SUV / 4WD Safety – a contradiction

Cartoon Copyright Nicholson Cartoons
Nicholson of “The Australian” newspaper: www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au

Excellent article from The Bulletin on SUVs / 4WDs in my Motoring Blog “Road and Circuit“.

Publishing the link here as no one has found my Motoring blog yet!

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Bush tries to re-write Genesis …of the war on Iraq

Very interesting article published on The Progressive’s web site.

It appears that Bush is trying to drum up more fear amongst the US public by comparing Al Qaeda to the Soviet Union and the Cold war. In addition he is trying to change the history of the current War on Iraq.

Quote:

“When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity. So coalition forces went into Iraq and removed his cruel regime.”

Actually, Saddam had been cooperating, to a large extent, with the U.N. weapons inspectors. And he had no weapons of mass destruction to disarm. Weapons inspectors were begging the Security Council for more time, but Bush refused to give it to them. And Bush acted like was doing the Security Council’s bidding by invading when, in actual fact, the Security Council refused to give its blessing to the invasion.

That’s why Kofi Annan called it illegal.

No doubt he’ll request that all American school history books list this as fact.

Anyway, full article here.
Definitely worth a read.

US marines massacred 24 Iraqi Civilians

Revealed: how US marines massacred 24 – World – Times Online
Sarah Baxter, Washington
Hala Jaber and Ali Rifat, Baghdad

PHOTOGRAPHS taken by American military intelligence have provided crucial evidence that up to 24 Iraqis were massacred by marines in Haditha, an insurgent stronghold on the banks of the Euphrates.

One portrays an Iraqi mother and young child, kneeling on the floor, as if in prayer. They have been shot dead at close range.

The pictures show other victims, shot execution-style in the head and chest in their homes. An American government official said they revealed that the marines involved had “suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership”.

The killings are emerging as the worst known American atrocity of the Iraq war. At least seven women and three children were among those killed. Witness accounts obtained by The Sunday Times suggest the toll of children may be as high as six. “This one is ugly,” a US military official said.

In Britain, the chief of the defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said yesterday that the “appalling” reports of the massacre could undermine British support for the war. “This sort of accusation does make that harder to achieve,” he said.

The pictures of the dead, which are being closely guarded by the US naval criminal investigation service, were taken by a military photographer who is believed to have arrived on the scene moments after the shootings.

Many American forces are accompanied by photographers to gather intelligence and to shield soldiers from false accusations of torture, intimidation and violence. In this case, the evidence points fatefully to a murder spree by marines.

The stain on the American military could prove harder to erase than the photographs of sadistic prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Comparisons are being made to the My Lai massacre in 1968 in Vietnam, in which American soldiers slaughtered up to 500 villagers.

Up to a dozen marines may face criminal charges including murder, which carries the death penalty, dereliction of duty and filing a false report. Three marine commanders were suspended last month.

The naval inquiry is focusing on the actions of a sergeant who may have been the leader of a four-man “fire team”.

Miguel Terrazas, 20, a lance-corporal from El Paso, Texas, was travelling in a convoy of four Humvees in Haditha just after 7am on November 19 last year when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle, killing him and wounding two others.

The events that followed are the subject of two military inquiries due to report soon: one into the facts, the other into a cover-up.

One witness, Aws Fahmi, heard his neighbour, Yunis Salim Khafif, plead for his life in English, shouting: “I am a friend, I am good.”

“But they killed him, his wife and daughters,” Fahmi said.

It is clear the marines lied by blaming the deaths of 15 civilians on the roadside bomb and alleging that a further eight Iraqis were insurgents who died in a gun battle.

Asked last week how many Iraqis were killed by the roadside bomb, a Pentagon official said: “Zero.” The marines never came under hostile fire, a spokesman added.

Investigators have established that the killings unfolded over three to five hours. “This was not a burst of fire, but a sustained operation,” a Pentagon official said.

The Sunday Times has reconstructed the events with the help of Abdul Rahman al-Mashandani, of the Hammourabi human rights group in Iraq. It appears the first killings took place when a taxi carrying four students pulled up at a checkpoint set up by the marines.

Abu Makram, 50, had been awakened by the roadside bomb and watched from his window as the terror unfolded. The car’s occupants were all ordered out and shot.

The marines then stormed three nearby houses. “They blew open the front door of the first house,” Makram recalled, “Once they were inside, we heard another explosion followed by a hail of gunfire.”

It was the home of 76-year-old Abdul Hameed Ali Hassan, whose leg had been amputated because of diabetes. “He was a blind old man in a wheelchair,” Makram said.

Hassan’s granddaughter, Iman Waleed, 10, was in her nightclothes. “About 10 marines entered the house,” she said. “They threw hand grenades and began firing in all directions. Grandpa was sitting close to the hall and they shot him dead.”

In a nearby room, her father was reading the Koran. “The American soldiers went into the room and killed him too,” Iman said. “They gathered all of us into one room — my grandma, my mama, my brothers and my uncles. They threw in two handgrenades and started shooting at us.”

The adults tried to protect the children with their bodies, but were slain. When Iman dared to look, she saw that “everyone was dead around me except for my brother and my uncle”.

Both were injured and Iman was hurt in the leg. The rest of the family, including her brother, Abdullah, 4, died.

Iman fled next-door, where her other grandfather Yunis lived, only to find everybody there appeared to have been killed too. There was in fact one survivor, Safa Yunis Salim, 12.

“My daddy tried to open the door to let the Americans in, but he was immediately shot in the head and body,” Safa said.

“I managed to hide under the body of my brother Mohammed. His blood covered me and protected me as I pretended to be dead.” They also killed her four sisters including Aysha, 4, and Zainab, 2.

Five hours passed before Safa managed to escape. “I was the only one who survived. I watched them kill my entire family. I am all alone now,” she said, crying.

When the marines stormed the third house they changed tactics. The men were separated from the women and stuffed into a large cupboard, according to Yussef Ayed Ahmad, the brother of the dead men, who lived next-door.

“They placed my four brothers into the wardrobe and proceeded to shoot them as they were inside,” he said. “My mother and sister told me later how they died.”

The marines found an AK 47 in the house — the only gun found in all three homes — but there is no evidence it was fired.

The marines’ cover story quickly began to unravel. In March, Time magazine revealed the existence of a video shot the day after the attack by an Iraqi student journalist. It showed the victims still in their nightclothes, a trail of blood and shrapnel and bullet marks on the walls.

At the local morgue Waleed al Obeidi, who received the corpses 24 hours after the killings, also disputed the marines’ account. “Two bodies were completely charred,” he said. “The others, including women and children, had all been shot at close range.”

According to some reports, American warplanes dropped 500lb bombs on the houses.

The marines paid $2,500 (£1,350) in compensation for each of the 15 victims who were shot in their homes. They refused to pay for the four brothers and five occupants of the taxi, claiming they were insurgents. Officials now say those men were innocent.

General Michael Hagee, the US Marine Corps commander, flew to Baghdad last week to prepare his troops for the grim findings of the investigation. Many marines had witnessed the deaths of friends, he said. “The effects of these events can be numbing. There is the risk of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life, as well as bringing dishonour upon ourselves.”

The conclusions are likely to provoke widespread revulsion.

President George W Bush said last week that the abuse at Abu Ghraib was one of his greatest regrets about the Iraq war. If the photographs from Haditha surface, they could provide a set of images that would be every bit as shocking.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-524-2200170-524,00.html

Aussies moral conscience asleep

Excellent article in The Age today by Robert Manne, a professor of politics at La Trobe University. He makes some astute observations regarding the average Ocker’s lack of interest in anything unethical the Howard government does, and on Howard himself.

Manne says that “The Howard prime ministership has had a strangely mesmeric quality that has put the national moral conscience to sleep”.

Regarding Howard’s decision to go to Iraq and kill “rag-heads” as one ocker described Arabs yesterday:

Even if Howard continued to defend his actions strenuously, if
he at least was anxious or agitated about this state of affairs, I
would be able to feel for him some respect. What unnerves me is the
calmness of his demeanour, the apparent near-entire absence in him
of a troubled conscience or the kind of self-scrutiny that might
lead him eventually to remorse. Howard is one of the most nimble
but also one of the most morally complacent politicians I have ever
observed.

Howard rightly asks us to contemplate the pain of the families
of the 3000 innocent people who were murdered on September 11. Does
he, do we, feel nothing for the families of the tens of thousands
of Iraqis whose lives have been lost in the killings and the
murders that have occurred since the invasion of Iraq, for whose
involvement in which our Prime Minister was honoured, in Washington
last week, with a black-tie dinner and a 19-gun salute?

My answer would be that no, today’s society is all about self-interest and stuff anyone else. Hence the rise in four-wheel-drive ownership, and the reluctance of anyone to help another in distress. Witness this week the murder of Juan Zhang. Eight people heard what they have described as blood-curdling screams but did not contact police or investigate. Her body was found this morning. Through non-action, her blood is on their hands. And so to the Australian public has not baulked at the atrocities being committed
by its ally in Iraq, and so the blood of the children of Iraq is on theirs.

While Howard was in Washington, centrist political think tank
the Brookings Institution published its most recent study of the
outcome of the invasion of Iraq. According to this study, since the
invasion, between 44,000 and 89,000 Iraqi civilians, perhaps 55,000
Iraqi insurgents, and 2500 members of the invading forces have been
killed.

Even though the US has spent or approved the spending of $US435
billion on Iraq (which is 15 times the entire annual Iraqi GDP) –
an even larger number of Iraqi children (9 per cent) are suffering
from acute malnutrition than was the case before the invasion of
March 2003; more than two-thirds of Iraqis still do not have clean
water; and residents of Baghdad receive on average fewer than six
hours of electricity a day.

Two-thirds of Iraqis feel less secure now than they did before
the invasion. Fewer than 1 per cent believe that the occupying
forces have improved security. Before the invasion the Baghdad
morgue processed fewer than 100 corpses a month. In the first three
months of this year, it processed 3427. Iraqis are now losing hope.
A year ago, 67 per cent of Iraqis believed that their country was
at least heading in the right direction. At present a mere 30 per
cent still believe that this is so.

Read the full Article here:

Aussie Treasurer invites Kiwis to move to Australia

This week Peter Costello said that, after his tax cuts, New Zealanders
should move to Australia. Well actually, this is what he said:

Herald Sun: Costello welcomes rugby Kiwis [19may06]

Kiwis on average wages in New Zealand would “pay a lot less tax in Australia”, Mr Costello told ABC Radio.

And high income earners would benefit by relocating, he said.

“I think in New Zealand you go on the top tax rate at $63,000 New Zealand, which would be considerably less Australian, down around $50,000,” Mr Costello said.

“In Australia you are not going to go into the top tax rate until you earn above $150,000.

“And this is now becoming a bit of an issue in New Zealand.

“And if there are Kiwis who have skills and who want to come to
Australia as skilled immigrants of course they would be welcome in Australia.

“If they can play rugby union they will be doubly welcome.”

See also http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/latest/200605192019/14490120

Australia’s top rate is 45 per cent. In New Zealand it is 39 per cent. I ran some comparisons the other day, and in reality, due to different numbers of thresholds and threshold levels, there really isn’t much difference, especially once you i nclude all the hidden taxes in Australia like car registration and insurance.

NZ Individual tax rates

Australian Tax rates

Taxable income

Tax rate

Taxable income

Tax rate

up to $38,000

19.5

$0 – $6,000

Nil

$38,001 to $60,000

33

$6,001 – $25,000

15

$60,001 and over

39

$25,001 – $75,000

30

$75,001 – $150,00

40

$150,001 and over

45

Comparison of the effect of the tax rates

Australia

New Zealand

Salary

Net Salary

Tax

Net Salary

Tax

$5,000

$5,000

$0

$4,025

$975

$10,000

$9,400

$600

$8,050

$1,950

$15,000

$13,650

$1,350

$12,075

$2,925

$20,000

$17,900

$2,100

$16,100

$3,900

$25,000

$22,150

$2,850

$20,125

$4,875

$30,000

$25,650

$4,350

$24,150

$5,850

$35,000

$29,150

$5,850

$28,175

$6,825

$40,000

$32,650

$7,350

$31,930

$8,070

$45,000

$36,150

$8,850

$35,280

$9,720

$50,000

$39,650

$10,350

$38,630

$11,370

$55,000

$43,150

$11,850

$41,980

$13,020

$60,000

$46,650

$13,350

$45,330

$14,670

$65,000

$50,150

$14,850

$48,380

$16,620

$70,000

$53,650

$16,350

$51,430

$18,570

$75,000

$57,150

$17,850

$54,480

$20,520

$80,000

$60,150

$19,850

$57,530

$22,470

$85,000

$63,150

$21,850

$60,580

$24,420

$90,000

$66,150

$23,850

$63,630

$26,370

$95,000

$69,150

$25,850

$66,680

$28,320

$100,000

$72,150

$27,850

$69,730

$30,270

$105,000

$75,150

$29,850

$72,780

$32,220

$110,000

$78,150

$31,850

$75,830

$34,170

$115,000

$81,150

$33,850

$78,880

$36,120

$120,000

$84,150

$35,850

$81,930

$38,070

How to stop MPs lying

Race Mathews, a former federal MP, state MP and minister writes about a subject close to my heart – honest governance.

The Howard regime is the most dis-honest I have ever seen. As a New Zealander I have been shocked at the level of corruption and dishonesty in Austrakian government. If the polies in NZ did what they do here, they would be  kicked out. Here, the people accept that governments and polies  lie to them, and they are OK with that, as long as their mortgage rate and the price of petrol don’t go up.

Here are some excerpts from Mathews article. You can view the full thing here.

It is unsurprising that 71 per cent of Australians believe that ministers told less than the full truth about their knowledge of the AWB scandal in testimony before the Cole inquiry. Loss of faith in the veracity and accountability of ministers and governments has been palpable for some time, as polling consistently attests.

Asked in a 1995 Morgan poll whether federal politicians usually tell the truth, 67 per cent of respondents disagreed, 24 per cent agreed and 9 per cent had no opinion. Seventy per cent of those polled agreed that politicians could not be trusted to keep election promises, 84 per cent that politicians lied at election time to win votes, and 94 per cent that politicians twisted the truth to suit their own arguments.

Public scepticism and cynicism have not been diminished by subsequent events. Think of the distinction drawn by the Howard Government between “core” and “non-core” election promises. Think of Peter Reith and the Dubai conspiracy. Think of “children overboard”. Think of SIEV-X. Think of weapons of mass destruction. Think most of all of AWB. The Cole inquiry has confirmed the community’s worst fears.

And:

What then are the remedies? The need to protect and strengthen the watchdogs on public probity, transparency and accountability and adopt new ones, is blindingly obvious. Let us, for a start, honour and facilitate in every possible way auditors-general, ombudsmen, electoral commissioners, anti-discrimination commissioners and other statutory custodians of public office integrity and the public interest. Let us praise and elevate in status and independence the public accounts committees of our parliaments and the wider parliamentary committee system.

Let us defend and extend freedom of information legislation and more effectively privilege and protect whistleblowers. Let us insist that ministers respect requirements, such as for replying promptly to questions on notice and compliance with the statutory dates for tabling official reports.

Let us devise disincentives for ministerial elevation of deniability and contrived ignorance to art forms, which the Cole inquiry has so comprehensively unmasked. Let us not least revisit and reinforce the code of ministerial conduct, which Prime Minister Howard embraced as leader of the opposition, but now so brazenly refuses to uphold.

Let us by way of innovation create at both the federal and state levels a new statutory office of parliamentary adjudicator-general, with a brief to receive and investigate complaints of public falsehood, including those under protection of parliamentary privilege, and report publicly to parliament. The credibility of adjudicators-general would result directly from a robust exercise of their independence, and the capacity to name and shame offenders.

And:

Let us, having adopted the remedies immediately available to us,
think again about what additional measures may be needed to ensure
that standards of accountability, transparency and veracity in
public life are restored and upheld.

Let us above all not settle for less from governments, ministers
and other elected representatives than that they be guided at all
times by the words used by Vaclav Havel in a New Year’s Day
broadcast after his election as president of Czechoslovakia in
1989. Havel reminded his listeners of the massive deceptions
perpetrated against them by the former Communist Party government
of Czechoslovakia. “I assume,” he said, “that you did not propose
me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you.”

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“Office of Special Plans” cooked intelligence to justify the Iraq war

Top US spy attacks Rumsfeld – theage.com.au:

PRESIDENT George Bush’s choice to head the CIA has attacked Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for selectively using intelligence before the Iraq invasion.

General Michael Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee that a special intelligence unit set up by Mr Rumsfeld had disregarded intelligence that suggested there was no real connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

General Hayden’s comment came during his confirmation hearing and was the first time a senior Bush Administration official had said that intelligence was selectively used to support the view that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and close links with al-Qaeda.

General Hayden, who was head of the National Security Agency at the time and No. 3 at the Pentagon behind Mr Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, startled committee members and observers with his implicit criticism of Mr Rumsfeld. Asked by senator Carl Levin, the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, whether he felt comfortable with the approach to intelligence by Mr Rumsfeld’s Office of Special Plans, General Hayden replied: “No sir, I wasn’t … No sir, I wasn’t comfortable.”

The Bush Administration has consistently denied suggestions that it “cooked” intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

And it denied claims that the Office of Special Plans, which was overseen by Mr Wolfowitz and run by the then undersecretary of defence Gordon Feith, was set up to find intelligence that supported the case that Iraq had WMD and close ties with al-Qaeda.

General Hayden virtually confirmed that Mr Feith, who left the Administration last July, had discounted intelligence reports that cast doubt on the claims that Iraq had al-Qaeda connections and had exaggerated the strength of intelligence that suggested such ties might exist.

There was no reaction from Mr Rumsfeld.