Signs of the times

As a sign of how strange my life is sometimes, I present a list of the parcels on my desk when I got into the office on Monday:
a top from Lochers
a copy of the Newsletter of the * Research Society that had a paper I’d written in it
Susan Hill’s “The Dark is Rising” (a nostalgia kick hit me at the same time I was browsing Green Metropolis and I’m curious to see how I’d read it now I’ve been to places like Wales)
Shirley Hazzard’s “The Great Fire”.


…is where I am. I’m visiting my brother who moved to Berkshire a few weeks ago, and I’ve (tragically) snuck time online to do some work, and check out what’s on at the fair at Highclere Castle we were thinking of visiting tomorrow.
Their website promises ‘two days of world-class clay shooting and gundog action’, including the Lurcher Display Team and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club and some gundog scurries, whatever they are!
And if you don’t like dogs or clay pigeon shooting, there’s ferret racing, stick makers and ‘bodgers’. Of course we can’t resist all that and we’ll be there tomorrow, rain, drizzle, hail or mist.

What to call John Howard?

I can’t remember if I’ve posted about this before, but if you had to think of a phrase to describe John Howard in his role as Prime Minister of Australia, a la miserable failure, what would they be?
Suggestions so far have included Recalcitrant Weasel, Duplicitous Bigot, Mendacious Throwback, Reactionary, Machiavellian Despicable Derelict Misanthrope and finally Myopic Fear-monger.

More on Amnesty International report

This is the ABC’s take on Amnesty’s report:

This year Amnesty’s annual report into global human rights abuses focuses on the politics of fear, and argues fear thrives on “myopic and cowardly leadership”.
The Government is singled out for criticism for its portrayal of “asylum seekers in leaky boats” as a “refugee invasion”, which Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan says contributed to John Howard’s election win in 2001.

Amnesty spokeswoman Katie Wood says Australia also failed to act strongly on claims of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
“Australia should have been fairly sceptical of the assurances given by the United States, given the amount of information about torture and other ill treatment practised by the US in Guantanamo and elsewhere,” she said.
“It should have been enough to put them on notice to really insist upon an independent and proper investigation into all those allegations made not only by David Hicks but also Mamdouh Habib.”

The London-based group also says it is seriously concerned about the low rates of prosecution for violence against women and the “lack of support services for Indigenous women”.
“The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern about the high level of violence against women, and the low rates of prosecution and convictions in sexual assault cases,” the report said.
“The committee was also concerned about the continued violence and discrimination faced by women in Indigenous, refugee and migrant communities.

Amnesty hits Aust on refugees, women’s rights, ABC

John Howard ‘PM a short-sighted fear-monger’

I notice the headline and the focus of the story have changed since I first saw the article. I guess the SMH fears Howard more than they fear Amnesty.
Anyway, the headline is now ‘Amnesty claims a shoddy caricature, PM says’.
And the lead in:

“Prime Minister John Howard has robustly defended his government against claims by Amnesty International that it is as divisive as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
The human rights pressure group has accused Mr Howard of portraying asylum-seekers as a threat to national security.
In a report released overnight, it also criticised Australia’s role in the war on terror and its treatment of female victims of violence.
Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan said the fear generated by leaders such as Mr Howard “thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership”.
Ms Khan lumped Mr Howard in with Mr Mugabe, US President George W Bush and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in a paragraph about leaders who used fear to suit their political agenda.”

I like what Howard’s done here:

“In statement today, Mr Howard rejected the way Australia was characterised in the Amnesty report.”

They weren’t characterising Australia, you blockhead, they were characterising you.
But Amnesty weren’t taking it:

Ms Khan stood by her comments today, accusing the Howard government of having an “appalling” domestic human rights record regarding its treatment of asylum seekers and indigenous people.
These failures had undermined its good work overseas

Howard said:

“I believe many Australians will be as offended by this report as I am”

Not if they’ve got any sense, they won’t. Living in Europe gives me far too clear-sighted a vision of the damage Howard has done to Australia’s reputation overseas.
Final word to Amnesty:

Ms Khan also urged Australian voters to think about giving others a “fair go” at this year’s election.