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Monday, December 09, 2002
Downer on his uppers?

On Meet the press, Channel Ten's Sunday political slot, Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister, had two important things to say, yesterday. Firstly, he said that the UNSCOM inspectors had been expelled from Iraq. Now, he must be well aware, like all the other Western spokesmen who promulgate this myth, that the inspectors were withdrawn. We all know that people who peddle untruths are either idiots or liars. It is unlikely that Downer would qualify for Mensa, as I have indicated in the past. However, that the UNSCOM inspectors were withdrawn is so well-documented that we cannot ascribe his 'mis-speaking' to intellectual inadequacy alone. His statement is part of the systematic lies we are being told about the Iraq situation.

One of the things that are supposed to distinguish 'open' democracies from dictatorships is the sure knowledge that our politicians do not lie to us, but if they lie about things that are matters of record, as Downer did yesterday, can we take seriously anything else they say?

During the interview, the lie went unchallenged. SC Ten is very naughty in having allowed Downer such an easy ride. It came pretty close to arse-licking. Jeremy Paxman, Australia has need of you and your aggressive style of interviewing. Remembering the 13 or 14 times you put the same question to Michael Howard, when he was the UK minister responsible for prisons, I would love to hear you say to any politician who tries to kid us that the inspectors were expelled:
When you tell us untruths about a situation, do you do it because you think that the lie is close to the truth and that we will swallow it? Are you further of the opinion that it is justifiable to lie to us? Given that you have been caught out in a serious porkie, how can we believe anything you tell us in future?
and eventually, after a great deal of hectoring,
I am giving you this opportunity to recant and say that you made a mistake; if you do not do this, the viewers must draw the obvious conclusions.
There was one more notable announcement during the programme. When he was asked about John Howard's reiterated position on pre-emptively attacking terrorists in other countries, he added a significant new qualification: Downer said that his Prime Minister obviously meant that Australia would only pursue terrorists in countries that sponsored terrorism as a matter of policy.

In my last posting, I reported that I would be telling John Howard to modify his rhetoric on this issue. I am pleased to see that he quickly took my advice - he had obviously briefed Alexander Downer accordingly. Neat, don't you think?

New technology

Australian TV carried a report from Singapore, this morning. There is a new technology exhibition showing things already available and things expected soon. Sticking to the currently available list, how about a mobile phone whose screen changes into a mirror at the touch of a button? Ladies, how could you live without one? Or how about a karaoke phone? It gives you the text of a song and plays the accompaniment (appallingly) so that you can sing along with it. All this is mere entertainment but it is when we look at practical solution that we find the most exciting things.

There is a small, dumpy robot with vestigial arms whose sole ability is to react to commands by remembering them and repeating them to other ‘intelligent' machines. The example given was instructing the washing machine. 'Switch on washing machine,' the human says. At this, the robot trundles across the floor (what, no stairs?) and says to the washing machine 'Switch on washing machine'.

At this, the washing machine starts. Bloody fantastic! But who puts the washing in in the first place? Luddism anybody?

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