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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hicks, hair, and light

An artist depicts David Hicks' appearance in the US military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, today.Photo: AP

David Hicks has grown his hair to chest length in an attempt to try to avoid the never-ending light in his cell.

The charges - or lack of them - against Hicks are noteworthy:

The charge sheet does not allege Hicks fired on US troops or attacked a US target, but says he conducted surveillance on the abandoned US embassy in Kabul and met Osama bin Laden as well as accused "shoe bomber'' Richard Reid.
Previous charges of attempted murder, conspiracy and aiding the enemy have been dropped, with defence lawyers saying the move shows US authorities have a weak case.

The prosecutor in this jumped-up, stuffed-up, kangaroo court proceedings at Guantanamo Bay has used the argument that Terry Hicks told David Hicks that taking up arms was wrong.

So this is to prove the guilt of David?

In that case what are we waiting for? Let's arrest Bush, Cheney, Rumsefield, Blair, Howard & Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. After all hundreds of thousands - at least - of their citizens have told them that they are wrong in what they are doing and how they are doing it. What is the measure of their guilt? Are their circadian rhythms interrupted? Do they sleep well at night?

They have proved themselves gun-totin' cowboys with no idea of nation building. Afghanistan is still a mess. Freedom loving democracy is not a reality there. It is not a reality in Iraq.

The US cannot build a decent democracy itself. The most powerful political figure in the world does not have and cannot prove that he has the majority of support of the citizens of his nation. Because it's a good day if more than half of the US population turn out to vote. The US cannot help its own. Hurricane Katrina proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt. And in the case of New Orleans many, so many of us, believe that the US will not help its own if they are black.

Nation building? The Government of the USA should try it some time.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A remembrance for C. Wright Mills

Those of us who have dipped deeply into that marvellous well labelled Sociology will be aware of C. Wright Mills. While relating to the American tradition, the writings of C. Wright Mills served as an impetus for critiquing Australian society as well. He set afire the sociological imagination. The Power Elite is not only seminal. It is timeless. This week, the forty-fifth anniversary of the death of C. Wright Mills was commemorated. For more, see here and here.

And if, dear Reader, you wonder about whether the personal is political or the political is personal, think on this:

Do not allow public issues as they are officially formulated, or troubles as they are privately felt, to determine the problems that you take up for study. Above all, do not give up your moral and political autonomy by accepting in somebody else's terms the illiberal practicality of the bureaucratic ethos or the liberal practicality of the moral scatter. Know that many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles, but must be understood in terms of public issues - and in terms of the problems of history making. Know that the human meaning of public issues must be revealed by relating them to personal troubles - and to the problems of the individual life. Know that the problems of social science, when adequately formulated, must include both troubles and issues, both biography and history, and the range of their intricate relations. Within that range the life of the individual and the making of societies occur; and within that range the sociological imagination has its chance to make a difference in the quality of human life in our time.

NSW election: a sigh of relief but no congratulations

Miss Eagle is well pleased with the NSW election result....for one simple reason. The Liberals don't hold the reins and resources of government in the premier state with which to undergird a Federal election campaign.

Miss Eagle won't congratulate Morrie Iemma. Debenham's campaign - if you can give it that name - is lamentable and uncommentable.

Miss Eagle suffered the insult that is City Rail in the last years of the 20th century - and things, clearly, have become worse. In fact, have gone from worse to awful.

She prays for the sake of the commuters of Sydney that the premier of Italian descent can emulate the leadership of another Italian in one area only - managing the trains as well as Mussolini.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sign of the times

Photo: Craig Abraham/The Age
has become a cause for Melbourne's Anglicans. Not only is the demand made in an eight-metre banner hanging from St Paul's Cathedral, but new Archbishop Philip Freier has written to Prime Minister John Howard on Hicks' behalf.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Photo by John Mitchell
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Isaiah 58:11 / KJV

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Howard the Sycophant talks about Honour!!!

In the middle of all his political woes, Howard is digging Australia further into the falsity of Coaliting of the Willing aspirations for Iraq. Honour, he says.
Bah, humbug, Howard! How dare you wrap up the mountainous death toll of Iraqis in what you chose to call honour. There has been little honour in the defence of US policy by the Australian government.

You, John Howard, have taken Australia and Australians into a war which is not in their national interests. You, John Howard, have taken Australians into a lock step position on flawed and failed US foreign policy in relation to Israel and the Middle East.

Australians did not want participation in the war in Iraq without UN involvement. They do not want it to-day. This was clear in polls and the hundreds of thousands of Australians who voted with their feet in peace marches.

You, John Howard, ignored your own people. You took the side of the US against us and our best interests. You, John Howard, are a war monger. Not a peace maker.

Peace is not in you, John Howard.

You, John Howard, do well as a sycophant.

You, John Howard, cannot and will not make peace.

Dissenting Jewish voices

In all the debate on the Iraq War, US foreign policy and US support for Israel has become increasingly focussed. In recent times, dissenting Jewish voices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia (those great allies in the Coalition of the Willing) have come to the fore.

In Australia, the ABC's Religion Report on Radio National has devoted three programs in recent times to this topic. Go here, here and here.

Jews in western democracies who have become sycophantic and chauvinistic in their defence of the state of Israel need to do a rethink. The inherent racism in Israel; the religious discrimination in Israel including against Jews; the failure of Israel to consider the aspirations and needs of others beside themselves need to be addressed.

Consideration needs to be given to how helpful it is for democracy when, in a place such as Australia, Jewish funding - and through such funding influence - of political parties is well in excess of their demographic representation.

Democracies are in danger when money - whether it is corporate, Jewish or from some other source - can buy and influence political parties in excess of voting representation within the community. The balance of community representation and political funding must be maintained equitably. Otherwise, the situation can develop - as in US foreign policy - where the interests of citizens is overridden for the sometimes nebulous idea of "the national interest".

Friday, March 16, 2007


Policeman faces death in custody trial
is the headline in The Age in Melbourne to-day.
The item puts the situation in an historic context
but if one knew nothing of the Australian penal system
one might think that a policeman is facing a death sentence.

Meanwhile, over at The Courier Mail in Brisbane, Queensland
the headline is terse.
Hurley trial in June
The reporting is succinct. Bare detail.
Trying not to offend anyone are we?
Like the Queensland Police?
Like Peter Beattie and the Queensland Government?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Promises, promises

There are optimists in the world and they are at The Truthmaker. Their current focus is on the NSW election trying to keep Morrie and Mates and Peter and Pals and assorted hopefuls to their word.

Lasting values: the pearl of great price

The topic of ethics is to the fore in Australian public life these days. Time for a reality check, Miss Eagle thinks.

The Hope Pearl, a 450-carat natural pearl that was owned by nineteenth-century gem collector Henry Phillip Hope. Loaned by Christie's. (Chip Clark / Smithsonian) Click image to enlarge.

The Pearl.

Matthew 13: 45

I know the ways of Learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the press, and make it run;
What reason has from nature borrowed,
Or of it self, like a good housewife, spun
In laws and policy; what the stars conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forced by fire;
Both th' old discoveries, and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and history:
All these stand open, or I have the keys:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of Honor, what maintains
The quick returns of courtesy and wit:
In vies of favors whether party gains,
When glory swells the heart, and molding it
To all expressions both of hand and eye,
Which on the world a true-love-knot may tie,
And bear the bundle, wheresoe'er it goes:
How many drams of spirit there must be
To sell my life unto my friends or foes:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of Pleasure, the sweet strains,
The lullings and the relishes of it;
The propositions of hot blood and brains;
What mirth and music mean; what love and wit
Have done these twenty hundred years, and more:
I know the projects of unbridled store:
My stuff is flesh, not brass; my senses live,
And grumble oft, that they have more in me
Than he that curbs them, being but one to five:
Yet I love thee.

I know all these, and have them in my hand:
Therefore not seal├ęd, but with open eyes
I fly to you, and fully understand
Both the main sale, and the commodities;
And at what rate and price I have your love;
With all the circumstances that may move:
Yet through these labyrinths, not my groveling wit,
But your silk twist let down from heaven to me,
Did both conduct and teach me, how by it
To climb to thee.

George Herbert

Monday, March 12, 2007

Joe Camilleri's Lectures

For a better copy of this with legible details, please email Miss Eagle off the sidebar.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Something on the air....

This morning when Michelle Grattan was speaking to Fran Kelly (approx 7.45am) on Radio National Breakfast about the Howard, Rudd & Burke imbroglio, Michelle said to Fran, when asked where it would all end, that the matter would continue until

Miss Eagle believes something has come up in the priceless words of one P.J. Keating. Apparently the words were heard on radio and those who haven't heard them wish they could. Read some of them here.

Miss Eagle nearly fell off her perch when she saw P.J.'s reference to her old cobber, Johnno Johnson, as the model of ubiquity in Sydney. For those of you who have never had social intercourse with Johnno, you will not be aware of his motto where two or three are gathered...hold a raffle. Johnno has made a science out of the selling of a raffle ticket. Don't know how? Johnno will show you.

The Sydney Morning Herald - at the recent ALP election launch in NSW - noted

The only person resembling a tribal elder was the former long-serving Labor MP and raffle ticket seller John "Johnno" Johnson: "They dare not start without me."

And in case anyone thinks the rephrasing of Jesus's words on prayer and the numbers necessary are blasphemous, nothing could be further from Johnno's mind. You see, here is an upright Catholic and any Catholic - well anyone with an Irish name even - ought to dodge Johnno for the next month or so. Otherwise, a casual phone call or an accidental meeting in George Street will find Johnno checking up on whether you've made your Easter Duty yet!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lobbyists: agendas, spin, and good governance

Search for a definition: What is lobbying? The art of hanging around a lobby. Right. But there's more to it than that. There are lobbies to hang around which mean that the cash register can be heard a-ringing. Here is a more precise definition.

There is good old grass roots lobbying of this kind. Not a problem. Should be more of it. However, the farmers who badgered the Federal Government for funds also have a professional, highly organised and effective lobby group of their own in the National Farmers Federation. Then there are the business groups such as the Business Council of Australia and the pharmaceutical industry. Non-government, non-business interests form themselves into organisations so that they too can achieve greater clout.

The problem lies in the bureaucratic nature of government. Bureaucracies have difficulty in dealing with individuals and small business. Small business is not the same as big business and one of the defining differences is bureaucracy - or more the lack of it. Government bureaucracies know how to relate to private bureaucracies. The non-bureaucratic individual or small business is beyond their ken. This is why policies of Federal and State Governments formulating one-size-fits-all fail and cause discontent. The implementation of the GST is a classic case where the needs of small business were not taken into account until a month long campaign by the Daily Telegraph in Sydney brought the Howard Government to its senses.

There are the think tanks: The Evatt Foundation; The Menzies Foundation; The Australia Institute; The Institute of Public Affairs; The Centre for Independent Studies; The Lowy Institute; and The Sydney Institute to name only a very, very few. Thinking, strategising, lobbying - politicians and the public with their ideas.

Then we get back to the lobbying done by professionals, the professionals who have political contacts because they have been politicians, or worked as political staffers. People like Bruce Hawker (whose tool of trade is his long-standing relationship with the NSW Labor Government) and Grahame Morris (whose tool of trade is his long-standing relationship with the Howard Government). Politicians who depart their ministerial positions and parachute straight into lucrative "public affairs" positions. These include Peter Reith and Michael Wooldridge. These two former Howard Government ministers were notable for dubious ethical practices in their portfolios and/or financial management.

There are frequent calls for the operations of lobbyists to be subject to regulation. Proposals include legislation preventing Ministers of the Crown moving straight from their parliamentary responsibilities into corporate lobbying positions. What's your view?

World Day of Prayer 2007


Spider's web lace made by women in Paraguay

The World Day of Prayer Committee in Paraguay
This year's World Day of Prayer has been prepared by the women of Paraguay. Miss Eagle is pleased to see that the Australian committee has drawn attention to an historic link between Australia and Paraguay in the form of the utopian socialist communities established by William Lane. To those of us involved in the labour movement, this is of significant historic importance. The movement to establish the communities involved two of Australia's greatest poets, Henry Lawson and Mary Gilmore. Miss Eagle knew, some years ago now, a daughter of John Lane, William's brother. John is famous for riding around western New South Wales on a bicycle with the tyres stuffed with straw to seek support for the settlements in Paraguay. His daughter was born at Cosme.

Back to to-day, there is a chance once again to link with Paraguay: this time in prayer.
Paraguay is a country with a young population, full of enthusiasm and zest for life. However it is one of the poorest countries in the world and struggles with poverty, unemployment, lack of education and health services, the need of land for rural people and indigenous communities and a globalisation that has increased the levels of violence and placed cultural traditions at risk. Please keep the people of Paraguay in your prayers during 2007.

This year's theme is United Under God's Tent.

Jarrod McKenna: a peacemake in your community

Jarrod McKenna, trainer and board member of Pace e Bene Australia, has been awarded the 2006 Donald Groom Fellowship, a Quaker grant that enables individuals working on projects for nonviolent social change.

Jarrod's initative, called "Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community" (EPYC), introduces young people to the traditions, theory, practice and spirituality of nonviolent social transformation. EPYC works to inspire and empower young people through workshops and seminars, facilitation of student-led and run activist groups within schools, and involve students in community run groups that promote nonviolence.

Jarrod's believes that EPYC does more than train students in transformational nonviolence. He says "EPYC's vision is to inspire, invite and equip a generation to receive and participate in God's vision of a world transformed by love….As I sometimes put it in shorthand, my work is about equipping a generation to 'walk out' now, what God wills the world to be ultimately."
World Vision CEO Tim Costello recently said: "Around the world there is an emerging generation of young leaders who are rediscovering the radical implications of Jesus' message of the 'kingdom' and are letting their lives speak of these alternatives to the cycles of violence, poverty and environmental destruction. Jarrod McKenna is one such young leader Australia has to offer, and the EPYC program promises to empower many more."
As part of the award, Jarrod had the opportunity to speak at the annual gathering of Quakers in Australia in January. Jarrod has been a key member of Pace e Bene Australia, which formed in 2005 and leads trainings across the country, using Engage, From Violence to Wholeness, and Traveling with the Turtle. Pace e Bene congratulates Jarrod for the recognition he has received for his work for peace! Read more about Jarrod's work with EPYCVisit Pace e Bene Australia's website

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Would we know good governance if we see it?

Miss Eagle finds herself focussing more and more on the topic of governance. So it seems about time to discuss what governance means. Miss E's ancient Concise Oxford Dictionary (Sixth impression 1978) gives the following definition:
n. Act, manner, fact, or function, of governing; sway, control

The phrase "corporate governance" has entered the language in recent years following spectacular failures in governance and oversight across the globe.

Miss Eagle has been discussing governance in the public sphere; in particular, in the state and federal governments of the Commonwealth of Australia. In Australia, there are quite a few runs for poor performance getting up on the scoreboard.

Governance is a simple word. It differs from the word Government which relates more to(definition thank s to the old COD):

1. System of governing, form of organization of State.
2. Body or successive bodies of persons governing a State; the State as an agent; and administration or ministry.

Another term for governance in the public sphere (as opposed to the corporate or business sphere) is Public Administration.
Australia has produced some fine servants of the public who have exhibited a high level of administrative expertise in the public interest. Miss Eagle thinks of her hero, Nugget Coombs;

Sir John Crawford; Sir Lenox Hewitt OBE (father of British politician, Patricia Hewitt); and John Menadue. Perhaps there are, as this is written, distinguished men and women beavering away within bureaucracies of state and federal government.
However, life has moved on in public administration. Most heads of department are on timed contracts. They are dependent on their political masters to renew their contract. Prior to the introduction of timed contracts, public servants were tenured. The contract system has allowed a thorough-going politicisation of the public sector. (Yes Miss E knows that politicisation did precede the introduction of contracts but it is Miss E's view that politicisation was not on the same scale as that which prevails now.) Time and again public administration in Australia seems to demonstrate master-pleasing advice and action rather than the old "without fear or favour" culture.

The servants of the public are not acquitting themselves well. Instance the equivocation, cover up, inaction, avoidance and blurring by DFAT bureaucrats before the AWB inquiry.

Miss Eagle is not the only with a point of view about governance in Australia. Over at Casting a short shadow, Miss Eagle discovered a reference to a speech by Lieutenant General John Sanderson, AC given as the Annual Oration 2007 to the Order of Australia Association entitled Federal Renewal and Unity in Reconciliation: a return to government by the people.

Miss Eagle is happy to forward a copy of this speech to readers if they email their requests to Miss Eagle's email address which is accessible if you look under the AusFlag logo on the sidebar.

Problems in Paradise

Denis Wilson over at The Nature of Robinson has been burning the midnight oil quite a bit as he does battle for the Kangaloon Aquifer at Robertson in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. He came across this media item on McArthur River. Miss Eagle has posted from time to time about what is happening in a part of the world beloved to her. See here, here, and here. Miss Eagle posts the item in full. She has no comment - indications within the news item are far too serious.

Xstrata denies link to flesh-eating disease

The company that owns the MacArthur River Mine has rejected any link to a flesh-eating disease that has killed three people who came into contact with river and seawater in the Borroloola region.
An article published in the British Journal of Infection has connected high levels of heavy metals in the region with the disease.
The article, written by Top End tropical disease specialist Dr Bart Currie, cites four cases of the disease over the past seven years.
In the first case in 2000, a 55-year-old man who went fishing in rivers near the Nathan River homestead contracted the disease and died two years later.
In May 2001, a 63-year-old man who fished off Vanderlin Island died 18 days later from the disease and in April 2003 a 38-year-old Victorian man had his leg amputated after fishing in the Wearyan River.
As well, a 19-year-old woman died 24 hours after swimming in one of the region's waterways.
The article reported zinc and lead levels downstream from the mine are twice what they are upstream and that it is possible these levels could increase the risk of human infection from the disease.
Mine owner Xstrata say it is aware of the report but it does not link the mine to the cases.