Why bother to be a member? Why anyone would bother to be a rank-and-file member of the Australian Labor Party is beyond me.

The pre-selection of the brother of a famous person to contest the Broadmeadows vacancy left by John Brumby’s resignation is just the latest example of how Labor is now run by a small clique for its own advantage. Ordinary branch members no longer have any role but to obediently hand out how-to-vote cards on election days.

The Federal Executive reigns supreme. Naturally the Prime Minister Julia Gillard supports the latest confirmation that the ALP is no longer a democratic organisation. She, after all, is a beneficiary of rule by the elite.

This morning Ms Gillard backed the selection of Frank McGuire, a Frank-come-lately to party membership who was not the choice of Broadmeadows party members, as Labor’s candidate for the by-election. The PM told ABC radio good candidates can come from all walks of life.

“Some of those walks of life have already brought them to public attention, some of those walks of life are a quieter walks of life, and nobody knows their names until they step forward for politics.

“But I think Mr McGuire will be a good candidate.”

An intriguing cloak and gun story. A real life spy story is being played out in Pakistan following the arrest of an American over the shooting death of two Pakistani youths.

The US Embassy in Islamabad is claiming that the man has diplomatic immunity and that he acted in self-defense when he shot two armed men who tried to rob him last Thursday. According to National Public Radio the embassy has said he has diplomatic immunity and has accused Pakistan of illegally detaining him.

The Pakistani government has refused to release him and says the courts should decide his fate. They say the American will not be handed over to the U.S. Embassy until Pakistani authorities first complete their investigation.

Many questions have been left unanswered, including exactly what the American did at the U.S. Embassy and why he was carrying a gun. The lack of clarity has fueled media speculation he may have been a CIA agent or security contractor, as well as questions over whether he qualified for diplomatic immunity.

Complicating the issue for the Pakistani Government is a massive protest by hard-line Islamic leaders who have warned against caving to U.S. pressure and releasing the American official. The party chiefs of Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema Islam spoke alongside other hard-liners Sunday at a rally of at least 15,000 people in the eastern city of Lahore, where the shootings took place. Many protesters called for the American official to be hanged.

“We warn the government and administration that … if they help the arrested American illegally, then this crowd will surround the U.S. Embassy and presidential palace in Islamabad,” Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a senior official in the Jamiat Ulema Islam party, said during Sunday’s rally.

Now it’s the grandchildren! Last week we had a Tasmanian Labor Premier step down from his post so he could spend more time with his young children. Today it is the turn of an older Labor politician to announce his retirement from the NSW Legislative Council so he can spend more time with his grand children.

Tony Catanzariti, 61, a Griffith citrus farmer elected to parliament in 2003, said he had been weighing up the decision to run again during the past 12 months, and decided he couldn’t commit to another eight years in the Legislative Council.

“I’ve got farming interests here in Griffith, and I’ve got young grandchildren growing up — I want to spend a bit of time with them.”

Mr Catanzariti bristled at the suggestion that he was just the latest Labor MP of 22 to flee a sinking ship, with the government heading for an electoral drubbing in March.

“People come and go out of politics,” he said. “You really have to look at the whole thing and say, right, what is good for me, what’s good for the community?”

And, of course, the grandchildren.

Not infallible this time. I am not sure of the symbolism when the doves of peace released by Pope Benedict XVI during the weekly Angelus prayer on Sunday refused to leave the Vatican and flew straight back in through the open window. At least the actions of His Holiness remind us that if at first you don’t succeed, try again.