“The
worst criminal outbreak in Australia in recent years, and the worst
calculated racial violence, was organised inside the electorate of the
Premier of NSW, Morris Iemma, the Alice in Wonderland of crime,”
pontificates Paul Sheehan in The SMH.
But although the Cronulla riots were cooked up in “a very dangerous
place,” and most of the worst offenders in the racial violence at
Cronulla have been arrested, “the public are still waiting for any
perpetrators of the violent reprisal raids to appear in court.” The
reason, argues Sheehan, is because of political debts incurred by the
NSW Labor Right.

The
past week may have been a good one for critics of the US-Australia
alliance – as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled her
visit to Australia for security and climate change talk – so “it’s the
right time, then, to inquire after the alliance’s strategic value,”
writes Michael Fullilove in The Age.
“Critics say the Americans take us for granted, and some of them do.
But most administrations understand the strategic value the US derives
from the alliance,” he says. “Sometimes it is awkward for a middle
power to be allied to a great power, notably when the great power is
acting rashly. For this reason the pursuit of a more moderate
international course by Washington in the past year or so is good news
for Australia. It should allow us to see the alliance relationship more
clearly: if not equal, then certainly invaluable.”

President Bush is getting what he wants in his appointment of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, says David Broder in The Washington Post
– “the perfect company man who is likely to deliver exactly the kind of
conservative rulings Bush prefers.” Alito is a “highly intelligent
legal craftsman thoroughly schooled in Supreme Court precedents” who
will “construe the Constitution and statutes narrowly, and sometimes
literally, and waste no sympathy on people who come to court hoping for
a more expansive or generous interpretation of their rights.”

While
anyone who tried to provide alternative information used to be
relentlessly hounded, “tales of corruption, incompetence and crime in
high places have been ubiquitous” since the collapse of the Soviet
Union, says Alexei Bayer in The Moscow Times.
He cites two recent examples: 1) Alexander Ivanov, the son of the
Soviet defence minister, struck and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk,
followed by irregularities in the police investigation designed to get
him off the hook. 2) The Kremlin-orchestrated attack on Mikhail
Khodorkovsky and Yukos was recently laid bare in the business press.
But although “post-Soviet Russia is a democracy,” it is a democracy
that recalls the scene in Charles Dickens’ novel Nicholas Nickleby
– the one where “a deputation of disgruntled constituents visits their
member of parliament, Gregsbury, and demands his resignation. Gregsbury
coolly sends them packing, not even deigning to respond to their
accusations.”

“Are we living through the origins of the next world war?” asks Niall Ferguson in the London Sunday Telegraph.
Certainly, he says, nearly all the “combustible ingredients for a
conflict” are in place in the Middle East. There’s the increase in the
region’s relative importance as a source of petroleum as the rest of
the world’s oil reserves are being rapidly exhausted while “the
breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in
global demand for energy.” And there are the demographics – while
European fertility has fallen below the natural replacement rate in the
1970s, the decline in the Islamic world had been much slower.

There is a “struggle going on for the soul of Thai democracy” that has implications for Thailand’s Asian neighbours, says Philip Bowring in the Khaleej Times.
On the one hand, there’s the “populist, authoritarian model of
democracy well known in Southeast Asia” where personal power counts for
more than institutions and where political and economic power are
closely intertwined. “On the other, there is a democracy rooted in
liberal ideas, focused on rights and institutional checks and balances
against corruption and abuse of power.” In the case of Thailand, writes
Bowring, there’s a five-year struggle between the monarchy –
“un-elected but revered” and the Thaksin government.

“You can find anything you want on China’s Internet: sex, fashion, business, travel, entertainment, romance,” says Jonathan Mirsky in the International Herald Tribune
– “anything, that is, except democracy, Tiananmen, Taiwan, human
rights, Tibet and hundreds of other subjects.” And Chinese government
surveillance and blocking extends over tens of thousands of sites, and
“some of the world’s most famous Internet companies have lined up to
show China how to cripple the Web,” including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo,
Cisco, Sun Microsystems and Skype.

Worth reading Highly recommended