‘Tony Abbott running from the law’ | The Saturday Paper

Abbott is not a conservative here. Separation of powers, habeas corpus and court scrutiny of government are conservative doctrines. All prime ministers bridle at the restraints of the law. But Abbott has been willing to a remarkable degree to push the law aside to appease populist fears and populist contempt for human rights.

This plays beautifully to his base but across Australia it raises old trust issues with Tony Abbott. The evidence of the polls can’t be doubted: Australians trust courts far more than they trust politicians. Attacking courts, judges and the traditional ways of the law makes Australians uneasy.

via Tony Abbott running from the law | The Saturday Paper

Galbraith: Varoufakis and the recent negotiations

James Galbraith spent eight days in February traipsing around Europe with Yanis Varoufakis.[1]

“I stayed with the tech teams, from the 11th to the 17th, including the Brussels meeting,” says Galbraith. “I was in the boiler room with the Greek guys, the working stiffs.”

BELGIUM-EU-FINANCE-EUROGROUP

He’s shared the experience via an article in Fortune. The frequent lack of professionalism and coordination on the European side shocked him. Continue reading

‘The Global Economy Has Entered The Crack-Up Phase’ | Interview with David Stockman

Interesting interview with David Stockman about the many malformations brought about by decades of monetary and fiscal mismanagement. Since the crisis official intervention has been relentless and extreme. In Stockman’s view, the room for manoeuvre is narrowing rapidly.

The fundamental error throughout has been official unwillingness to allow creditors to suffer. It’s led them, and therefore us, into a terrible cul-de-sac. Continue reading

“Inside Isis: The first Western journalist ever given access to the Islamic State”

Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, is a renowned German journalist and publicist who travelled through Turkey to Mosul, the largest city occupied by Isis, after months of negotiations with the group’s leaders.

He plans to publish a summary of his “10 days in the Islamic State” on Monday, but in interviews with German-language media outlets has revealed his first impressions of what life is like under Isis.

For those of us viewing these developments from a great distance, it’s a confusing time.

On the one hand, the battle over Kobane seems stalemated. It’s being progressively destroyed but neither the Kurds nor the IS have yet been able to gain a clear upper hand. Given this was a target of choice for the IS, just now that looks a little like a defeat.

On the other, they seem to be consolidating their hold on vast tracts of Iraq and Syria. And, if Todenhöfer is to be believed, viewed by many as saviours or liberators.

Once within Isis territory, Todenhöfer said his strongest impression was “that Isis is much stronger than we think here”. He said it now has “dimensions larger than the UK”, and is supported by “an almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any other warzone”.

“Each day, hundreds of willing fighters arrive from all over the world,” he told tz. “For me it is incomprehensible.”

Ultimately, its “success” will probably rest more on its administrative capabilities than its military prowess. If it can consolidate military gains and turn conquered territory into a comparatively safe, supportive hinterland, almost anything becomes possible. If it can’t, in time the whole thing will probably unravel.

via Inside Isis: The first Western journalist ever given access to the ‘Islamic State’ Jurgen Todenhofer has just returned – and this is what he discovered –  The Independent

Update: CNN interview with Todenhöfer.

(h/t FB Ali)

‘The Collapse of Order in the Middle East’ | Ambassador Chas Freeman

The friend (FB Ali) who pointed me to this recent talk by Chas Freeman described it as “the best analysis I have read of the problems of the ME, US policy, and what the future likely holds. It is superb.”

Amen. The hardest part was choosing which of my twelve lengthy highlights was most likely to persuade you to read the whole thing.

The need for restraint extends to refraining from expansive rhetoric about our values or attempting to compel others to conform to them. In practice, we have insisted on democratization only in countries we have invaded or that were otherwise falling apart, as Egypt was during the first of the two “non coups” it suffered. When elections have yielded governments whose policies we oppose, we have not hesitated to conspire with their opponents to overthrow them. But the results of our efforts to coerce political change in the Middle East are not just failure but catastrophic failure. Our policies have nowhere produced democracy. They have instead contrived the destabilization of societies, the kindling of religious warfare, and the installation of dictatorships contemptuous of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

Americans used to believe that we could best lead by example. We and those in the Middle East seeking nonviolent change would all be better off if America returned to that tradition and foreswore ideologically motivated intervention.  Despite our unparalleled ability to use force against foreigners, the best way to inspire them to emulate us remains showing them that we have our act together. At the moment, we do not.

Every other attempted analysis of these matters has seemed to me to suffer from various failings, whether of perception or in the proposed solution. Continue reading

ISIS: A Cognitive, Systemic Failure | Alastair Crooke

The essence of the successes enjoyed by the Islamic State to date centres not on any wide-spread embrace of their radical vision, but rather the fact that their movement gives voice to a dream that has long been dampened by the forces of the West and their autocratic regional allies. The Obama administration has stated that the recent strikes against Syria are but the beginning of a more comprehensive campaign to defeat the Islamic State. But bombs and missiles, while adept at blowing up concrete and creating martyrs, have never been successful when it comes to eradicating ideas…

Void of any competing ideology, it is hard to see how this new war on the Islamic State will ever succeed in supplanting the visionary dream of a Sunni Arab Caliphate that resides in the hearts and minds of so many Sunni Arabs living in Syria and Iraq today. On the contrary, it is likely that this campaign will succeed only in fanning the flames of the radical Sunni fringe, empowering them in a way nothing else could.”

That’s Scott Ritter, quoted by Alisdair Crooke in this sobering piece.

Crooke believes the west’s perceptions of the Middle East have been skewed for generations.

No, it [this latess crisis] is not an “intelligence failure.” It is far worse. It is a cognitive and intellectual failure of the system itself. In fact, the signs of this impending “madness” have been out there — “hiding” in the open, as it were — for the last 25 years. You did not need “secret intelligence” to tell us where we were heading; you just needed cognitive openness: the ability to “read” the direction that events were taking.

The current dystopian nightmare is, as he sees it, the logical endpoint of a catastrophic series of events and decisions over the last century. Every Arab attempt to work out a modus vivendi with modernity has failed, Continue reading

Anthony Albanese: Labor has gone too far in supporting national security laws | The Guardian

At a time like this the security agencies will take the opportunity to impose things that have been in their bottom drawer for a long period of time. I believe our agencies, including Asio, do a great job for this nation … but it’s also the case in a democratic country like ours – we’re talking about fighting for freedom, it’s important to ensure freedom is protected and not given up.

That’s Anthony Albanese on Sky News’ Australian Agenda on Sunday morning. The Guardian’s report continued.

Albanese argued the impact of theNew law should be closely examined by everyone. “There are legitimate criticisms and they need to be responded to by the government.

He signalled the laws might need to be wound back. “I’m concerned about the rights of journalists. I’m someone who has consistently supported the rights of media to report.”

Asked whether his critique was supported by other senior figures, Albanese said: “I’m speaking for myself.”

Continue reading