A little tit for tat. And now a little something for all of those who like to poke fun at the double standards of the United States. Every year the US State Department publishes a very learned report on human rights around the world and China invariably comes in for a serve. The 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices came out this week and declared “the Chinese government’s human rights record remained poor, and controls were tightened in some areas, such as religious freedom in Tibetan areas and in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR); freedom of speech and the media, including the Internet; and the treatment of petitioners in Beijing.” On and on it went and no doubt most of the criticism was true but, as the Information Office of the State Council of China pointed out, the US State Department did not subject its own country to the same scrutiny. Hence it published yesterday a little booklet entitled “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2007“. The following extracts give the flavour:

The increase of violent crimes in the United States poses a serious threat to its people”s lives, liberty and personal security. According to a FBI report on crime statistics released in September 2007, 1.41 million violent crimes were reported nationwide in 2006, an increase of 1.9 percent over 2005. Of the violent crimes, the estimated number of murders and nonnegligent manslaughters increased 1.8 percent, and that of robberies increased 7.2 percent…

The United States has the largest number of privately-owned guns in the world. Frequent gun violence poses a serious threat to people’s life and property security. There are an estimated 250 million privately-owned firearms in the United States. … In the United States, about 30,000 people die from gun wounds every year.

The freedom and rights of individual citizens are being increasingly marginalized in the United States. The House of Representatives and the Senate of the U.S. Congress passed the Protect America Act of 2007 on August 3, and August 4, 2007, respectively. The act enables the U.S. administration to eavesdrop terrorist suspects in the United States without court approval. It also permits intelligence services to conduct electronic surveillance on digital communications between terrorist suspects outside the United States if the communications are routed through the country.

And on and on it goes. Read them both and judge for yourself what people in glass houses should do.

Bring out a booklet. I am sure they are feeling better over at ASIC because they have finally published a little booklet Protecting Wealth in the Family Home setting out the kind of rorts that mortgage brokers get up to when desperate Australians go searching for new finance when they find their house is about to be taken away. Rorts like the borrowers involved in detailed case studies by ASIC who lost an average of 27% of their existing equity at a minimum cost of $20,120 within 12 months of refinancing. The booklet will enable the watch dog to say “we tried” as the housing crisis gets worse and the repossessions more frequent.

Meanwhile, over in the United States, the Treasury Secretary has just announced plans to actually do something to control unscrupulous mortgage brokers rather than just talk about how terrible they can be. It is the failure of Treasurer Wayne Swan to act in a similar fashion to his US counterpart that Malcolm Turnbull should be turning his attention to rather than pretending that if he were Treasurer inflation would not be a problem.

The Daily Reality Check

A new record! For the first time since Crikey began its daily survey of the five most read stories on the 10 leading internet news sites (modesty prevents us from including our own) there was not one Australian political story among the 50. Not a one unless you think the Australian Federal Police feeling the heat over the Haneef inquiry qualifies. The media itself continues to treat all the words spoken in Canberra as important yet the readers themselves vote with their eye balls and look at other things. Interesting. Things like call girls and soldiers having a bit of slap and tickle on the side. Governors paying call girls and school principals molesting school girls along with truckies who “target Aboriginal girls for paid s-x”.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

Perhaps the lucky advertising agency chosen to launch the multi million dollar campaign against binge drinking should turn to the Northern Territory for inspiration as it searches for a way to illustrate the evils of too much drink. From up north this morning comes the terrifying news that drunks are more at risk of being chomped by a crocodile. And it is not, reports the NT News, because the reptiles love the taste of beer but rather because the victims “let their guard down”. So consider yourself warned as you set out after work this Friday arvo. Stay clear of the crocodile infested water. Phillip Coorey in the SMH has similar advice for Malcolm Turnbull with his potential attacker identified as Nick Minchin who prefers Julie Bishop to the pugnacious shadow Treasurer as a replacement for Brendan Nelson when the day of reckoning finally comes. Steve Lewis in the Murdoch tabloids issues his warning to the proper Treasurer, Wayne Swan, for not measuring up in the hurly burly of the House of Representatives; a bit surprising really because Denis Shanahan in The Australian actually gave the former school football hero praise this morning for performing well yesterday on just that stage. It’s difference of opinion that makes us political pundits such interesting reading.

Peter Fray

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