Monthly Archives: January 2013


Syrian government still strong

Assad should never have put down the struggle for democratic rights in Syria. He weakened the rights of the people by using force against them. He should have embraced that struggle. Then the US armed an intervention from outside the … Continue reading


Manus gone mad and bad

REPORT FROM FAMILIES ON MANUS ISLAND ON UNHCR VISIT- what a pity they are forbidden to take photos. Hi there, Yesterday guys from UNHCR (Halpurga Erslbrecht, Ben Farrel, Chris Leati)and DIAC (Kanwal Josan, Nikki  Keirven) came to Manus Detention. At fisrt … Continue reading


“Aboriginal embassy event on 26th is not ours”

whilst i can agree with the messages relative to the proposed changes to the australian (british) constitution and the call for sovereignty i still find this multi-layered call from michael to be confusing at best or at worst, totally garbled … Continue reading


One million took to the streets across Australia saying NO to a war in Iraq

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Hi friends, you might like to add your endorsement to this statement. Has been initiated by a number of groups around Australia, including Just Peace in Brisbane. Regards. Ross. In February 2003 one million people took to the streets across … Continue reading

Post or past it the media Empire strikes back

No. Comment. “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie” 
American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis has left a cryptic response to the instantly famous New York Times Magazine article on the film The Canyons which is in limbo awaiting distribution.

Screenwriter Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) directs the Ellis script in a movie which stars porn performer James Deen and actor Lindsay Lohan whom the media has lobotomized into the self-destructive cartoon character, LiLo.

Ellis tweeted ‘No. Comment.’ in response to the brilliant exposé  by Stephen Rodrick of the on-set antics during the makings of The Canyons.
I doubt Ellis would have used the construction “No. Comment.” to convey the message “No comment. We are left with two more plausible explanations: either Ellis was questioning the ultimate veracity of much of the Rodrick report or he was saying casting Lohan was a mistake. The latter appears more likely.
According to Rodrick, Ellis was against the casting of Lohan, perhaps feeling it would detract from the gravitas of the film with a $250,000 budget. Says Rodrick: ‘…he thinks Lohan is wrong for the part, especially if she’s cast opposite the porn star (James Deen) he courted online. But he spent all his capital getting his man cast.’ I think Rodrick is referring to Ellis’s social capital; not the $30,000 he has kicked in towards  the project.
Schrader did not want Deen. There is a case for rejecting Deen (real name Bryan Matthew Sevilla) on pseudonym alone.
Remember that classic Seinfeld scene where an ecstatic George bursts out with his fabulous invention of a porn-star name. Jerry has heard this from George, perhaps a dozen times before, but George thinks it is new. The name Buck Naked is pretty bad. But James Deen is worse. Much worse.
Ellis got his way with the casting of James Deen and Schrader convinced Ellis it was good to have Lohan on board at $100 a day plus box-office percentages.
Thanks to the Rodrick article, the quartet seem set to make a modest killing from The Canyons. Whether this will make any or all of them players in Ellis’s “post-Empire” Hollywood remains to be seen.
What started life as a one-liner in an Ellis interview, “post-Empire” seems to be gaining traction as a economic/ sociological construct. The analogy is of the British empire which fell apart during the 20th century. It is not clear what post-Empire means, but, if enough of us continue to use it, we will arrive at a consensual understanding of what it is about, as we have with post-modernism.
Also unclear are the motivations of the main players in Rodrick’s cracking yarn of the making of The Canyons. The brilliance of the journalist’s NYT piece lies in his sparkling descriptions which allow the reader to make their own interpretations on the inner life of the players.
Lohan seems the least complicated as she appears to be writing her personal script with the perennial Hollywood theme of Redemption with The Canyons appearing in Act 1.
At one point, Schrader says he and Ellis could end up making 10 times their investment of $30,000 each. Does that make him a post-Empire player? It is also likely the 66-year-old feels film-making is in his blood, though the prized OPM (Other-People’s-Money) is now eluding him.
James Deen is probably after credibility beyond good looks, lots of money and a big dick. And we thought that was the Holy Trinity of Hollywood. It takes a porn star to remind us of more spiritual values.
Ellis has declared his future is in Hollywood though he still labors under the writer’s curse of wanting relevance. Maybe that is the crux: not relevance but relevance deprivation. Is Ellis going to write a script of equal virtue in film as American Psycho is to the artform of the novel?
Schrader has written two of the great screenplays of all time in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but they were a long time ago.
Most of us had never heard of porn star James Deen before his part in the cracking yarn.
All of us know the cartoon character, Li-Lo but Lohan, to her faltering credit, is trying to construct another legacy.

By the numbers

On Twitter, James Deen (God damn!!!!! Granola bars are fucking delicious!!!!) had 98, 926 followers when I last looked.
Journalist Stephen Rodrick (Interesting take. Lindsay Lohan: NYT Piece Is the Best Thing That’s Happened to Her in Years) had 1468 followers. My money is on that number sky-rocketing)
The two Paul Schraders I found had 5 and 10 followers respectively and neither had tweeted.
Bret Easton Ellis (I’m shy, retweeted 172 times, favorited 114 times) had 371,842 followers.
Hanging off every Lindsay Lohan tweet (“Big girls need big diamonds.” – Liz Taylor. She was so wise and oh so lovely.)  were 4,876,607  followers. 
And yes, I believe Rodrick’s article was good for Lohan when you read what it actually says compared to its revisions  as hatchet jobs on Li-Lo in other media.
Bernie Dowling @bentbananabooks, 3,654 Twitter followers.

Is Li-Lo Cu-Cu? No-No-

Critics praised Lindsay Lohan for the 2006 film  Chapter 27 
on the Lennon murder and now they’re gonna crucify her
A GAME doing the rounds is one in which we emerging/ nobody authors are asked to name our dream cast for the film of our novel.
I played recently and said I definitely wanted Lindsay Lohan to play Crystal Speares, the femme fatale of my novel, Iraqi Icicle. I said I thought she would make a good fist of the role. Besides, I added, think of the pre-publicity she would attract.

Little did I know, Ms Lohan had done just that for a minnowy budgeted film, The Canyons.
An excellent piece  by Stephen Rodrick in the New York Times Magazine covers the filming and post-production of The Canyons, an LA film noir with a reputed budget of $250,000. Yair, that’s right, a quarter of a mill – total, not the catering bill.
Before we move to LA, I must say I was surprised to see an additional credit for the Rodrick article going to Editor, Sheila Glaser. In all my years in Australian journalism, I have never seen that done in our country. It was kinda nice to see the collaborative nature of journalism recognized, but I wondered if writer Rodrick was losing some of the glory for what is a glorious piece of journalism. To my distant Australian eyes, the unusual by-line reiterated that New York can be a strange place. But nowhere near as strange as Hollywood.
At the start of Rodrick’s article I was cheering passionately for the success of this venture. By the end, I was scratching my head in wonderment and was unsure what I thought about the film project, The Canyons.
Director (Hardcore, American Gigolo)/ screenwriter (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) Paul Schrader says he cannot raise enough money in Hollywood for the sorts of films he wants to make.
Author Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) says he is disillusioned with the novel as an artform and wants to script films.
Schrader and Ellis both put $30,000 towards The Canyons, a film written by Ellis and directed by Schrader. Producer Braxton Pope does not say anything about Hollywood, literature or art but he has $30,000 which he kicks in. The trio raised another $160,000 through crowd-sourcing.
With that financial structure in place, I wanted The Canyons to succeed to prove you can make a decent publicly supported film noir for $250,ooo. But I really wanted it to succeed for the sake of Lindsay Lohan.
It is disgraceful how sections of the media, for fun and profit, have turned Lohan into the cartoon character LiLo, the poster girl of youthful self-destruction. Lots of young people have played up like second-hand lawnmowers and got over it. But the media script does not allow this possibility, in the third act, for Lohan.  
When you read the Rodrick article, you will see that Lohan was sometimes unreliable and she caused a delay because of fear of the four-way sex scene in The Canyons. I did not read of one tantie from the woman working for $100 a day and a share of box office. Hardly the stuff worth the screaming headlines of her ruining the film making. The most offensive media banner read. “Why LiLo’s a Delusional AssholeWho’ll Never Legitimately Work Again.” WTF. FU, Jezebel.
Of the major players in the making of the film, only producer Braxton Pope comes across as focused and totally responsible.
Schrader seems sorta all right until we learn he has knocked back an offer from fellow director Steven Soderbergh. to do a free edit of the movie if given the footage for 72 hours.
Schrader said no. ‘The idea of 72 hours is a joke,’ Schrader said. ‘And you know what Soderbergh would do if another director offered to cut his film?’  Yair, Paul but Traffic had a budget of $46 million (grossed $207 million), not $250,000.
That was when I cooled on the positive fate of The Canyons. That and the ridiculous trailer which seems to be pitching the film for the bad-movie cult circuit. 

             Doubtless some critics will try to wing the film to the bad-is-good circuit by panning Lohan’s performance. Because that fits their cartoon script for her.
But she’ll be right when she comes to Oz for the film Iraqi Icicle. Cast and crew members will take her aside to gently explain we don’t do unreliability on our movie sets. We have this ensemble sort of thing going where you do not let the others down.
I will cry if our budget is only $250, 000 and we will not have lame self-deprecating trailers. Oh and Steven Soderbergh is welcome to fly his own way over for a final 72-hr edit.
I can’t find a release date for The Canyons. But quite a few critics have taken to reviewing the trailers. However and wherever it comes out, the film is likely to turn a handy profit. And Lindsay Lohan is the main person to thank for that.

Iraqi Icicle, the eBook is available HERE. The print book come out on January 26.


The Case against Homer – standing up for first nations

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PShift 11 Jan 2013 4zzz fm 102.1 noon on Fridays Announcer: I attended at Roma Street magistrate’s court yesterday to hear the beginning of one of the most bizaare trials in Queensland history where the defendant is a dog. The … Continue reading

Foreign-backed Militants in Syria release 48 abducted Iranian pilgrims

Press TV
Foreign-backed militants in Syria have released the 48 Iranian pilgrims who had been abducted near the capital city of Damascus, Press TV reports.

The abductees were set free in a swap deal between the Syrian government and the armed militants.

An undisclosed number of Turkish nationals arrested by Syrian security forces in recent months were among those released by Damascus in the swap deal.

On August 4, 2012, 48 Iranian pilgrims, who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (AS) on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, were abducted by the militants.

In a video aired by the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television network, the militants threatened to kill all the Iranian abductees if the Syrian government did not release the captured militants and if it did not stop operations against the armed groups in the country within 48 hours. The threat, however, was never carried out… see


Briscoe family condemns NT prosecutor decision on anniversary of death

Media release January 8 2013 for immediate release Briscoe family condemns NT prosecutor decision on anniversary of Briscoe death The family of Kwementyaye Briscoe have condemned a recent decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the NT not … Continue reading


Sovereignty goes to Court

Media release: Sovereign Embassy supporters to rally outside court by Brisbane Aboriginal-Sovereign Embassy on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 5:02pm · Supporters of the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy will gather outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court this Friday as three Embassy … Continue reading


Three embers spark sacred fire

Qld Police Prosecutor told PShift reporter that Coco, Boe and Hamish are the ’embers that spark the (sacred)  fire’ in Musgrave park. Apple Corey reports: On the 11th of December 2012 the Brisbane City Council removed all of the physical … Continue reading

Mr Carr rides his hobby horse to the book-store

Of course the world is flat 
and ebooks are finished

THE flat-earth priests from the Wall Street Journal have joined their counterparts on The Guardian in pre-emptively performing the last rites on ebooks.
Nicholas Carr in a recent WSJ article  made this quite extraordinary prediction: 
…‘the initial e-book explosion is starting to look like an aberration.
‘….E-books, in other words, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback.
Of course, the WSJ lives and breathes hallowed statistics and this is what Carr’s argument rests on.
‘Sales of e-readers plunged 36% in 2012, according to estimates from IHS iSuppli, while tablet sales exploded.
As with much internet news, you get the opinionated background in the main piece and the real story, succinctly put, in the comments.
In this case, Michael Fawkes wrote:
The 36% reduction in stand-alone e-readers is irrelevant. The question is how many e-book reading devices (including tablets) were sold in 2013?
Major etailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble this year made FREE ereader apps readily available for tablets and smart phones. In other words tablets (with explosive  sales) became ereaders as well as retaining other functions. 
Carr admits ebook sales increased by a third last year but he puts it in such a convoluted way it sounds like failure.
‘…the annual growth rate for e-book sales fell abruptly during 2012, to about 34%.’ 
Bugger me, the industry is in crisis because ‘it is a sharp decline from the triple-digit growth rates of the preceding four years.’
Most industries would kill for a 30+% sales increase. I still completely agree with the prediction of Joe Konrath and others that print books are the ones headed for a niche in book sales.
There is a problem with real ebooks (to distinguish them from dead-tree books) but it is not about the cliché Carr recites: ‘The fact that an e-book can’t be sold or given away after it’s read also reduces the perceived value of the product.
The ebook critics like to toss around that one about pass-ons  because they know the ebook commercial model cannot sustain private lending in the digital world. But the fact is being able to pass on a dead-tree book barely informs the reader’s buying decision. 
Commenter Steve Shelton nailed the real problem with ebooks. ‘I prefer printed books because I have found so many spelling and formatting errors in e-books.
That is it in a nutshell. Publishers are using automated programs to create books for eReaders and the programs just do not work properly. This is a technical problem which will soon be solved as with the header/ footer and page numbering omissions.
When these drawbacks are overcome and a cheap dedicated 6in X 9 inch ereader, capable of storing 1000 books is created, we will all want one.
Move on, Mr Carr. Run if you will.

Profane professions: background to a novel

Fortitude Valley was not named 
because it took guts to be there after dark.
It honored this ship which brought 
Scottish immigrants to Brisbane in 1849
AN American friend was surprised at the profane language Brisbane police officers use in my novel Iraqi Icicle, set between 1986 and 1992.

I was working only after hours in journalism for much of the period as I toiled full-time as a partner in an instant-print business.

The lot which befell me in the business was sales. Armed with a business card which read “sales manager” – I had no staff under me – I ventured out to talk to strangers about printing.
My prospective clients fell into various categories but two I remember well. The first were people who embraced me as a new-found BFF. The second tried to haggle a price so low, our business could not eke enough profit from the deal to feed a bird.
I was not enamored with the work but our business location was excellent.
It was in inner-city Fortitude Valley, near the Brisbane River and a stone’s throw from Brisbane’s Chinatown. I quickly learned it could have been more reliably called Vietnamtown.
I always tried to be back at the print shop for lunch so I could duck down to my regular Vietnamese restaurant. Main meals were $3, my favorite being squid stuffed with pork mince, served in a clay pot. A huge pot of steamed rice was 50 cents; a glass of wine or a pot of jasmine tea was $1.
Some of my friends said you risked life and limb in Fortitude Valley. I loved the joint with its mix of seedy nightclubs, music venues, the wonderful cafes and restaurants with the company of young artists and performers living in disused warehouses and ancient brownstones.
Apart from the Chinese and Vietnamese enterprises, most of the legal, illegal and in-between night-life businesses were controlled by Italians. That’s not racial stereotyping; that’s a fact. I must add many law-abiding generous and affable Italians lived and worked in Fortitude Valley and its surrounding suburbs.
Next door to our print shop was a strip club. Beside that was a gay nightclub which stood near an alternative live music venue.
A few hundred metres away was the building of the sometimes feisty, often strident, Sun tabloid newspapers, the Daily and Sunday Sun. By 1992 both had closed and the building was turned into apartments.
On the edge of Fortitude Valley was the Waterside Workers’ (longshoremen’s) Club which was a hub of left-wing politics, but also a lunch time refuge of assorted workers, mostly men. Public servants, firefighters and a sprinkling of racehorse trainers and jockeys were among the regulars. They gathered to talk and drink beer but gambling was a habit of many, so the meat-tray raffles and poker (slot) machines were popular.
Prostitutes worked the streets at night.
Fortitude Valley was a rough and tumble place, though I never had violence inflicted on me. Still, the local police station was a busy place.
Journalism, politics and policing were industries all marked by their practitioners liberally using profanities. It may have been due to the relatively small number of women in those professions, which has changed in recent times.
One memory remains.
Behind our printing business was a toilet and shower block which we also used as a warehouse.
Our managing director decided to rent it out to the strip club to make a few extra pennies.
One day two detectives burst into our premises to ask what we knew about the theft of a stripper’s car.
‘The poor girl had her car stolen and it was used in an armed robbery,’ one detective told us.
After a few questions he asked if he could use the phone.
This was his part of the conversation to HQ.
‘Anything on the poor girl’s car…What, they’ve caught the two blokes already…And she knew one of them…the fucking slag, we’ll do her.’
Morality was black and white for some police officers in those days. So it is for my character Sergeant Frank Mooney.
Buy the ebook of Iraqi Icicle HERE
The print version will be released on January 26.
For our video, Tom Waits’ car broke down on the way to Fortitude Valley and he hooked up with two strange dudes someplace else.

When Rusty snapped

Toytown: photograph by Russell Brown

RUSSELL Brown is an Aussie newspaper photographer.
He and I have worked on the same newspapers, the Pine Rivers Press and the Northern Times for more than a decade and we live in neighboring suburbs in the Pine Rivers district of Australia.
Because he is Australian, Russell has been honored with the nickname, Rusty. 

Rusty may seem like a strange nickname but even Russell Crowe is known as Rusty by his Aussie acting mates. There used to be an Australian actor call Chips Rafferty but I doubt Rusty Crowe would have enough gravitas to headline the big screen or to receive an Academy award.
The other Rusty, of the Brown persuasion, is quite the artist, too.
Last year, Russell’s work was included in the Salon de la Photo exhibition in Paris.

Silent Sorrow was a Russell Brown exhibit at Salon de la Photo 

Our little piece of home turf is not Paree but Russell was featured in two exhibitions at Pine Rivers Art Gallery last year.
The gallery is also why Rusty’s photograph Frosty Morning II adorns the cover of my novel Iraqi Icicle.
Every year for the past 12, I have covered the Moreton Bay Regional Art Awards, held at the gallery. Our papers send a photographer along and, for many of those years, it has been Rusty.
A few years back, we were doing our jobs when Rusty pointed out one photograph in the exhibition. It was his.
Rusty did not win. The winning photographer, who also won a major prize with his pic, had collected hundreds of dead insects, put them on the ground among some leaves and snapped the winning pic. Neither Russell nor I could figure out how that was an exemplary photo. But there you go and that probably explains why they do not ask us to be judges of art contests.

I had just completed a draft of Iraqi Iciclewhen Rusty’s photo was robbed at the art contest. I turned to Rusty to say his artwork deserved international recognition and I would like it for the cover of my novel. He agreed.
Rusty took the photo on a winter morning at Dayboro in Pine Rivers. It looks rural but Dayboro is but 20 kilometres from suburban Petrie.
I see Frosty Morning II as evoking mystery with a hint of menace. As with many great photographs, the viewer can see in it traces of people who are compelling because of their absence.

Rose Revisited I: photograph by Russell Brown
I was toying with the idea of having a different cover for Iraqi Icicle 2nd edition to emphasize the humor in the book. I envisaged a clown with a flower on his chest squirting water into the face of a “femme fatale” as she shoots him in the temple with a water pistol.

Here’s Rusty

In the end art triumphed over marketing and Rusty’s photograph will forever be on the cover of Iraqi Icicle.
The eBook of Iraqi Icicle is out now HERE 
The print version is out on January 26. You can win a pre-launch copy but you must enter before January 9. HERE 

And here is another Rusty. I do not know if it’s winter, but there’s snow.


Remember Dundalli – 2013

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Dundalli remembrance, Post Office square, 5 January. Dundalee They teach us to study stones to contain our emotions at school we learn’t more about Sitting Bull Oh why, oh why did they have to bury his heart at Wounded Knee? … Continue reading

Syria Geopolitical Analysis (with January 2013 Update)

Syria: Is It Still About Assad’s Fall?
War in Syria: Geopolitics of the Conflict
(October 2012 Analysis, then see below for January 2013 Update) By Milad Jokar
Political Analyst
Posted: 12/10/2012

The United States and the European governments have vehemently repeated that Bashar al Assad must step down. Can his departure stabilize Syria and stop the bloodshed?

The views are more and more divided. The crisis in Syria is
dramatically escalating. The conflict is no longer about a democratic movement against a dictatorship, and it is not only just a civil war. Worse than that, Syria has turned into the theater of a proxy war where foreign forces feed groups on the ground to defend their own interests.

On one side, the Alawite (a branch of Shia Islam) power in place that has lost its legitimacy is backed by Iran and Russia. The other side is composed of Sunni opponents who are armed mainly by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The last few weeks have showed that the more weapons smuggled into Syria, the higher the death toll is.

In the West, The United States and the European governments have made it clear that there is nothing to negotiate with Bashar al Assad and, as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius puts it, Bashar must get lost. Following a French initiative, the European Union has recognized the Syrian National Coalition they want to put in place. However, this coalition remains divided, though Washington and European governments continue their effort to organize and fund it in order to replace Assad.

This is not the vision of the current UN special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been talking with all the regional concerned stakeholders (Syria, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Russia and also Egypt) about implementing the first step — what he says is the “urgent need to stop the bloodshed.” Just like his predecessor Kofi Annan, who criticized “the increasing militarization on the ground and the lack of unanimity in the Security Council” when he resigned, Brahimi has blamed the Security Council for the same reasons, saying that the elements for a possible peace plan “cannot be put together until the (Security) Council has come together and is ready to adopt a resolution that will be the basis for a political process.”

The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon also advocates for a diplomatic and political transition. His strategy is based on a ceasefire and he rejects the idea of arming both sides. Recently, he called “on those who have influence over any side in Syria to exert it to promote a political solution, and empower political leaders, not armed groups or the regime’s military.”

There are groups that fear the fall of Assad. The Christian Syrians fear that a radical Islamist power would replace the ‘secular dictatorship’ of the Assad regime and remove individual freedoms (especially for women). To this end, Pope Benedict XVI, recently on a visit to Lebanon, called for an end to all arms supplies to Syria and a peaceful solution through dialogue.

For the same reasons, Israel also fears the uncertainty that the fall of Assad would bring. Although there are tensions between Tel Aviv and Damascus — including on the annexation of the Golan Heights — the Syrian border with Israel has remained relatively stable compared to the Israeli-Lebanese border. This explains why the Israeli Government remains silent on Syria. For example, during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned the word “Syrian” only once (to criticize the Iranian support) against 55 times for the word “Iran ” (or “Iranian”).

As for Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, he is among the leaders who favor a political transition. Though he has strongly spoken out against Assad, he announced that he was hostile to any foreign military intervention in Syria and advocates for a solution within a regional framework.

Earlier this summer, Vali Nasr, former special adviser to the White House and now Dean of the SAIS of Johns Hopkins University explained on Australia Network News that “the rebels are not democrats, they are too fractured. This is an uprising that is becoming increasingly bloody. It is now essentially a sectarian war between a minority Alawite regime and its Christian and Kurdish allies, and the majority Sunnis”.

Nasr already argued that the conflict “is no longer about democracy, and a liberal democracy does not emerge in these kinds of
circumstances of violence and fratricide.”

He compares a possible fall of Assad to the situation of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2005 where “very quickly al Qaeda began to recruit among Iraqis and then sent Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians to come to Iraq to serve as suicide bombers and take over territories and confront U.S. forces and they became a major muscle within the insurgency”.

Today, we can clearly see this picture in Syria and the current situation confirms the words of Nasr, who warned months ago, “the more the control of the Assad regime erodes, the more you are going to have opportunities in which varieties of forms of illegal activities, from drug lords to criminal to mafia types and to al Qaeda, begin finding the ability to taking over towns, villages and neighborhoods to operate at will because there is not going to be any police or military to push them out.”

What is happening in Syria is no longer about a democratic movement against a dictatorship, nor is it simply a civil war between two camps. Syria has become the theater of a proxy war which is spilling over to its neighbors. Consequently, to focus only on the departure of President Bashar al Assad is a strategy doomed to failure because it will not solve the conflict. The crisis is spreading far beyond the person of Bashar al Assad. Demanding the departure of the dictator can only be viewed as an attempt to advance the West’s geostrategic and economic interests, namely isolating Iran, securing Western energy supply policies and competing with Russia, and bolstering Arab Gulf allies; what it will not achieve is a lasting ceasefire to stop the bloodshed and a transition to a brighter political future for the Syrian people.

War in Syria: Geopolitics of the Conflict
(January 2013 Update)
By Milad Jokar
Political Analyst
Posted: 01/02/2013

This article is the second part of the article: Syria, Is It Still About Assad’s Fall?

What is happening in Syria is no longer about a democratic movement against a dictatorship, nor is it simply a civil war between two camps. Syria has become the theater of a proxy war which is spilling over to its neighbors. Consequently, to focus only on the departure of President Bashar al-Assad is a strategy doomed to failure because it will not solve the conflict. The crisis is spreading far beyond the person of Bashar al Assad. As a result, demanding the departure of the dictator will not achieve a lasting ceasefire to stop the bloodshed and a transition to a brighter political future for the Syrian people.

Though the humanitarian stakes are high, the European Union (France at the forefront) and the U.S. have chosen their allies and continue to defend geostrategic and economic interests by pushing for the fall of the Syrian regime. To pursue this objective, the political discourse is idealistic and focuses on the massacres and humanitarian issues while national interests are real, but not mentioned.

However, from a realistic point of view, the conflict can be viewed as a broader struggle mainly between Russia and Western countries which attempt to advance their national interests. For the West these interests are isolating Iran and bolstering the strategic and economic alliance with Arab allies like Qatar, which invests in Europe and offers an alternative to Russian gas.

1) Isolating Iran

One of the pillars of the U.S. and the E.U. foreign policy is to isolate Iran because of its nuclear program. The fall of a strategic ally of Tehran such as Bashar al-Assad would be a blow to the Islamic Republic in its showdown against Europe, the United States and Israel. Indeed, the strategic alliance with Damascus allows Iran to maintain its Shia “axis of resistance” (Iraq-Syria-Lebanon with the Hezbollah).

On the one hand, these partnerships allow Tehran to counter the isolation imposed by the E.U. and U.S. sanctions. On the other hand, they allow Tehran to maintain proxies that serve as a leverage utilized for negotiations on the nuclear issue with world powers. These proxies also help Iran to counter the threats of Israeli attacks. With this in mind, Bashar al-Assad replaced by an authority that would agree to isolate Iran would favor the interests of the E.U. and Washington, but also the rival Arab countries in the Persian Gulf (mainly Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates), and to another extent Israel (depending on the nature of post-Assad government).

2) Maintaining the strategic and economic alliance with the Persian Gulf allies

France enjoys a privileged partnership with one of Iran’s main competitors, namely Qatar. Under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was the first Arab State leader to be received at the Elysées Palace in 2007. It is now François Hollande who continues this special relationship. Since his election, Qatar is the country which was received the most at the Elysées with a visit of the Emir on August 22 and two more discreet visits of Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasem al-Thani.

This economic power invests billions in real estate, in the capital of CAC 40 companies (such as Total, Vivendi, Veolia, Lagardère, Suez, LVMH or even Bouygues and Vinci for different sites of the world to Qatar 2022 and also the construction of the Friendship Bridge between Qatar and Bahrain), sport (with the purchase of the Parisian club PSG

Sovereignty, The Constitution and Congress – Invasion Day Discussion


Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra

INVASION DAY 26 January 2013 10.00 am to 3.00 pm

A year ago, at the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, a general commitment was given by the people at the Tent Embassy to advance the sovereign rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Consequently a number often embassies were established in regional parts of Australia in 2012, to express concerns from our people about control over our lives and our futures. The National Congress of Australias First Peoples also participated at the time by arranging a seminar on Sovereignty and Self-Determination.

The role of Congress is to promote the rights of our peoples.

Our members and delegate have determined Sovereignty is a key concern for Congress. Some initial feedback from community suggests that Congress should convene a national discussion on how Sovereign can be progressed in the struggle for Aboriginal rights.

The way forward for 2013 is to be examined at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on 26 January 2013.

All interested people welcome to participate and contribute positively to this discussion.

Convened by National Congress of Australias First Peoples 27Cope Street, Redfern, NSW 2016 Freecall: 1800266477

130126 Event.pdf

Vigil for Bradley Manning at US Embassy London as he fronts military tribunal

TUES 2pm 8th. Jan: Vigil for Bradley Manning at US Embassy London at start of another court hearing

Bradley Manning is back in court at Fort Meade, Maryland, US from Tuesday 8 – Friday 11 January.

Vigil at the US Embassy in London 2pm Tuesday 8 January.

The entire soundtrack of the Collateral Murder video will be played.


Bradley Manning is back in court at Fort Meade in the US from 8 – 11 January for another pre-trial motion hearing. This hearing will conclude the ‘speedy trial’ defence motion and will also deal with the prosecution’s motion to exclude motive evidence from the trial.

The solidarity event in London will begin at 2pm with a Vigil at the US Embassy during which the entire soundtrack of the Collateral Murder video will be played.

Placards will be brought but please feel free to make or bring your own.


For more info, contact Ben on 07866 559 312 or see Veterans for Peace UK and Ireland.

For background information and details of solidarity actions in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England, see

For international solidarity network, see

For reports from the last pretrial motion hearing which ran 27 November to 11 December and dealt with “illegal pretrial punishment” of Brad at Quantico, see this indymedia feature – Bradley Manning Takes the Stand: 11 days of Testimony on Abuse at Quantico.



Ciaron O’Reilly

“The poor tell us who we are,
The prophets tell us who we could be,
So we hide the poor,
And kill the prophets.”
Phil Berrigan

Manus photos- First Images

Here are the first images of life in the Manus Island camp. Photos attached .
There are:

87 SriLankans
42 Iranians
4 Afghans
4 Iraqis plus approx 30 children in the family camp
There are also 25 single men transferred last week.
They live in the dongas. No doors or windows. Extremely hot.


Some facts
In the five months after the 13th August policy , 8572 people have arrived by boat an average of 1,714 per month.

In the seven months before the August 13 policy, 7689 people arrived, an average of 1089 per month.

The expressed aim by the Expert Panel was ‘to prevent asylum seekers risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia’ .
Angus Houston admitted to the Human Rights Joint Parliamentary Committee in December 2012 that after their policy was announced and implemented that another 213 people had died at sea. This number was not reported in the media and does not include further reports from survivors now in Australia of other deaths at sea.

Pamela Curr Campaign Coordinator Asylum Seeker Resource Centre 12 Batman st West Melbourne 3003 ph 03 9326 6066 / 0417517075 "AUSTRALIA. Built by boatpeople."

Top 5 videos on BushTelegraph

According to You Tube these videos are Bush Telegraph‘s all time top videos 1. 1982 Land Rights Struggle – Brisbane Cmwlth Games 2. David Rovics – ‘Laissez les bon temps rouler’ (Let the good times roll) 3. Letter from Camp … Continue reading

The square root of nothing

2012: the year we did our best to abandon the natural world by George Monbiot
It was the year of living dangerously.  In 2012 governments turned their backs on the living planet, demonstrating that no chronic problem, however grave, will take priority over an immediate concern, however trivial.  I believe there has been no worse year for the natural world in the past half-century. Three weeks before the minimum occurred, the melting of the Arctic’s sea ice broke the previous record.  Remnants of the global megafauna – such as rhinos and bluefin tuna – were shoved violently towards extinction. 

Novel tree diseases raged across continents.  Bird and insect numbers continued to plummet, coral reefs retreated, marine life dwindled.  And those charged with protecting us and the world in which we live pretended that none of it was happening. Their indifference was distilled into a great collective shrug at the Earth Summit in June. 

The first summit, 20 years before, was supposed to have heralded a new age of environmental responsibility.  During that time, thanks largely to the empowerment of corporations and the ultra-rich, the square root of nothing has been achieved.  Far from mobilising to address this, in 2012 the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful governments – the US, the UK, Germany and Russia – didn’t even bother to turn up. But they did send their representatives to sabotage it. 

The Obama administration even sought to reverse commitments made by George Bush Sr in 1992.  The final declaration was a parody of inaction.  While the 190 countries that signed it expressed “deep concern” about the world’s escalating crises, they agreed no new targets, dates or commitments, with one exception.  Sixteen times they committed themselves to “sustained growth”, a term they used interchangeably with its polar opposite, “sustainability”.

The climate meeting in Doha at the end of the year produced a similar combination of inanity and contradiction.  Governments have now begun to concede, without evincing any great concern, that they will miss their target of no more than 2C of global warming this century. Instead we’re on track for between four and six degrees. 

To prevent climate breakdown, coal burning should be in steep decline.  Far from it: the International Energy Agency reports that global use of the most carbon-dense fossil fuel is climbing by about 200m tonnes a year. This helps to explain why global emissions are rising so fast. Our leaders now treat climate change as a guilty secret.  Even after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the record droughts and wildfires that savaged the US, the two main presidential contenders refused to mention the subject, except for one throwaway sentence each.  Has an issue this big ever received as little attention in a presidential race? The same failures surround the other forces of destruction. 

In 2012 European governments flunked their proposed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which is perfectly designed to maximise environmental damage.  The farm subsidies it provides are conditional on farmers destroying the vegetation (which also means the other wildlife) on their land.  We pay €55bn a year to trash the natural world. This contributes to what I have come to see as a great global polishing: a rubbing away of ecosystems and natural structures by the intensification of farming, fishing, mining and other industries. Looking back on this year a few decades hence, this destruction will seem vastly more significant than any of the stories with which the media is obsessed.  Like governments, media companies have abandoned the living world. In the UK in 2012, the vandals were given the keys to the art gallery.

Environmental policy is now in the hands of people – such as George Osborne, Owen Paterson, Richard Benyon and Eric Pickles – who have no more feeling for the natural world than the Puritans had for fine art. They are busy defacing the old masters and smashing the ancient sculptures.

They have lit a bonfire of environmental regulations, hobbled bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency and ensured that the countryside becomes even more of an exclusive playground for the ultra-rich, unhampered by effective restraints on the burning of grouse moors, the use of lead shot, the killing of birds of prey and the spraying of pesticides that are wiping out our bees and other invertebrates. In the same spirit, the government has reduced the list of possible marine conservation zones from 127 to 31. 

Even these 31 will be protected in name only: the fishing industry will still be allowed to rampage through them.  A fortnight ago, the UK lobbied successfully for quotas of several overexploited fish species to be raised, while pouring scorn on the scientific evidence that shows this is madness. George Osborne has done the same thing to the UK’s climate change policies. 

Though even the big power companies oppose him, he is seeking to scrap or delay our targets for cutting carbon emissions and to ensure that we remain hooked on natural gas as our primary source of power.  The green investment bank which was supposed to have funded the transition to new technologies is the only state bank in Europe that is forbidden to borrow.  It might as well not be there at all. If there is hope, it lies with the people.  Opinion polls show that voters do not support their governments’ inaction. 

Even a majority of Conservatives believe that the UK should generate most of its electricity from renewables by 2030.  In the US, 80% of people polled now say that climate change will be a serious problem for their country if nothing is done about it: a substantial rise since 2009. The problem is that most people are not prepared to act on these beliefs. Citizens, as well as governments and the media, have turned their faces away from humanity’s greatest problem.

To avoid another terrible year like 2012, we must translate these passive concerns into a mass mobilisation.  Groups such as show how it might be done.  I

f this annus horribilis tells us anything, it is that action, in the absence of such mobilisation, is simply not going to happen. Governments care only as much as their citizens force them to care.  Nothing changes unless we change.


Land Rights in Queensland — a hope still?

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Introduction In my living memory Musgrave Park has always been contested land. Ever since the 1967 referendum and before Murris from all over Queensland have come to Musgrave Park to meet up. Much has been made of an aboriginal cultural … Continue reading

10000 ways to make up stuff

Simeon Stylites sat on a pole for more than 30 years. 
Everybody said he was a saint, but he shrugged. 
“After 10, 000 hours, you get very good at it,” he said.
NUMBERS terrify some people. Others worship them as icons. Many of us just get tricked by them.
A number con-game which has been around for a while is that it takes an author 10,000 hours to become highly proficient at the occupation.

SOME novice writers have slit their wrists on discovering this statistic and have proven it to be true when printer’s ink fails to spurt from their veins.

This 10,000 hour hypothesis get even sillier when you consider its advocates suggest it applies to all professions.
If I ever have the need for surgery, I am going demand my cutter has 10,000 hours logged. I feel sorry for the millions of needlessly dead people who did not ask to see the surgeon’s log before an operation.
Let’s have a closer look at the 10,000-hr rule. It has to be an average to have any credibility. Otherwise it takes every single professional in every single profession, exactly 10, 000 hours to achieve excellence.
The rule’s originator obviously found a reliable measure of excellence in every one of the world’s professions. Your mind, of course, turns to the world’s oldest profession as you ponder what the benchmarks were for that one. You did not start thinking about prostitution? Okay forget I mentioned that; move on, shall we?
This researcher, who should receive a dozen Nobel Prizes, then sampled each of the world’s professions to find the number of excellent practitioners. Somehow, our researcher, who makes Einstein look like Justin Bieber, also worked out a way of finding out how long it took each one to reach excellence. Some more averaging and hey presto, we have 10, 00 hours.
You may say I am being pedantic but I dispute that. I maintain a statement that it takes a bloody long time to become a doyen of your craft is more scientific than 10, 000 hours. The 10,000-hr rule is hereby supplanted by the blood-long-time law. Quote me as its discoverer if you need to avoid admonition for plagiarism.
Rules or laws are meant to guide us in science and in life. I am not sure what message we were meant to take from the obsolete 10,000-hr rule. Were we meant to give up because it is all too hard for too long or keep plugging away.
Under Dowling’s Law, a writer’s mind in motion must continue in motion, though it will be slowed by the gravity of the realization no one is buying your books.
From a less scientific and more intuitive perspective, do people without enough taste to buy your books really deserve your  precious words, anyway.
It might take a bloody long time but tasteful people, in numbers, will discover your genius and recognize you as an excellent writer. Then you can stop counting up to 10,000.

If you sing this song for 10,000 hours,
you still will not be as good as MCC.