn has gone to the oil industry alone. Jean-Claude Aimé, the UN diplomat who headed the UNCC until December 2000, publicly questioned the practice. "This is the first time as far as I know that the UN is engaged in retrieving lost corporate assets and profits," he told the Wall Street Journal in 1997, and then mused: "I often wonder at the correctness of that."But the UNCC's corporate handouts only accelerated. Here is a small sample of who has been getting "reparation" awards from Iraq: Halliburton ($18m), Bechtel ($7m), Mobil ($2.3m), Shell ($1.6m), Nestlé ($2.6m), Pepsi ($3.8m), Philip Morris ($1.3m), Sheraton ($11m), Kentucky Fried Chicken ($321,000) and Toys R Us ($189,449). In the vast majority of cases, these corporations did not claim that Saddam's forces damaged their property in Kuwait - only that they "lost profits" or, in the case of American Express, experienced a "decline in business" because of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait. One of the biggest winners has been Texaco, which was awarded $505m in 1999. According to a UNCC spokesperson, only 12% of that reparation award has been paid, which means hundreds of millions more will have to come out of the coffers of post-Saddam Iraq." (

" U.N. documents show that Halliburton's affiliates have had controversial dealings with the Iraqi regime during Cheney's tenure at the company and played a part in helping Saddam Hussein illegally pocket billions of dollars under the U.N.'s oil-for-food program. The Clinton administration blocked one deal Halliburton was trying to push through sale because it was "not authorized under the oil-for-food deal," according to U.N. documents. That deal, between Halliburton subsidiary Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co. and Iraq, included agreements by the firm to sell nearly $1 million in spare parts, compressors and firefighting equipment to refurbish an offshore oil terminal, Khor al Amaya. Still, Halliburton used one of foreign subsidiaries to sell Iraq the equipment it needed so the country could pump more oil, according to a report in the Washington Post in June 2001.The Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., sold water and sewage treatment pumps, spare parts for oil facilities and pipeline equipment to Baghdad through French affiliates from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000, U.N. records show. Ingersoll Dresser Pump also signed contracts -- later blocked by the United States -- according to the Post, to help repair an Iraqi oil terminal that U.S.-led military forces destroyed in the Gulf War years earlier."

An historical up-close-and-personal look at the program,"ground zero":

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Intelligent design, maybe; honest argument, nope

The King's School is, some would say, many might not care to argue, Australia's most venerable high school. It is a Christian Anglican institution. No one would accuse its students of carrying away the honours in the HSC scoreboard, but you ought to see its cricket pitch. And its magnificent grounds. And its snazzy uniforms. It is the oldest of the Australian old boy schools. And I have known some fine young men who have gone there. Nothing against them.

And when its Headmaster speaks, it gets front page reportage. This from today's front page SMH (

"The headmaster of The King's School has thrown his support behind the discussion of the contentious theory of intelligent design in the nation's secondary schools. Tim Hawkes has warned against gagging debate in schools on the theory, which argues that gaps in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution point to an "intelligent designer" of life.

"There are undeniable weaknesses within Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and these must be acknowledged honestly," he writes. "Failure to do so would mean an abrogation of our responsibility as educators." Dr Hawkes says that without necessarily pushing any particular religion, it is "quite legitimate to challenge students to think through the implications of there being a 'grand architect' of the universe". [Or the implications of begging the question.]

"Of all places, schools should be allowed to explore ideas and theories," Dr Hawkes said yesterday. "If we're all of a sudden going to get precious and say, 'Well, hang on, exploring this theory, this suggestion, is not to be allowed', then in fact I think we are being dishonest as educators."

That is a thoroughly dishonest wedge argument. This is what he's on about:

"Intelligent design is as unscientific as the flat Earth theory and should not be taught in school science classes, a coalition representing 70,000 scientists and science teachers has warned. "To do so would make a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views - be they astrology, spoon bending, flat Earth cosmology or alien abductions."
(; and see

Do you see anywhere in that position statement by scientists of any intent to gag discussion of intelligent design in schools? Do you see in there any notion in the scientific view that explanation or exploration of the intelligent design belief is not to be allowed? Absolutely not. The ID adherents are making some kind of Free Speech appeal, but their freedom to speak is not contested; it is certainly not a logical argument.

The scientists are saying that the intelligence design argument is simply not science and should not be "taught" in science classes. In philosophy or religion, maybe, but not science classes.

It is fraudulently dishonest to suggest, as Dr Hawkins and other intelligent design faith believers do, that anyone is trying to gag or disallow their little game, and shame on them for saying so. It is filthy deceit and deceptive "argument". Scientists are not objecting to the ID belief systems. They simply say that such belief system subject matter is just not the stuff of science classes. It is as inappropriate as having scientists sit in on their religion courses and point out the chemical processes that prevent water from ever turning into wine.

Why don't they leave the science classes alone and try for, say, history classes? After all, how did history begin? Do you think they'd go away if they were allowed in history classes at the price of keeping them out of science classes? No, of course not. Education is not their purpose. Proselytising is.

Spreading the faith. Now if they could only first agree, in their religion classes, which faith is the one true religion, then maybe they might not cause much harm. But that's got a snowball's chance in Guam. Just the same, if that were an acceptable precondition, the scientists would never have to worry about having them in class.

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The tunnel or the shaft?

The Sydney Cross City Tunnel drama is turning to farce. After the State Government said it would not then said it would reveal all the contracting details (, it turns out it didn't. In fact there appears to have been a little "side agreement" that allowed the contractors to bump up the toll, and this was not revealed.

The Minister in charge of Roads at the time the deal was done, and who signed off on it, is still a Minister, but in a different portfolio, so of course it was not his bad when the side deal wasn't revealed. So what does any responsible Government do? I wouldn't have a clue. Haven't seen one of those in yonks, so I don't have anything to go on.

But what this Government has done is shoot the Senior Civil Servant in charge of the Roads and Traffic Authority. Well not actually. Like Ms Miers, he tendered his resignation , and they accepted it. ( Well, not actually that, either. I'm hearing that he still has his same civil service classification with his $400,000+/year salary and is waiting out the heat in another chair.

And to add futher salt to the taxpayers' wound, it turns out the whole process of getting these PPPs is flawed because the Government has failed to implement even the simplest form of cost analysis that it was meant to have.

This from yesterday's SMH (

"In deciding whether to enter a public-private partnership to build and operate projects such as the Cross City Tunnel, the Government produces a document called a public sector comparator, which is the hypothetical cost of the Government delivering the project. While the Government promised in 2001 it would publish the comparator and the assumptions used to calculate it, the report says this has not happened and is a matter of "deep concern".

"NSW taxpayers may have lost billions of dollars in recent years because the Government uses a flawed method to calculate the cost of the public sector delivering new infrastructure such as the Cross City Tunnel, a report says.
The report, written for Unions NSW by a Sydney University accounting professor, Bob Walker, and a former NSW Treasury economist, Betty Con Walker, argues that in its effort to avoid public borrowings, the Government overstates the real cost of the public sector delivering projects such as the tunnel.

"The evidence "suggests that bureaucrats trying to avoid government borrowings means that the public pays a higher price for a whole range of public infrastructure and after about 15 years of experience the public service is still on a flat learning curve", the authors found. Professor Walker said: "Setting up deals that are no cost to Government means they are high cost to the public."

"The report, to be submitted to a parliamentary accounts committee investigating public-private partnerships says the guidelines used by Government to work out the cost of public-funded projects "reflect a systematic bias against conventional public sector delivery". Professor Walker said the State Government had access to cheaper money than the private sector and did not need to pay state taxes - but these advantages were not included when bureaucrats calculated the cost of the state building projects such as the tunnel."

The State Government is running so hard to to deflect the headlines from the scandals this is revealing that it is even backing down on its "get tougher" on terror policy deal it did with Howard, (


Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Parliament" derives from the French verb "to talk" -- Who needs it?

"... as the only democratic nation in the world without a bill of rights, Australia looks set to pass British-style terrorism laws but without the same protections. The best we can do is trust our politicians and Government do not abuse their new powers - an unacceptable safeguard in any similar nation.
Another major difference is that Britain is engaging in the parliamentary debate Australia ought to have. The British terrorism bill was introduced into Parliament in mid-October and is being examined by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, whose members this week grilled the minister in charge of the bill, the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke. He was asked whether the bill was needed, given the extensive laws already in place; whether the definition of terrorism was so wide that it might criminalise legitimate acts of resistance; and whether banning speech that might encourage terrorism would shut down public debate.
The same questions need to be asked in Australia. Australia's new law, like its British counterpart, promises to give far more extensive powers to government to intrude into our lives and restrict freedom of speech. Central to public debate about such issues is the need for effective scrutiny by a parliamentary committee. Until the Government took control of the Senate on July 1, this was the accepted way of ensuring contentious laws were properly checked and debated.
This was the lesson learnt in 2002 and 2003 when major terrorism laws last came before the Federal Parliament. The bills were analysed and debated for months, which led to important changes - many with bipartisan support. It also gave us laws more likely to survive High Court challenge. Indeed, one year after September 11, 2001, Howard said that "through the great parliamentary processes that this country has, I believe that we have got the balance right".
If the aim is to get new powers in place by Christmas at the cost of having a proper committee inquiry and parliamentary debate, Australia risks passing the wrong law. In our haste, we may introduce and pass a new law before Britain has finished considering its law, enacting the original British proposals without picking up its improvements that better balance national security and individual liberty. We may end up with a second-rate law that, after the London bombings, not even Britain would pass."

George Williams is the Anthony Mason Professor and director of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the University of NSW.
I have come to the view, given there are inadequate institutional checks and balances in the Australian constitutional framework (, that there ought to be some unqualified protocol which requires, whenever any government has control of the Senate, that a minor party can require, short of a filibuster, free, fair and open debate of any matter before a final vote is taken. And likewise, regarless of Senate control, until there is a bill of rights, whenever there is a bill affecting fundamental human rights. I know, I know; this is a vague concept, but you get what I'm on about. Frankly, we'd be better of without such a protocol by having the proper checks and balances and bill of rights in the first place. In either case, I'd give chances of something like that happening as great as a snowball's chance on Guam.

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Only 0.1 degrees of separation

"Although any two unrelated people are the same at about 99.9 percent of their DNA sequence, the remaining 0.1 percent is important because it contains the genetic variants that influence how people differ in their risk of disease or their response to drugs."

"But it is the 0.1 per cent variation that will be important for determining why some individuals are more susceptible to a particular disease or respond differently to a drug, toxin or other environmental factor.

"The tiny variations the scientists" look for are "sites in the genetic code where the DNA sequence of many individuals varied by a single letter. There are an estimated 10 million of these sites, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPS (pronounced snips) in the human population. However, they tend to be inherited in groups, called haplotypes, hence the term HapMap.

"It is a feat akin to sticking a million Post-It notes into the tedious book of 3 billion letters that is the human genetic code, so that the important bits are easy to find." ("Post-It note may hold cancer clue", by Deborah Smith, SMH Oct 27, 2005.)

It appears there is more on this in the new issue of Nature magazine.


And the sins of the grandfathers shall be visited upon, but not live with, the generations

"Most older Australians would rather live in a tent than move in with their grown-up children. The vast majority of people surveyed for a large housing research project dismissed out of hand the idea of sharing or living in a granny flat. "[The suggestions] were met with quite animated articulations of disdain and dismissal," the report said.

"To be released today at the National Housing Conference in Perth, the study of almost 7000 people aged 50 and over shows most regard the idea of the extended family under one roof with horror. "Never in a million years would I consider moving in with my children. One of us would be jailed for murder," was a typical response.

"The study found only 4.2 per cent of older Australians had lived with extended family or intended to do so. Diana Olsberg, who co-wrote the study with Mark Winters, and is director of the UNSW Research Centre on Ageing and Retirement, said: "Many referred to very unpleasant experiences they had as children living in an inter-generational household with grandparents."

The extended family experience was regarded as an endurance test imposed on people by the Depression and housing shortages, the report said. It was viewed as destructive and negative, and to be avoided. "We had my grandfather living with us," recalled one respondent. "An old pig he was too....

"The research, funded by the federal and state governments, reveals significant shifts in the values and priorities of older people - and a surprising openness about the downside of family life. It shows that many older people, far from being a homogenous group, bound by traditions, valued independence and flexibility; and the home-owners among them saw the home as a means to achieve "lifestyle choices".

"The topic of moving in with the children "opened up a can of worms", Dr Olsberg said. Participants surprised themselves at the negative sentiments they expressed about families and children. There were repeated references to underlying tensions and hostilities that could erupt at any time. Rather than fearing they might be a burden on their children if they moved in, older people saw the potential for trouble. "I could live with my youngest daughter. We are good friends," a 63-year-old woman said. "But I would have to dispose of her husband...."


Targeting inflation

Even a casual reader will realize I ain't no economist. But I do share one trait with them: I'm not afraid to show my ignorance, either, gussying my opinions all up in a self-rationing construct that suggests science but screems art, especially the kind that is in the eye of the beholder.

And so, on the greatest authority of my own delusional observations, I'll put on my Great Carsony turban and offer my thoughts on inflation targets.

In Australia, the Reserve Bank has specified an acceptable inflation zone of 2 to 3%. If "it" stays in that range, don't expect them to be messing with interest rates.

In the US, there is much discussion and conjecture whether Bernanke will adopt a targeted inflation number or refuse to do so, as many suggest was Greenspan's preferred option. I'll try to paraphrase something I think I heard CNBC’s Senior Economics Reporter, Steve Liesman, say the other night in describing his view of Greenspan. He said Greenspan was of the view that economics is not physics (shock, horror: not SCIENCE?!), and that there was no speed-of-light benchmark that could be used at all times in all circumstances to set an "appropriate" inflation rate. As Peter Hartcher puts it, "His [Greenspan's] core objection, however, is that a formal target would rob him of the freedom to act as he sees fit.

Hartcher adds, "Many Fed watchers expect Bernanke will introduce a formal inflation target for the Fed of 2 per cent, plus or minus a percentage point.
But this is a distinction without a difference. Academics concluded years ago that the Greenspan Fed has been aiming for inflation of 1.8 per cent." (

My contribution to this discussion is that, whether there is a fixation to a "target" or whether they reserve a royal perogative over interventionist discretion, in the real world the central bank actors will always fudge, prevaricate and prognosticate. This opinion is based on two observations.

First, notwithstanding what they say, they always reserve some "viggle" room about just what it is that they mean by the "inflation" they're targeting. Through various metrics they come up with different scores for inflation, including deflators, PPI, CPI, core and headline. By choosing one goalpost over another, they change the target. In the current climate, there is considerable doubt as to whether the recently preferred core rate "suitably" accounts for the "real" rate, or whether aspects of the headline rate are "spilling over" into the core. What that means is that, target or no target, they are feeling their way by the seat of their learned pants.

The second thing that matters is that inflation, real inflation, is not a static number. We measure it as a snapshot. We make a record of some kind at some point in time and call that inflation. In that way it looks like a fat, juicy bullseye target sitting on a archery range. That kind of static analysis gives some economists the chance to say, even though the accepted inflation figure is right up against the limits of the inflation target, "no worries, mate".

"With no hard evidence of a widespread petrol price spillover, economists expect interest rates will remain on hold for the rest of the year. But after that, they remain split on when, not if, the bank will lift rates. An interest rate strategist with Macquarie Bank, Rory Robertson said any rate rise remained a long way off, "maybe in 2006, maybe not", adding that the importance of the headline inflation rate had become "widely overstated"."

But inflation is not an archery range target, it is a duck on the wing. It has speed and direction and a proclivity to change one or the other that has to be taken into account. Any central banker has to have a good eye, steady trigger finger and a gut feeling for "Kentucky windage" to hit that kind of target.

And so, even though Australia has a targeted inflation zone and inflation which has not so far been measured outside the acceptable limits, today's inflation is playing duck if not chicken with the central bankers. My inclination is to go with the guys who feel inflation is heading off target, outside the zone.
"[S]ome expect the bank could reintroduce its tightening bias as soon as next month when it makes its next statement on monetary policy. The chief economist at Commonwealth Bank, Michael Blythe, said evidence was already mounting of a second wave of inflationary effects from petrol prices, pointing to increased airline surcharges, milk prices, employer wage expectations and a recent pay rise awarded to NSW contract drivers. "Higher fuel prices are filtering through … but the proverbial smoking gun is yet to be found," he said." (Id.)

And I'll be interested to see how this turns out:

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It's agreed, then

It seems that the SMH's political cartoonist, Alan Moir, also thinks John Howard is a terrorist.
D'ya reckon he was reading my blog? Naw, me neither.



This story is a bit stale, admittedly, but given the rush to the gates with the Howard terror laws, it is worth telling for those who may have missed it. It's a text book civics lesson in how the SS works, and how nothing and no one is innocent when every one is alert and alarmed. And how privacy concerns go out the window when you take your pictures to be processed. And how, when you hire lots of folks and agitate all the good citizens to be looking over every other citizen's shoulder, you get simbian-challenged bizzybodies straight through the community to the sheriff to the President's own Secret Service with the good judgment of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution judging your every move.

"Selina Jarvis is the chair of the social studies department at Currituck County High School in North Carolina.... Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class "to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights," she says. One student "had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb's-down sign with his own hand next to the President's picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster."

"According to Jarvis, the student, who remains anonymous, was just doing his assignment, illustrating the right to dissent. But over at the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart, where the student took his film to be developed, this right is evidently suspect.

"An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service. On Tuesday, September 20, the Secret Service came to Currituck High.

"They asked me, didn't I think that it was suspicious," [Jarvis] recalls. "I said no, it was a Bill of Rights project!"At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident "would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted," she says."

Read about it here and notice the student (or someone purporting to be him?) has added further comments to the post under the titles "The Secret Serive=My New Best Friends", parts 1 and 2, posted Oct 7th, just after 9pm.

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This is intolerable

" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Israel should be "wiped off the map", the official IRNA news agency reported, dampening hopes Iran could temper its hostility towards the Jewish state.
Support for the Palestinian cause is a central pillar of the Islamic Republic which officially refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist.

"Ahmadinejad, a former member of the hardline Revolutionary Guards and traditional religious conservative, said there could be no let-up. "The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland," he said."


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

There goes my keyboard

"A Turkish court has fined 20 people for using the letters Q and W on placards at a Kurdish new year celebration, under a law that bans use of characters not in the Turkish alphabet, rights campaigners said.... The 1928 Law on the Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters changed the Turkish alphabet from the Arabic script to a modified Latin script and required all signs, advertising, newspapers and official documents to only use Turkish letters."

Spotted at


Was it something we said, or the way we said it?

"MANY of the phone companies that own the wires connecting people to the internet are gearing up to block free phone calls that use voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology....." Just when you think you've got them beat.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

One person can make a difference

Like the unnamed Chinaman who stood with his groceries at his sides blocking the tanks to Tiananmen Square, Rosa Parks, alone and determined, stood up (sat down, actually) for what was right, dignified and just. Her's was another of those shots heard round the world, for which we have all benefited.

Thanks, Mrs. Parks.

"On December First, 1955, Mrs. Parks had finished her work as a seamstress in a Montgomery, Alabama, store and boarded a city bus to go home. She took a seat in the 11th row, behind the seats reserved exclusively for white passengers, as required by the city's segregation law at that time. Blacks were entitled to seats from the 11th row to the rear of a bus. However, the city law said if the first 10 rows were filled, a white passenger could request a seat in the back of a bus. Rosa Parks remembered the bus was crowded with people standing in the aisle when several whites boarded. A white man told the driver he wanted a seat. The driver, who had the authority under city law, went to the rear of the bus and ordered Mrs. Parks and three other black passengers to get up. The others reluctantly stood. Rosa Parks, tired after a day of work, refused.
"When they stood up and I stayed where I was, he asked me if I was going to stand and I told him that 'no, I wasn't,' and he told me if I did not stand up he was going to have me arrested. And, I told him to go on and have me arrested," Mrs. Parks said.
The bus driver called the police and when they arrived he told them he needed the seats for his white passengers.
"He pointed at me and said, 'that one won't stand up.' The two policemen came near me and only one spoke to me. He asked me if the driver had asked me to stand up? I said, 'yes.' He asked me why I didn't stand up," Mrs. Parks said. "I told him I didn't think I should have to stand up. So I asked him: 'Why do you push us around?' And he told me, 'I don't know, but the law is the law and you are under arrest.'"
Mrs. Parks said her decision to remain seated was based on her desire to be treated with decency and dignity:
"This was not the way I wanted to be treated after I had paid the same fare this man had paid -- he hadn't paid any more than I did but I had worked all day and I can recall feeling quite annoyed and inconvenienced. And I was very determined to, in this way, show that I felt that I wanted to be treated decently on this bus or where ever I wasMrs. Parks said.
Rosa Parks, who worked for the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, continued to assert that she had not intended to provoke her arrest.
"I had only intended to go home and take care of whatever matters I had because I had an NAACP youth conference that weekend and I also was getting out the notices for the senior branch of the NAACP (convention). I didn't move because I didn't feel like it was helping us or making things lighter [easier] for us -- me as an individual and us as a people to continue to be pushed around because of our race and colorMrs. Parks said.
Her arrest for violating the city segregation law was the catalyst for a mass boycott by blacks of the city's buses, whose ridership had been 70 percent black.
That boycott brought the young minister Martin Luther King, Junior, to national prominence as the head of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the group that organized and led the protest. The Montgomery Improvement Association also filed a federal suit challenging the constitutionality of the segregation law on February first, 1956. The boycott continued 382 days, until December 20, 1956, when the United States Supreme Court ordered city officials to desegregate their buses.
Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February Fourth, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her father was a carpenter and her mother, a teacher. They enrolled Rosa in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private school that encouraged each girl to "take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were." In those days, "few" was the key word for blacks, especially in the southern states of America. Rosa told a newspaper that blacks didn't have any civil rights. She said, "It was just a matter of survival...of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl and hearing the Ku Klux Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down."
When she was 19, she married Raymond Parks, a barber who was active in black civil rights and voting registration. She attended a small black university in Montgomery for a few years and then worked for the Montgomery Voters League, the NAACP Youth Council and other civic and religious organizations. Having gained a reputation for getting things done, she was elected secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943. At that time the civil rights organization had to spend much of its energy working on cases of white violence against blacks. Aside from beatings and murder, blacks had to contend with peonage, a system where blacks who owed money or were in jail would be forced to perform labor without receiving pay. She said, "We didn't seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to be continued as second class citizens."
During the next 20 years Mrs. Parks helped support her family by taking sewing at home. She also worked as a house cleaner and for a brief period as an insurance agent.
The Parks family moved to Detroit, Michigan, soon after the conclusion of the bus boycott because of continuing threats of violence by the racist organization the Ku Klux Klan as well as by angry individuals who held Mrs. Parks responsible for the desegregation of the city buses.
Raymond Parks resumed working as a barber. Rosa, after recovering from stomach ulcer problems, was hired by Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Junior, as a secretary and administrative assistant.
In the following years the shy lady conquered her fear of public speaking and became a spokeswoman for civil rights issues.
In later years, Rosa Parks received honorary university degrees and various awards from civil rights organizations. The city of Detroit, Michigan, named a street for her. In 1989, one of the most unusual tributes came from the Neville Brothers singing group who honored her by writing a song entitled "Sister Rosa." Its reggae chorus is: "Thank you Miss Rosa / You are the spark / You started our freedom movement."
Rosa Parks said she wanted to be remembered "as a person who wanted to be free and wanted others to be free." In a 1984 radio interview she said that sometimes she couldn't escape the fame and responsibility that was thrust upon her:
"I've managed -- someway -- but there are times when I didn't want to take as much responsibility as they put upon me, but I accept whatever comes if it's going to be of any help to other peopleMrs. Parks said.

Rosa Parks, who ignited the modern civil rights movement in the United States when she refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man on December First, 1955.

Rosa Parks -- dead at the age of 92.



I noticed this on my StatCounter (which you can see for yourself by clicking on the "see my stats" link below; this was under the "Visitor paths" selection under "Statistics" on the left side. Note, tho, that these statistics only include the last 100 page loads, so as time goes by they rotate out of the report; thus, if you are looking at this at a later time, it may well be gone from view). (Department Of Prime Minister And Cabinet)
Australia, 0 returning visits
Date 25th October 2005
Time 12:34:19
WebPage Guambat Stew: Make equal time for Intelligent Design
[Referring page:]

Looks like someone from the Prime Minister's office has an eye on the blogs. And like they wonder if anyone has noticed if Brendan Nelson is intelligent.


Terror lawyers caught with their briefs down

"John Howard says proposed anti-terrorist laws don't breach the constitution, but lawyers and Queensland Premier Peter Beattie say they may be. Mr Beattie has reportedly received advice from his solicitor-general saying preventative detention and control orders raise constitutional problems. But Mr Howard said he had received advice the laws were constitutional. He said it was not unusual to have conflicting advice from lawyers.
"But constitutional lawyer John Williams said judges and magistrates would be within their rights to argue that the legislation undermined the independence of the judiciary. Dr Williams, of the Australian National University, believed a High Court challenge to the laws was almost inevitable. "Under the legislation, by concealing charges, by forcibly removing people, to holding them in camera, in so much as you're asking the judiciary to be involved either as individuals or as a court, you're asking them to undertake activities which are just wholly incompatible with what we understand the judicial process is."

"Professor George Williams of the University of NSW agreed. Judicial independence could be compromised if judges were seen to be doing the bidding of government by helping police to enforce aspects of the laws, like preventative detention, he said. "Judges may well be reluctant to be involved in a process that they think may undermine their independence or undermine people's perceptions of them doing their job properly as judges and not on behalf of government," Prof Williams told ABC radio today."
"Gough Whitlam, the former prime minister, has attacked the proposed anti-terrorism laws which would allow Australians to be "interned", and then face criminal charges if they spoke to their families or employers about it. Calling for more debate on the proposals, Mr Whitlam yesterday accused the Howard Government of using fear as an election winner. He lamented the fact that his own Labor Party had not joined in opposing the proposed laws."
"Two former chief justices of the High Court have joined two former prime ministers, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, and a former chief justice of the Family Court, Elizabeth Evatt, in expressing concerns about the new counter-terrorism laws and calling for greater public debate on their far-reaching implications.
"Laws impairing rights and freedoms cannot be justified unless they are shown to be needed to target an identifiable, present danger to the community," the former chief justice Sir Gerard Brennan said in a statement to the Herald. "A legislature should not attempt to bring in such laws until the community has had an opportunity to examine their terms and decide on their purpose and effect."
"The former chief justice Sir Anthony Mason said recently that it was essential that adequate time be allowed for public and parliamentary debate of new counter-terrorism laws. "It would be disappointing, to say the least of it, if full and frank debate were not to take place for fear that those who stand up for civil rights will be labelled as 'soft' on security," he said in a speech this month.
"Elizabeth Evatt said she was stunned that any Australian government would contemplate the proposals for preventive detention and control orders. "These laws are striking at the most fundamental freedoms in our democracy in a most draconian way."

"Legal and civil rights bodies, including the NSW Bar Association and the Law Council, have criticised the laws since a draft of the bill was leaked by the ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope.

A professor of international law and human rights at the Australian National University, Hilary Charlesworth, said that the provisions for preventive detention and control orders did not include the judicial safeguards the Government had promised. "You've got this walk-on role for the judiciary which is far short of judicial review," Professor Charlesworth said. "In the case of control orders, which go for a year and can be renewed indefinitely, the actual order is issued without hearing from the person who's going to be subject to the orders, so you don't hear from the other side".

"The editor-in-chief of The Age, Andrew Jaspan, told the Law Institute in Melbourne yesterday that the publication of even minor details about a terrorist suspect could lead to lengthy jail terms. Governments were in danger of imperiling the very freedoms they espoused for other countries, he said."

Mussolini, the Cultural Revolution Gang of Four, Hitler, Stalin, even Shakespear ("first thing we do is kill all the lawyers"), all have not been very tolerant of the learned opposition and other so-called "intelligentsia". Howard, for some damned reason, is positioning himself with some very strange bedfellows. And with Beazley in the same bed, there ain't much room for the likes of meself.

More discussion of the legal issues is found here:

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And so say all of us ??

"According to the latest Herald Poll, about three-quarters of voters think it is OK to lock up suspected terrorists without charge, put them under house arrest or shackle them with tracking devices. Of six specific policies tested with voters, only the "shoot to kill" plan got the thumbs down, with women showing the strongest opposition. Other elements of the terrorism crackdown have strong support: two-thirds of voters back life imprisonment for funding a terrorist organisation, a fortnight's detention without charge for suspected terrorists and seven years' jail for supporting insurgencies where Australian troops are deployed. Three-quarters support putting suspects under house arrest or fitting them with tracking devices and 57 per cent believe in restrictions on who suspects can meet and where they can work."

That's frightening. It's the kind of support Mussolini got. I don't expect Howard will be handing out brown shirts at the next election, but he is enacting some of the same kinds of laws that got Mussolini elected and kept him in office long past his use-by date.

I do wonder, though, how the poll was framed. For instance, if the question was something like "do you support the police secretly detaining and locking up a terrorist without charge?", there will be a lot of undiscerning and busy folk saying "sure". But if the question was "do you support the police secretly detaining and locking up an innocent person who has not commited any crime without charge?", I would hope if not expect that the results would be entirely different, even though the laws could be used in either case. You can influence the answer by how you frame the question, as has been discussed here before: And you can be reporting and leading public opinion and debate with wholly deceptive statistics in the process.