The Banality of Evil

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The Banality of Evil

By John Haly 

When we contemplate great evil, who comes to mind? Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Idi Amin, Kim Il Sung, Josef Mengele, Saddam Hussein, Emperor Nero and so on? Too easy. The reasons are apparent, the history unrefuted and the weight of affirming opinions near universal.

We all like to think of evil as insidious, intentional, cruel, focused and malodorous even. Isn’t “evil” patently recognisable by its social maladjustment? That is the comfortable illusion of how “good folk” describe evil to distinguish ourselves from it. So it may be surprising to hear that according to psychologists nobody thinks of themselves as evil. We self-justify actions and beliefs. Folks may hold their irrationality within their mindset, as they persist with the delusion of being the good guys.

Hitler, for example, grew up in a time where he experienced the open expression of anti-Semitism. He didn’t create anti-semitism, it was his honest belief, that the Jews were responsible for the economic hard times of other Germans in the post-war years. Seems almost banal, doesn’t it?

Chase Replogle writes “Arendt coined the phrase, the ‘banality of evil.’ You can define banal as, ‘so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.’ What Arendt observed was that evil feeds not just on extremism, but just as frequently on our banality. Sin works its way deepest into the most boring and apathetic lives.”

We often don’t recognise evil amidst banality as it is human nature to separate “evil” from our apathy, ignorance, “benign neglect”, “thoughtless bureaucracy”, or our an innate desire to please our perceived “superiors”. Aren’t we all just inclined to follow orders? Resistance is hard, besides “who has the time to protest”? Perhaps you vote for the good guys (however or whomever you decide are the “good guys“), and in that single choice, you make once every three years, some may consider their duty complete. “That’s a democracy“, you cry. As though to comfort ourselves we say, “I’ve done the right thing; I’m not evil or fascist!

The evils of indecision

Last century’s Version of Fascism

But then who is fascist? Is it what it was or what it will be? How often do we accuse the comparative justification of calling the alt-right “fascist” as being too radical? “Nobody is exterminating minorities in gas chambers” one may say defensively. But recall that Hitler took seven years to bring Germany to war. When was it a step too far?

  1. When he was promoted to Chancellor on a minority vote in a democracy?
  2. When he consolidated the Nazi Party’s control of Germany and secretly rebuilt its army from 1933 to 1935?
  3. When he only talked for years about the possibility of expelling Jews and removing their civil rights?
  4. When he was objectifying women as subservient for reproductive purposes with no place in key influence roles?
  5. When he disengaged from the Treaty of Versailles in 1936 and war-tested his military in the Spanish Civil War?
  6. When he shifted non-german foreigners and Jews into gulags or race specific ghettos?

A thousand banal little steps were undertaken in the decade after the Nazi Party grew from 12 seats in the Reichstag to 107 seats in 1930. By the 1940s his troops were frog-marching across Europe and throwing people into gas chambers. When would you have stopped him or protested or objected in that decade? Neither current parties of the Australian nor American government have been in power as long as Hitler before the war (Jan 1933 to Sep 1939).

When I raised a draft version of the above paragraphs in social media, I was warned, “I think comparison with the holocaust needs to used carefully. The Germans did not just “go along” with the Nazi’s they fought against them until a police state was imposed upon them – while most of the political class stood by till it was too late.” This statement, although, was not entirely valid, as the elite of German society did embrace Hitler enthusiastically. While it is true that some “good” people resisted fascism, as they do today, many others, including Jews didn’t realise the consequences. Irrespective of resistance or because of obliviousness the Nazis still marched across Europe, so perhaps it is a moot point. Contemporaneously the problem is, as always, identifying how fascism has evolved. This awareness is painful for many, as they only want to recognise it in the form it took 80 years ago.

This Century’s version?

Despite refutations of such positions, Perhaps because that was before your lifetime and people are so more “woke” now, it is all very different. So let’s explore into what it may have evolved. Have your responses evolved?

  1. Did you react when Donald Trump seized power via the electoral college on the votes of a minority?
  2. Did you respond when Trump began to refocus on the military?
  3. How about when he spoke of expelling Mexicans and Muslims?
  4. Did his objectifying of women whom he grabbed by the pussy upset you?
  5. Did launching air strikes in Syria or breaking established treaties caused you concern? Paris climate accord, Iran Deal, TPP, or NAFTA?
  6. Did locking children in Gulags and separating many permanently from their parents, upset you?
Australian wannabe

OK, so perhaps America has dysfunctional parallels, but we in Australia are markedly different some may claim.

Our politicians are more subtle and more sophisticatedly communicators than Trump. Still, what were your responses in these circumstances?

  1. When 41.8% of all voters voted for the coalition in 2016, did you defend and justify the preferences system for its selection of what the majority wanted?
  2. When Abbott started spending billions on faulty American aircraft, late running Submarines and involved us in America’s pointless Syrian war, did our propensity for violence concern you?
  3. When the social dialogue about banning Muslims entered the political fear mongering, did you speak in defence of the vast majority of adherents to a peaceful religious code?
  4. When misogyny became a familiar and recognisable feature of legislation and leadership, did you say this went too far and defended women?
  5. When Indigenous treaties were scrapped, and political impetus arose that sought to have us withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement were we at all surprised?  Did Morrison’s undermining of Refugee Convention obligations, all while adding to our refugee push-factor in bombing raids in Syria, cause alarm?
  6.  When we against any decent moral code not only locked innocent adults and children in gulags for the “crime” of being foreign and desperate and then began actively resisting efforts to provide medical assistance to children, did any sparrows die?
Policies for the people?

On such subjects, the coalition argues that we need secure border protection for an Island like Australia with minimal 150 km of sea between us at the tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea to fight off refugees. Even though the majority of refugees fly in and by-pass our secretive “on water matters” border protection. There are many absurdly opposing arguments, such as desperately trying to entwine refugee policy with the war on terror. Money, alternatively, is unavailable for the likes of education, health, social and legal justice, wage equality, mediocre wage growth and affordable housing, utilities food or justice. This absurdity of fearmongering about refugee crime suggests we need be strong and prepared for an invasion of terrorism in our population but simultaneously drives policy to make our community uneducated, poor, unhealthy, un-housed, oppressed and socially divided.

So just because we can see the correlation between what we thought was the progress towards evil and contemporary examples of the same, does it mean we should rethink real “evil”? I mean we all accept that these things happen in society. Unfortunate, perhaps but “evil”. Let’s try to compromise surely. “We are doing this for your security and to save you from the threat of terrorism,” says our politicians. “You will hardly notice it”, they say. Moreover, that last part is right. Like the gradually heated frog in the pot you don’t mainly notice it, and by the time the pot boils, it is way too late.

Equality in Australia: How we treat anyone without wealth.

What we don’t discuss over dinner

“Isn’t that politics”? “I’m not political”. “I disengage from that stuff”. What was it Martin Luthor King said? “All that needs to happen for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing.” Do we by our silence, allow all of that to happen? Perhaps we are too busy to notice the correlations, too compromised by our selfish preoccupations, perhaps we don’t care. However, surely that isn’t bad. Surely that isn’t “evil”.

Amidst the same social media post commentary I previously referenced one gentleman wrote “most people aren’t evil just caught up in their own lives… “and in this contemporary society this is, unfortunately, both accurate and a misconception.

The unheeded dark side

Distractive Accuracy

“Accurate” because of our history of

Productivity and wages unlinked

Being “caught up in our own lives” is true because of more extended hours with reduced skill sets for less pay and bigger bills. These are the results of deliberate bi-partisan political policy choices. We should never forget that policies designed to redistribute wealth upwards, increase inequality, engage in a civil war on society using the tools of racism and attacks on a range of marginalised groups, have a deliberate purpose.

It’s not like there isn’t plenty of issues to raise, provided we can raise ourselves

Misperceived evils

A “misperception” because as an act of self-protection of ego, we protest that we are not evil, just a little compromised, more compliant, obedient or scared of being socially ostracised, perhaps?” As I said before, evil is integral to life’s banality; it is everyday ordinary barely conscious choices we make. It exists in the tiny, tired, “I don’t have the time“, “it’s not that bad“, “there are worse situations” excuses we tell ourselves to support the choices we make. Evil is not in the individual decision but the cumulative. It takes thousands of bad collective small choices made over years, that lead to the exclamation of “how the f#ck did we get here?” as we watch border patrol march down our streets, while our “authorities” detain and abuse our children and bash our disabled neighbours.

Worry not, you’re safe!

But fret not, if you never raised a voice in protest, then they are unlikely to arrest or hamper you because you played it safe with your daily banality. You remained silenced by indecision and compromise; you respected authority and the status quo; you defended the need for thoughtless bureaucracy and realised it was too much work to improve your knowledge of history and politics. Besides, our administration is acutely aware from their study of your metadata, your phone messages, your Facebook posts, and even your TV set-top box that you’re still compliant, malleable, cooperative, collaborators but never, really, truly, magnanimously, unambiguously … “evil”?

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your torches.

Fair Share Economics Versus the Galloping Opportunism of the Mid-Year Economic and Financial Outlook (MYEFO)

By Denis Bright 

Paul Keating assisted with the launch of Fair Share: Competing Claims and Australia’s Economic Future by Professor Stephen Bell from UQ’s School of Political Science and International Studies and Dr Michael Keating AC, former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (1991-96). The authors are long-standing advocates of more inclusive economic growth for Australia as a middle ranking economy in a globalised era.

Published by Melbourne University Press on 26 February 2018, Fair Share is a gold standard reference for all public and personal libraries that seek critical and clear milestones on just where Australia is headed. Particularly outstanding is the broad-brush reconstruction of old hopes for Australia as a fair society rather than just another developed economy within the straight-jacket of a worn out market-ideology.

Like Charles Conder’s Holiday At Mentone (1888), insights improve with the passing of time. Old rigidities are challenged as they are no longer relevant to the demands of changing times and more vibrant environmental settings which no longer demand formal dress for strolls on Melbourne’s beaches.

The authors of Fair Share come to terms with the big picture of these possibilities as shown in this broad-brush extract from Chapter 3 on Globalisation, Economic Growth and Restructuring:

For most of the last thirty years, Australian economic growth has reflected the domestic consumption model, typical of the economies of English-speaking countries. Nevertheless, an important difference is that Australian consumption has been financed mainly by wage growth and not debt. Overall, however, the major shift in Australian economic strategy has seen a change from the postwar wage-leg growth model, dominated by manufacturing growth and greater equality, to a new system that has improved Australian competitiveness and encouraged productivity growth. This has been associated with greater market-based inequality and greater reliance by households on mortgage debt, which have both fuelled and responded to property price appreciation.

According to the latest data from the Australian Council of Social Service, this market utopia, as defined by conservative political elites, has become very stressful for lower income workers and marginal regional economies. The regional income and social divide also permeates the rural sectors across Australia. This fuels the One Nation vote in disadvantaged polling booths, particularly in Queensland without offering real policy momentum to an incoming government.

The perspectives of the broad-brush perspectives from Stephen Bell and Michael Keating of stresses in our market oriented society can be tested by the emergent trends in the Australian national accounts from the September Quarter of 2018, several months after the publication date of Fair Share.

Economic growth levels have faltered under pressure from global investment volatility to produce the worst quarterly result since the re-election of the federal LNP in 2013. Should these patterns be repeated before the release of the next quarterly data on 6 March 2019, pressures might mount within federal LNP ranks for an opportunistically early election. This would protect the favourable projections in MYEFO before modifications are required in preparations for a 2019-20 federal budget in April.

Thanks to Greg Jericho’s coverage in the The Guardian readers can make their own assessment of the effects of a cooling off in the national economy in new ABS data for the September Quarter of 2018.

Greg Jericho’s splendid analysis of the components of the reduced GNP growth in the September Quarter of 2018 also reveals the extent of the Morrison Government’s vulnerability in a slowing economy with an overall 0.25 per cent GDP growth rate.

Improved commodity prices of 3.7 per cent in the September Quarter 2018 were based on improved prices for gas and manufactured goods (+12.9 per cent) plus good results for coal and iron ore (+6.5 per cent).

Australian unemployment rates will be negatively affected by the trailing off in capital expenditure over the last two quarters after three good quarters in 2017:

MYEFO offers an embedded offensive against government or public debt which is mentioned 189 times in the entire document. In real economic terms, debt concerns should cover government debt, current account deficits, corporate debt and of course household debt levels.

Austerity programmes against the public sector are trumpeted as success stories for market ideology.

There is no guarantee that the Australian Budget will return to a marginal surplus in 2019-20 as projected in the current MYEFO:

Out of the current volatility on global financial markets even Christine Lagarde, as Managing Director of the IMF, is uncertain about future trends but remains somewhat optimistic that negotiations between President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the recent G20 in Buenos Aires might lead to reform of trading and monetary policies which are causing tensions between China and the US as the contemporary global superpowers.

There have been no major statements on such issues from Christine Lagarde since 6 December 2018 who has an even-handed approach to the conflicting opinions between the global economic powers.

Amidst this global uncertainty, Australia’s MYEFO offers a rosy picture of the election year ahead:

Nominal GDP is forecast to grow by 4¾ per cent in 2018-19, stronger than forecast at Budget as a result of higher-than-assumed non-rural commodity prices.

A decline in the price of metallurgical coal is still assumed to occur, though later than assumed at Budget. This contributes to a forecast moderation in nominal GDP growth in 2019-20 to 3½ per cent.

The global economy has continued to grow at a solid rate since the start of the year. Global growth of 3¾ per cent is expected in 2019 and 2020, while growth in Australia’s major trading partners is forecast to be 4 per cent in each of the next two years.

Completely overlooked in Australia’s MYEFO are the alarming trends in household debt levels (news.com.au 31 October 2018). The near-hysterical concerns of the federal LNP about levels of Australia government debt is severely misplaced. Despite the best ideological efforts of the federal LNP, budget debt levels are still somewhat higher than in 2013.

In juxtaposition to the moderate levels of Australian government deficits, Australian household debt levels are outrageous and at the heart of the social divide in every community.

Australian Household debt burdens are huge compared with most other developed economies.

While Australia’s MYEFO totally overlooks the enormous problem of housing affordability, full credit must be given to Bill Shorten for taking up this issue at his address to Labor’s National Conference in Adelaide:

Bill Shorten used his opening address to Labor’s national conference to unveil new subsidies to promote more affordable housing at a cost of $6.6bn over a decade.

Shorten took the opportunity of his opening pitch to the delegates and onlookers gathered in Adelaide for the three-day event to commit to a target of 20,000 houses built in the first term of a Labor government.

The policy, unveiled on Sunday, offers 15-year subsidies of $8,500 a year to investors who build new houses, with the taxpayer support conditional on the dwellings being rented to eligible tenants at 20% below market rent.

The cost of the measure is $102m over the forward estimates to 2021-22, and $6.6 bn over the decade to 2028-29. The program would provide support for 250,000 new units and houses over its lifespan.

Shorten planned to tell conference delegates Labor’s mission between now and the next federal election is not only to secure government, but also “rebuild trust in our democracy” and “restore meaning to the fair go”.

“We must revitalise around the nation what we in this hall hold as an article of faith: the idea that government has the power to bring meaningful progress into people’s lives,” the Labor leader will tell delegates, according to a speech extract circulated ahead of Sunday’s address.

“A hidden struggle in this country is being fought by the hundreds of thousands of our fellow Australians who can’t afford to live anywhere near where they work. They’re spending over a third of their pay packet on rent – and plenty more on petrol each day they travel.

“Rental affordability is a national challenge and it demands national leadership. Building more affordable housing is infrastructure policy. It is cities policy. It is jobs and productivity policy. And it is population policy”.

Shorten says the policy will provide certainty for property investors to build new dwellings knowing that subsidies are available for a decade. The program builds on the existing national rental affordability scheme.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute estimates there is currently a shortfall of more than 525,000 affordable rental properties in Australia.

The Labor leader says access to housing stands as one of the biggest challenges in addressing intergenerational inequality. “There is a persistent and increasing wealth gap which is locking Australians out of the housing market”.

In the lead story of The Australian (17 December 2018), the cumulative projected budget surpluses in MYEFO for the next four years even prior to the release of the Outlook Report from the Australian Treasurer and Finance Minister on behalf of the Australian Treasury.

The ongoing plan to project economic competence with the assistance of questionable projections in MYEFO contrasts with the measured approach of Stephen Bell and Michael Keating in Fair Share. The unresolved questions is about which scenarios for Australia’s market economy will prevail in 2019 after weeks of scare campaigns through mainstream media outlets before the December Quarter National Accounts are released on 6 March 2019.

If 2 March 2019 prevails as the national election date as recommended by Malcolm Turnbull, the December Quarter Outlook will be edited out of the campaign equation for our future.

Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic policies compatible with contemporary globalisation.

 

Why is there still so much anger?

By Ad astra 

As we enter the Festive Season, we reflect on the year past and the one ahead. It’s a time when Christians celebrate Christmas and other special days, Jewish folk enjoy Hanukkah, Mexicans celebrate the Fiesta of our Lady of Guadalupe, and Swedes celebrate St Lucia Day. The New Year is ushered in as an opportunity for new hope. For Chinese this is their most important celebration.

Yet this cheerful time for so many is defiled by widespread, unremitting anger all around the world. Why is it so? Is there a remedy for this simmering malaise? What can we ordinary citizens do?

As I explored what title I might use for this piece, and toyed with Why is there so much anger I found that it had already been used on The Political Sword over three years ago, way back in June 2016. I was disappointed as I re-read that piece and realised that nothing much has changed since then – the genesis of the anger is the same, only the players have changed.

My conclusion then was: It is social injustice that is the root of all of this. Inequity, unfairness, disadvantage, the over-abundance of have-nots in our wealthy society, and the experience of marginalisation that induces anger, and in extreme cases radicalisation and violence.

You may care to glance through the piece and quickly read some of the excerpts. Be prepared to be dismayed though, because little has altered since then.

At this time of year, you won’t want to read a long report of the anger that still grips the world. Suffice it is to draw your attention to what has been going on in France these past weeks. You will have seen on TV the widespread disorder throughout that nation, particularly in Paris where there have been violent riots, over a hundred injured, thousands detained, treasured icons defaced, cars burned out, shop windows smashed, and property destroyed. Much of the destruction has been caused by gangs of ‘casseurs’, urban guerrillas determined to loot and pillage, some of whom wear gilets jaunes. Among the ‘yellow vest’ protesters were black-clad and masked youths who likely belong to ultra-right, ultra-left, or anarchist groups, all taking advantage of the chaos.

All this is the result of President Macron’s economic policies, which, in the view of the gilets jaunes, punish members of the lower and middle classes with taxes on pensions and a fuel tax rise, while rewarding the rich with tax breaks. As one of them said: “Today, the poor are losing their rights. It’s understandable that we’re angry.”

The protests have now spread to Belgium, inspired by falling wages, rising costs of living, rising costs of healthcare, privatisation of essential services, cultural disruption as a result of heavy migration, and growing unemployment.

So here we are again – inequity once more is the prime cause of the anger. Widespread social injustice leaves the poor feeling disadvantaged, disconnected, disenfranchised, and languishing in poverty and hopelessness. 

Since time immemorial the poor have been left behind, but those at the top seem not to notice. In his brilliant book: The Price of Inequality Nobel Laureate in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz, wrote: “The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.” The Paris riots are intended to highlight this – to send a clarion call to those who will listen that the inequality that the poor now suffer, the inequality that will worsen with Macron’s policies, can no longer be tolerated. Forced now to reverse the punitive ones, he hopes to restore order and revive the shattered French economy, but that may be problematic as freeloaders have now blighted the protests with their own extreme agendas. The future for France looks bleak.

What can be done? Is there a remedy?

If ever there was a time to foster hope, it is the Season ahead. Our politicians though will not, indeed cannot help. They are imprisoned by ideologies that shackle their thinking and restrict their actions. In the same way that they refuse to act on the other grave existential crisis we face – climate change – they will not act on inequality and social injustice. It is simply too hard, too inconvenient, too demanding. Progressive politicians might – conservatives can’t and won’t.

Can we, the ordinary folk that get the chance to vote only now and again, do anything at all? Yes, we have a voice.

Never before have there been such opportunities for us to express our views, our desires, our hopes for our nation. Social media abound with opportunities for us to say what we think, how we feel, and what we need. Everyone can use them. They are especially suited to those who cannot join street protests. This site is among a few select political blog sites that expresses views, encourages debate, and suggests remedies. Use it to say what you think and feel, what you want for yourself, your family, your community, and your nation. If we sit mute, no one will hear, no one can hear. If we speak up loudly and often enough, the politicians cannot avoid us.

So with our Season’s Greetings, we seek to hold your hand. Will you join those of us who publish The Political Sword to make it vibrant and influential? Will you add your comments as each piece emerges? If you do, we can change the course of our nation, we can prevail on our politicians to act, we can calm the anger and foster a warm, compassionate and caring society.

There is a remedy – it is all of us.

This was The Political Sword’s last offering for 2018. TPS will resume publication early in February 2019.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Who does Scott Morrison serve?

By 1PeterMCC 

Interfering in religious unrest (by recognising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) and to the disadvantage of Australia’s trade agreements with Indonesia, only makes sense when you remember who Scott serves. He openly identifies with Prosperity theology which sits firmly within the Born Again (BA) off-shoot of Christianity, mixing fast-talking sales people with a healthy dose of “greed is good” and demotes Jesus and his “love thy neighbour” message back into the pack of lesser Prophets.

Just under half of BAs actively desire the destruction of Earth as part of the long awaited 2nd Coming and it’s starting to look like Morrison follows the brand of Christianity that wants to bring on Armageddon. They are expecting the Middle East to kick off the Rapture when it all blows up in a nuclear fireball.

I can understand Scott feeling like it’s “the end of days” in his Party room with battle-fatigue setting in, because Tony lost the top job in 2015 and the unrest had started long before that point. Since then it’s been open hostility, another ex-PM, and polling telling him it’s game over. No wonder we are seeing these ill-considered knee jerk decisions. The poor bloke is exhausted.

But there is no need for him to bother his invisible friend and sow discord in the Middle East. He can achieve the same thing of destroying livability on the planet by following his 2nd love. Coal.

Consider coal’s advantages. It’s handy, there’s plenty of it, soft to the touch when you wash and vanish it before openly fondling it in Parliament, has an impressive record of damage to humans second only to God, and it can be seen by the human eye which overcomes God’s visibility problem.

Humans are quite capable of destroying the environment without having to call on his favourite lesser God to start killing off humans again. The solution is right there in his hands.

No need to worry about Indonesia, too. It’s made up of 17 and a half thousand islands so a few more tax payer funded coal powered generators should solve his “being a good neighbour” irritant.

So no need to be stirring God from his more important work of repairing the eyesight of Sam’s Mum. Scott can have a classic win win by taking responsibility on himself.

Sources

Government to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Prosperity theology

Not all evangelicals are seeking Armageddon

Tony Abbott

Scott Morrison

List of islands of Indonesia

Thank you God by Tim Minchin (NSFW)

This article was originally published on 1petermcc.wordpress.com.

Creating conflict

By Stephen Fitzgerald 

What started out as a pathetic little grab for votes in the Wentworth by-election, by the LNP, has now been escalated to include threatening every Australian citizen and Australian trade.

Wentworth voters see embassy relocation as a targeted pitch to Jewish voters“:

The response to the proposal relocation of the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem met with outrage across the Muslim world. That includes protests from our closes and dearest neighbour, Indonesia.

Protest call to occupy Australian embassy in Jakarta“:

Several hundred Indonesian protesters have demanded Canberra drop any plans to move its Israel diplomatic mission to Jerusalem, calling on other Islamic groups to occupy the embassy, raising security concerns over an issue that already threatens to derail one of Australia’s most important relationships. And derail it has.

Australia warns citizens on travelling in Indonesia ahead of expected Jerusalem move“:

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia on Friday (Dec 14) warned citizens to take care while travelling in neighbouring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move by Canberra to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In addition, our trade with Indonesia has been directly threatened by Scott Morrison stupidity.

Jerusalem embassy proposal delays Australia-Indonesia trade agreement“:

The Australia-Indonesia free trade deal has been put on hold with the Indonesian Trade Minister confirming there will be no agreement while Australia considers moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Australia to recognise Jerusalem as Israeli capital, delay embassy move a report“:

It was not clear if the government intended to recognise the entirety of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, or just West Jerusalem, which Israel has held throughout its existence, as opposed to the eastern sectors of the city that it captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

The announcement was welcomed by Israel, but heavily criticised by Palestinians and a number of Muslim-majority countries in Asia, including neighbouring Indonesia, with which Australia is trying to clinch a landmark free-trade deal.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority delegation to Australia slammed the reported upcoming announcement, with envoy Izzat Abdulhadi saying his people should not have to pay the price for some kind of face-saving move. A face saving move by our esteemed prime minister has threatened Australian trade and exposed every Australian citizen to extremist Muslim reprisal.

Why would any thinking clear minded government do that? It certainly plays into the hands of the right-wing. If you don’t have sufficient national threat create some! A national threat, a terrorist threat, a Muslim threat plays into the hands of right-wing governments who wish to act as our guardian saviours. They do this to divert attention away from governing for themselves, corporates and the financial elite?

So, Morrison thinks; “Tick, tick? Geez I’m clever. Let’s save face and, as a bonus, kill two birds with one stone”:

(1) Instil a bit of fear in to the community so we can save them, and (2) Give the burgeoning Australian arms industry, a bit of a kick start, by creating some more global conflict.

Australia’s bold plan to become one of world’s top 10 arms exporters“:

Australia’s expansion plans come amid increased global demand for military hardware, prompting criticism from aid agencies who argue Australia could make human rights violations worse if weapons were sold to the wrong buyers.

Australia will create a A$3.8 billion fund to lend to exporters that banks are reluctant to finance, a central defence export office and expand the roles of defence attaches in Australian embassies around the world. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that with A$200 billion budgeted to increase Australian defence capabilities in the next decade, Australia should rank higher than 20th among arms-exporting countries.

The planned Australian military build-up was the largest in its peacetime history, he said. Given the size of our defence budget, we should be a lot higher up the scale than that. So, the goal is to get into the top 10, Turnbull said. And, Scott Morrison is with him.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has been accused of being an arms dealer amid secrecy over Australia’s military exports to Saudi Arabia“:

But they insist whatever equipment has been exported is not being used in the Yemen conflict and a Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign.

So, once again the LNP create terrorist fear in the community and escalate global conflict to improve Australia’s chances of being in the top 10 arms manufacturers and exporters. Moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has precisely this effect.

Just like big brother America, recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and just like America become a war economy. In other words, along with pandering to the financial elite and corporates, go after the big ‘arms dealer’ bucks to throw at cohort main stream media to lie, cheat, deceive, bribe and buy your way into government?

Are the LNP completely insane? This right-wing Liberal National Party government, under the leadership of Scott Morrison, are showing signs of being homicidal maniacs. What won’t they do to try to stay in power?

Let’s dance

Rather than joining those who examine the entrails of what happened in the past 12 months and makes a narrative around the good, the bad and the ugly, how about we raise the tone a tad and look at attitudes and consensus.

Wasn’t the last week of Parliament fun? Effectively the coalition government wanted to pass some laws around data encryption,

Attorney-General Christian Porter has said a high number of people involved in terrorist plots and serious organised crime use encrypted messaging apps.

which might sound pretty harmless on the surface, but the laws are ‘world first’ — that doesn’t necessarily mean the legislation is well drafted.

Francis Galbally, chairman of the encryption provider Senetas, told a Senate committee last week that changing just one part of a telecommunication network could have unforeseen ‘systemic’ effects — exacerbated by the bill’s demand for absolute secrecy.

As an example of these ‘systemic’ effects, Galbally notes, “The bill, should it become law, will profoundly undermine the reputations of Australian software developers and hardware manufacturers in international markets“.

At the same time ‘a multi-party push to legislate faster medical treatment for refugees on Manus Island and Nauru’ was being planned in the Senate by amending a related piece of legislation.

By the end of the day, the government got its encryption laws and the Senate didn’t get to release people from Nauru on medical advice (without the Government following its apparent process and taking the case to the Federal Court). You can read all the gory detail here. Basically, the coalition puts their particular version of ‘national security’ above people’s lives, and the ALP has not stood up for its claimed principles.

It is well known that the Coalition Government has a problem with climate change and energy. Together with a lot of other bloggers and commentators, we have spent hours and wasted millions of electrons (not to mention the oil tankers of printer’s ink) arguing that the coalition’s lack of action (but plenty of thoughts and prayers) on climate change is a moral failing. It won’t affect most of us that much, but our kids and grandkids will have some real problems.

Just recently the media has reported on the ice sheet in Greenland melting at a rate far greater than environmental variability can explain and the population of the Northern Bettong, an animal that is essential for the health of rainforest in Far North Queensland, has declined by 70% in the past 30 years. Apart from the link between energy production and climate change, on a purely rational level, burning a finite resource to derive energy and stubbornly refusing to consider alternatives is pitiful public policy.

It’s not only Abbott, Kelly, Canavan and Morrison on the LNP side that are at fault here. The ALP under Rudd told us that climate change mitigation was ‘the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time’, produced legislation which didn’t go far enough for the Greens (who the ALP needed on side to get the legislation through the Senate) so the Greens voted the whole thing down. Subsequently the ALP seemed to forget about the ‘moral imperative of Australia doing its part to confront a global and long-term problem’ until Gillard introduced the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (falsely called a ‘carbon tax’ by the LNP for political point scoring). And recent events indicate that the Greens have still to learn the art of political compromise.

That that could be the big issue here — compromise. Opposition Frontbencher Anthony Albanese recently recorded a podcast with The Guardian — reported here. In the podcast, Albanese discusses the differences between the old and new Parliament Houses — in the old one people were crammed into offices; in the new one every member has an office with its own interconnecting rooms, en-suite and kitchenette facilities.

The only time the politicians actually have to see each other now is when the division bells ring (and some offices are so far away from the Chambers that Cathy Freeman would have had trouble getting there in the allotted time when she was training for the Olympics), or when their side of politics calls for a ‘show of force’ in the Chamber. In short, the MPs and their sycophantic staff are not only isolated from each other (should they choose to be) but also from the community they are supposed to be representing. It really can’t help when, for example, the Liberal Party is internally warring over the constitution of ‘the base’. Without being too crude about it, there is nothing wrong with communal amenities where perhaps the newest member of Parliament finds out the Prime Minister does have a backside – and can be approached just like everyone else.

Earlier this year, George Megalogenis and William McInnes were among the guests on ABC Melbourne’s Conversation Hour. In the conversation Megalogenis discusses how AFL football is like politics and in the 80s and 90s, while the AFL and the NRL were effectively broke, it was a golden age in Australian politics with Prime Ministers such as Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard. His claim is that now politics is broke and football codes are a financial powerhouse. His theory — letting those in charge of the business get on with the business. His example — the CEO of the Richmond Football Club apparently doesn’t interfere in coaching decisions; she is paid to understand and run the business that supports the coach and players to be given what they need to perform at the elite level. It used to be the same in Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Office apparently interfered far less in day to day decisions of Ministers in the ‘golden age’ than they do now, if you believe the reports especially from the Hawke, Howard, Rudd and Abbott eras.

ABC Breakfast’s host Virginia Trioli writes a regular email from the ABC with some suggested reading material for the weekend. In a recent email, she wrote in relation to Christmas Parties:

Go hard or go home. Say something. Talk — really talk — about your life, your triumphs, your failures; your year of struggle or your reflections on another milestone reached; your pride, your joy, the moments of grace remembered or sought: or don’t talk, don’t just chatter, and how about we just stand in companionable silence and enjoy the passing parade around us. I’m completely happy with quiet too. And I wonder, if in a time of head-pounding 24/7 blah blah blah, a little less of the chat (and a hell of a lot more of the dancing) might actually be a good idea.

Maybe it’s something our politicians and their sycophantic and fawning fellow travellers should consider — more serious talk; get on and do stuff without waiting for approval from Newspoll, and less chatter with those in the gilded halls around them.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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My Land

By Khaled Elomar 

I reflect on my childhood in a war-torn country (Lebanon). The absence of hope, security and prosperity. The instability of rule and governance. The limited education that any child or adolescent is exposed to, if they are lucky to be exposed to any of it at all.

Then I see where I am now. The smorgasbord of unlimited education and work opportunities placed before me to pick and choose from. The voice and tone given to me to speak out against politicians irrespective of party inclination, to be able to speak out against racism and bigotry.

Things that I could only dream about back home are factual and within an arm’s reach in this country.

I make this urgent plea to my fellow Australians: don’t let fools such as Avi Yemeni, Pauline Hanson and others, make you think we, migrant refugees, are here to destroy this great country. On the contrary, we are forever thankful and appreciative. We will defend this country because we would never want our kids to live the life we did back in our homeland.

I used to hear and feel the whistling sound, vibration and impact of missiles whilst looking into my teachers’ eyes and wonder if this was the last face I would see before taking along endless sleep. I would never wish that feeling and experience on anyone, including my worst enemies. So why would I, a proud Australian Muslim, a proud migrant refugee, the son of one of the greatest men to have ever lived, want to bite the hand that feeds me?

We appreciate this country as much, if not more, than any born Australian and we pay an unreserved respect to the true owners of this great land for allowing us to live here. I love my homeland for it made me a resilient human. I love My Australia, for it kept me a resilient human.

Oh the irony

One of the production team behind The Political Sword regularly attends a trivia night at a local pub. Recently the host (who runs a company that hosts multiple trivia nights every night of the week — so he’s pretty good at finding obscure facts) made the claim that 49 percent of Australians are either immigrants or one/both their parents are immigrants.

You may have noticed over the years that we at The Political Sword like to check claims presented as facts regardless of the origin, so we did. As it turns out, the trivia host was right — 49% of Australians are either first generation (they immigrated) or second generation (one/both parents born overseas) Australian. It’s one of the facts that has come out of the much maligned 2016 Census (remember the one we were supposed to do on-line, until the website crashed). The remaining 51% of us have Australian born parents — although the Grandparents’ country of origin could be a different discussion. 

When this data was released half way through 2017, The Guardianreported:

As of 2015, Australia had the ninth-largest number of overseas-born people of any country, and the highest proportion of its population, at 26% — ahead of New Zealand (23%) and Canada (22%), the bureau found.

The Guardian’s article also has a lot of other population related statistics that are interesting — and who knows may help you win a trivia night somewhere, sometime. 

Given the distances between the homes of the production team behind The Political Sword, most communication is done by email. Apart from ‘business related’ discussions we also discuss the usual things that people discuss — the weather, politics (strangely!), and various events that happen in the lives of the co-conspirators. The same week as the trivia host made his 49% of Australians are either first or second-generation comment, another member of the production team wrote about an example of blatant discrimination that he had recently seen. 

Some ‘very lovely’ ladies who are recent immigrants turned up at a local computer club, eager to learn, gain some additional skills and fit into their adopted community. There was also one attendee who was considerably older and also an immigrant (from the UK in the era of the ten-pound Pom). Apparently the older English ‘gentleman’ was offended that the ‘very lovely’ ladies, who were from an Islamic community group, would be furthering their understanding of computers at the same time as he was and started to verbalise his thoughts at full volume. Fortunately the Community Co-ordinator was able to diffuse the situation before it really became heated. 

In a nutshell, an older ‘gentleman’ who immigrated to Australia around 50 years ago finds it objectionable that others have immigrated to Australia more recently, with different cultural beliefs. Oh, the irony! You’d have to wonder if, 50 odd years ago, the ‘gentleman’ had different cultural values to those around him when he arrived in this country. 

Many years ago, Bruce Woodley from The Seekers and Dobe Newton of  The Bushwackers wrote a song that claimed

We are one But we are many And from all the lands on earth we come We’ll share a dream And sing with one voice I am, you are, we are Australian

You might recognise the words — they have been recently appropriated by ABC as their network identity jingle. Pity there are pockets where the reality is somewhat different from the lofty ideals. 

So what would our ‘older gentleman’ have us do with his ‘very lovely ladies’ — send them back? If we are going to send immigrants back to where they came from, do we only send the 26% of the population who are first generation Australians away, in which case the UK immigrant is out too? Do we deport the 49% of first- and second-generation Australians which might be a problem if for example Mum comes from Ukraine and Dad comes from Russia? Do we send all immigrants away in which case Australia reverts to being a terra nullus of 60,000 or thereabouts years ago; or do we just agree that the ‘gentleman’ is a bigot rather than a gentleman and welcome the ladies from the Islamic community group while telling the bigot his rant is not welcome? 

The reality of immigration to Australia over the last 60,000 years in this country is a blend of cultures from ‘all the lands of earth’. It is a far more pleasant place than the cold, narrow minded monocultural vision offered by the followers of the ultra-conservative bigots spewing hatred such as the likes of Hanson, Bernardi and the ‘alt-right’ poster children who occasionally tour (or try to tour) the country promote. Assimilating parts of different cultures presents solutions to seemingly intractable problems, gives us benefits as mundane as pizza and fried rice as well as demonstrating that ‘Anglo’ culture doesn’t always offer the ultimate solution to the problem. 

Where else in the world will you see kids of African background pestering their parents for sushi in the local food court or young girls of Middle Eastern, Asian and European backgrounds all performing together at the local dance school concert? And that’s just how it should be. 

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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A Climate of Opinion

By John Haly 

The battle for climate change mitigation is euphemistically referred to as a “debate” amidst ideologically restrained political advocates that still think there are legitimate oppositional interpretations about it, to respect.

When opinions replace facts in a “post-truth” world, the result may be that confusion and ideology reign inappropriately in society. The increasing occurrence amidst western nations of the populist right, fascism and the rejection of science have manifest to generate a new dark age. Climate change denialists champions include Donald Trump (USA), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Recep Erdoğan (Turkey), – and further down the list – Scott Morrison (Australia).

The sea of opinions

Like fish swimming in the water, human social exchange swims in a sea of opinions. Facebook, Twitter and online commentary in the news media are awash with a flood of emotionally charged views fought with passionate debates, justifying links, populist rhetoric and ad hominems. The truth may emerge but catching glimmers of it, is as elusive as panning for gold.

The other day after some back and forwards over the subject of immigration my temporary antagonist finally resorted to “I think we have to agree to disagree on this one.” At which point I replied, “We do indeed” and more or less left the conversation with him. (Aside from an amusing sideline with a close friend of my antagonist who made some wry observations of him.) It fell into a case of a civil agreement, to disagree. Isn’t it all just a matter of opinion?

The Olive Curse

Well no. For example, my wife loves olives, and I hate them. It’s my opinion that olives are a curse rendered on humanity by unkind gods sent to torture one’s palate.  My belief about olives is a matter of opinion. The only consequence is when I get a salad with olives, I pass them to my wife’s plate.  She thinks they are a blessing that I am prepared to fork over, whenever I encounter them. Apart from our culinary differences, there are many other times opinions matter and have more serious consequences.

Schools Strike

I spent the afternoon of Friday the 30th of November with my son at the #StrikeForClimate protest in the city. My son – after canvassing his schoolmates who were unaware of the rally – was worried that hardly anyone would turn up. When we turned the corner from George St into Martin place, I pointed up at the massive crowds of thousands of kids and said, “Have a look, you think no one is turning up now?”. He muttered something incomprehensible, but I noted the smile emerging on his face.

The sheer crowds of children at the climate protest that my son was delighted to discover.
Sequence of Events

There are opinions that climate change is a natural cycle of events for which humans bear no responsibility. Other opinions blame humankind’s waste and dirty extractive industries. Unfortunately, the opinions have vastly significant consequences, not the least of which may be the end of civilisation as we know it. Dramatic, yes, but the sequences of the events have already begun.

As temperatures rocket and “hottest on record” becomes a catchphrase,

Another opinion such as Scott Morrison’s idea that climate change is “nonsense”  fly in the face of concerns by other nations.  If Morrison’s scepticism were true, would mean there is nothing we can do about stopping climate change. If Morrison’s opinions are false, then there is everything that we can do to stop it.

So these sorts of opinions matter enormously. In these cases, you don’t have a right to your personal opinion divorced from truth, if the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Especially if your erroneous view affects what actions we take. As indeed it does in the case of the conservative government who are beholden to wealthy extractive industry leaders who financially support their opinions to profit in the short-term. When my late (small-l liberal) father argued against anthropomorphic climate change with me, I asked him, “On what planet is it a good thing to pollute your environment?” While he conceded the point, there is always the sense of condescension that the older folk have to the previous generation. None so apparent as the criticism of young people skipping school.  They were castigated by politicians before their protest over the lack of climate change mitigation had even begun.

Follow the History and Money

Despite this, our children took to the streets around the nation in protest of the destruction of their future. They have no ties to corporate ideology nor are they being paid off by extractive industry donations.

It is a truth that the extractive industries knew about the problems with CO2 and overheating the planet for decades. The extractive industries were predicting the effects of industrial pollutions effects on heating our climate in the 1980s. Despite years of research and technology advances and scrutiny over 40 years, our scientific research has done nothing else but confirm what Shell and Exxon knew and then actively falsely denied.

So it is way past time we had our kids still shouting about it in the streets. There is nothing temporary or theoretical about the findings: these have been confirmed! We should have legislated against polluting industries decades ago. Our failure to commit to climate change mitigation should be a criminal offence!

Exxon’s own scientific research from 40 years ago has only confirmed what we still know today.
Remember Tobacco?

This resistance is hardly the first or last battle the scientific community will have with uneducated or compromised opinions. Who recalls a very similar “debate” over whether or not, smoking causes cancer? US tobacco companies were well aware of tobacco’s effects on health, in the same manner, Exxon was about climate change but denied it publically for years. These companies fought every attempt to speak the truth. It is only in the last few years that these companies have been dragged kicking and screaming into public self-confession. As the truth has diminished their market,  Tobacco companies are moving into new smoking markets as Altria is in talks to buy the Cronos group.  Therein lies new issues for another discussion.

Vaccinations have saved lives and eradicated entire diseases from the spectrum of deadly and disabling ailments on this planet.  Yet, the anti-science brigade of anti-vaxxers that have a long history of obstinate rejection is expressing opinions which threaten the safety of the greater community and again, our children.

Your Right to an Opinion

If your opinion doesn’t align with the reality, then you need to get the hell out of the way.  I would argue that you don’t have a right to hold that opinion and prevent necessary risk mitigation that is going to save lives. Unfortunately, this is what our errant government is doing, and which our kids stood up to be counted, in opposition on Friday. When it is the children (not the adults) in the US, who are the ones standing up to archaic gun laws because they are averse to being killed, what does this say of the older generation? Similarly, it is children in Australia, that dare to stand up and protest because they too want a future beyond the lifetime of greedy, corrupt old men who want to die rich. Who are the Adults now?

So no, there are times when you don’t have a right to your opinion and the current race to save humanity from climate change is one of those times. It is – on the other hand – way past time, to stand up and be counted.

And my son was afraid noone might turn up at the protest.
This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.

 

 

The people have spoken

By Stephen Fitzgerald 

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer! With record corporate profits as wages stagnate and living standards for workers plummet this saying is starting to ring true. This is not just happening in France but, across the entire western world where right-wing political bodies govern on behalf of the financial elite.

Thousands of protestors have taken over the streets of Paris, setting fire to cars, smashing shop windows, and attacking military police. These protestors are angry. They say they can’t afford their mortgages and their bills. “France is a rich country,” one protestor tells 9News. “There’s no reason for us to live like this.”

They gathered before sunrise at the Arc du Triomphe, men and women – many of whom have come from outside the capital, hurled rocks and other projectiles at police, who retaliated with tear gas canisters. Further down the Champs-Élysées, it was chaos. One group set fire to vehicles filling the sky with black smoke, as riot police send protesters running.

Authorities were prepared, deploying 89,000 police and security forces around France and 8000 in Paris. All in all, 135 were hurt in protests across France, while about 1000 were detained. There were similar scenes of violence in the French cities of Marseilles and Bordeaux. And the yellow vest movement has spilled across Europe, with clashes in Brussels and the Netherlands. And, it’s not about petrol prices. There is something much bigger going on.

This is a rebellion against an elitist government. Emmanuel Macron is a right-wing president for the rich, pandering to the rich, as inequality escalates and the workers in society struggle to survive? Macron is pandering to those who exploit society and the people have had enough. In true French Revolution and Bastille Day style the population has rises up against the financial elite, and the right-wing government who panders to them, in an attempt to win back democracy.

So, what’s going on?

The arc of history only bends towards justice when people of goodwill wrench it in the direction of justice.” You will get that from the good people of France and not the financial elite or the right-wing president who run the country to favour themselves.

The new Populism is an ideology which presents “the people” as a morally good force against “the elite” who are perceived as corrupt and self-serving. Populists typically see “the elite” as comprising the political, legal, corporate, church, and media establishment, all of which are depicted as a homogeneous self-serving entity who feed off society and are accused of placing the interests of themselves and other groups—such as foreign countries and immigrants etc, above the best interest of society and the best interest of the majority of citizens.

Right-wing governments pander to the financial elite in return for election funds to stay in power. They pander to the media in return for favourable editorial. They attempt to control and censor the media in their own interest. These governments run on lies and deceit and focus on denigrating opposing progressive government. They drag down those progressive governments who represent the best interest of society and the best interest of the majority of people.

To maintain power and control, right-wing authoritarian governments give corporates and the top ends of town whatever they want to gain financial favour. They throw money at the church to win the religious vote. They go after secular groups to win things like the Jewish vote. They lie and accuse the opposition of everything bad they themselves are doing to win the ignorance vote. They expand the police force and give the military call out powers, with shoot to kill authorisation, anticipating social rebellion and, instil fear into the community with exaggerated security threats.

They are climate change deniers who pander to the fossil fuel industry and they refuse change like renewable energy. They govern with fear and deny the needy and most vulnerable in society. They employ henchmen to constantly drag down opposition leaders and opposition parties. This is the right-wing LNP government in Australia and if they are allowed to continue, Australia is heading in the same direction as France and the other western countries being plundered by right-wing governments and the wealthy elite they represent.

To save Australia’s future, the future of our children and democracy as we know it, the Liberal National Party must go! We need to usher in a progressive government, a government who is looking out for the best interest of all Australians, Australian society and the future for our children.

Image from defenddemocracy.press

Deflating democracy

By Henry Johnston 

Earlier this week my neighbour asked, “Is America a democracy?”

I replied, “America is a republic which aspires to democracy via its Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

We continued our discussion from the perspective of white and non-white U.S. citizens, but our conversation eventually ended in stalemate. We agreed Shakespeare’s line, now is the winter of our discontent, best sums up the mood of Republican United States which, if you believe the commentators on MSNBC and CNN, is as far from a democracy as it has ever been in that nation’s history.

But this drift from democratic exceptionalism is not confined to the United States.

On Thursday 6 December 2018 Australia demonstrated the extent of its slide from idealism to the ignobility of brute force. The occasion was Prime Minister Scott Morrison threatening to go nuclear if Labor did not support yet another measure to battle the ongoing war on home-grown terrorists.

I leave the detail of that debacle which ended the Australian Parliamentary year to others. Suffice to say as a democracy our nation seems on the verge of a summer of discontent.

But what triggered this negativity? The answer I believe is the fallout from the Great Recession of 2008, and its most stubborn legacy; deflation.

The fact Australia survived this debacle is thanks to the text book application of Keynesian economic theory, universally derided by Liberal economic rationalists. In my opinion their continued scorn of the finest management of an economic crisis in contemporary Australian history, constitutes perilous wilfulness.

The Liberal Government let the 10th anniversary of the Great Recession of 2008 pass without so much as a mention.

Earlier this week a slew of financial pundits predicted the Reserve Bank of Australia might cut interest rates next year. If this eventuates, Australia is on the precipice of deflation.

In psychological terms deflation deprives individuals of a sense of well-being. No matter how hard people work their goals remain out of reach. Think low pay, the gig economy, casualisation, the marginalisation of women in the work force etc.

One way or another deflation is entrenched in other parts of the world, especially England. But despite a chronically sluggish economy, Brexit looms large for the Old Dart.

The Bank of England recently warned of a catastrophe if an unprepared Britain turns its back on Europe. But gleeful Brexiteers, led by the Conservative Party, insist the winter of our discontent will be made glorious summer by this son of York. This quote by the way is from the play Richard the Third by William Shakespeare.

The deformed body of Richard the Third was recently found buried beneath a car park somewhere up north.

But Europe too is wracked by turmoil, caused by deflation and stoked by the knuckle-duster fists of far-right thugs. And in Eastern Europe there is a real prospect of a full-scale hot war between Ukraine and Russia, over access to the Sea of Azov. Both Ukraine and Russia are also experiencing deflation. Even China with its command economy is sliding backward.

There are thousands of definitions of deflation, but this simplified version sums it up in a way that can be traced back to our disgraceful Liberal government, which continues to embrace a discredited economic rationalist model without question.

Deflation occurs when supply is high and demand low. In other words when people stop buying. Think the current housing market in Australia.

Deflation can also come about when the supply of money decreases, often in response to a financial contraction created by bad investment or a credit crunch. Think the recent Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, with its sensational revelations of predatory lending practices.

Too much competition can also trigger deflation as can and too little market concentration.

Japan is trapped by its quicksand, and no matter what economic tricks it conjures, Japan cannot free itself from its grip.

The last time the world endured a lengthy period of deflation was between 1918 and 1939, when democracy waned to the point where its beacon was almost extinguished.

This must never happen again.

As the season of good will looms, I find it hard to believe there will be a change for the better next year unless Australia rids itself of a truly awful conservative government, and prepares once more to deploy the economic levers devised by John Maynard Keynes.

But this will not happen if the Liberal Party of Australia remains in power in 2019.

Economic rationalists around the world, Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenburg among them, hate Keynes for many things, none the least of which is this pithy bon mot: “capitalism is the astounding belief that the wickedest of men will do the wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone”.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale at Brays Bookshop in Balmain an at Forty South Publishing.

Comparative corruption and transparency

By John Haly 

The media and public’s desire for a Federal anti-corruption body and the search for revealing transparency has met with a lagging response by the government. From the mantra of “on water matters” when resisting transparency around refugee issues to the failure to submit Peter Dutton to the High Court over his extraordinary profiting from the public purse, the lack of transparency is wearing thin with the public. As the media scrutiny digs deep into the hidden recesses of the largess to ministers provided by government coffers, the public is finding their protests about the “double dipping” of mothers or the “lifters and leaners” or justification of “Robo debt” claims, a tad hypocritical.

The years of shielding the banks from the scrutiny of what the royal commission has revealed, while these same banks donated millions over time to their political coffers, has upset the public. Especially as they have often been the victims of these banking scams. That successive prime ministers wanted to offer millions in tax welfare as a gratuitous icing on the cake above and beyond protecting them from their crimes, was seen as very “rich”.

That Morrison could claim that he was unaware of the long history of banking fraud and money laundering or saw it as nothing more than a “populist whinge“, flies in the face of what banks have been seen to do here and across the globe. Repeated inquiries into the banks from the Wallis inquiry in 1997 to the Murray inquiry in 2015 and the equally numerous scandals from merely this century, from NAB concealing losses in 2004 to CommInsure payments scandal in 2016, have demonstrated clearly that unregulated banks will always misbehave. There was never any legitimate grounds for not having a Royal Commission, but the government resistance was palpable. As with most cases of corruption and graft to be found in Banks, isn’t it always recommended that one “follow the money”?

Meanwhile in Denmark

On the international scale, one has only to look at the Danish Banks in a country routinely near the top of the Transparency International index. As the Danish government hosted the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen on the 22nd of October 2018, the scandal of the Danske Bank was prevalent in the media. The national Danish Chair of Transparency International, Natascha Felix, welcomed the collective audience to three days of workshops and discussion groups. She spoke specifically of the failure of control systems that “allows individuals to steal from the most vulnerable populations in Denmark” and how a Danish bank laundered millions of dollars. The rather ironic timing of Denmark holding this conference and their banking scandal was a subject that came up many times in the course of discussions that followed. The illusion that Denmark was immune to the sin of corruption because of its view that it was an isolated island of progressive values, had been dealt a significant blow. Natascha Felix noted that while Denmark had often been at the top of the Transparency International index, “it doesn’t mean that power and access doesn’t corrupt the Danes.

Opening of IACC conference in Bella Centre’s Congress Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark

One of Natascha’s important opening points was that “when it comes to corruption there is so much more at play than rules and regulations and procedures”. For example, locking people in German gulags in the mid-1940s was legal whereas smuggling Jewish people out of Germany was illegal. In a contemporary example, locking up asylum seekers – who have no criminal charges laid against them – in gulags has been legal for years in Australia. Current illegalities have echoes of the German past. When even so much as reporting crimescommitted against “legally innocent people” while working in these gulags, is illegal, the roles of values and ethics that transcend laws of convenience are significant. Corruption and oppression championed by poorly drafted laws and regulations, does not make the actions of governments less corrupt.

Natascha Linn Felix presenting at the opening of the 18th IACC

Australia’s fall

Australia held the enviable position of being 7th in the world in the Transparency index in 2013, but since the coalition government has been in power, we have dropped to 13th. This is still an enviable position, especially after I was confronted by a response about that fall, by the former Syrian Minister, Abdullah Al Dardari. While on a panel in a workshop at the IACC conference, he gave an amused response to my query about how Australia should proceed. “I will take Australia at any time now … this is a different planet, what you are talking about … 13th, [we’ve] never been 150th”. While many in the audience laughed, context on the international scale can be quite sobering. (Just in case you were curious, Syria comes at 178th, so you can see why the ex-minister suggested my concerns were “from another planet”.) Still, we are not without our battles to seek better from our governments regarding transparency and the absence of corruption.

Abdullah Al Dardari answering questions in the Conflict and Development workshop

As Denmark and our own experience demonstrate, being amidst the top end of the transparency index doesn’t mean our governments and banks and institutions will not make every effort to rob you blind and quite literally, rob the dead.

What we may never have heard

Corruption still holds sway in robust democracies with independent judicial and media oversight. Were we in Syria, it is unlikely we would even hear of banking scandals, much less have any official inquiries. Nor might we have heard that Peter Dutton made $5.63 million from direct subsidisation of his childcare facilities for which he voted. Perhaps it didn’t occur to him there was a conflict of interest? Nor might we have heard of his submission to build a third childcare unit, which is a remarkable interest in children despite his ongoing and robust resistance to other children in his care receiving medical care. Perhaps his interest is not the children, one might speculate?

Nor might we hear about:

I am stopping here although I am sure dear reader you can find many more.

Helicopter scandals, perks & privileges should face a Federal ICAC

Whereas attempts to pork barrel electorates whether it be Barnaby Joyce or a Wentworth by-election will always receive high publicity under any regime as long as it was positive and complimentary. Negative stories like Joyce’s condemnation of women to cervical cancer deaths would, of course, be wholly suppressed where less robust protections for journalists exist.

We are not Syria, but …

Corruption is multifaceted and has high-level impacts of any country, and even if we are not the worst, we are infected by its influence.

So we are not Syria. We do hear of, or have a public reaction to, and legal stoushes over, the apparent corrupt conduct of our political leaders, banks and institutions. And with respect to Abdullah Al Dardari’s entirely appropriate observation that we in Australia are “on a different planet”, compared to what he has had to battle in his roles in Syria and later the United Nations, it is a fight none of us should relinquish because there are darker shades of grey. To have fallen to 7th to 13th on the international transparency index – although to over a hundred other nations that is still enviable – it is indicative of a systematic weakening of our democracy. We are on a downward track which our government is responsible for, as are we who do not hold them accountable. We are a lucky country compared to so many, and ours is an elevated state we have taken for granted. For a long time, we’ve remained politically disengaged, proud of apolitical inclinations, unwilling to take stand over the dinner table on behalf of the struggle of others, lest we offend our privileged white neighbours. We have paid scant attention to the slippage that once it gains momentum, will career downwards unless we put our backs against our pedestal and push hard.

This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.

It was also published on Independent Australia as Comparing Australia’s transparency and corruption with the world.

Five shades of faded blue

By Ad astra 

How well the ancient Biblical words apply to the Coalition: ”How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle…thou wast slain in thine high places, and the weapons of war perished!”

The true-blue Liberal flag, once graced with rich shades of competence, efficiency, endeavour, diligence and success, now flies tattered, limp and washed out. The Liberal flag is now discoloured with five shades of faded blue: denial, arrogance, anger, confusion and ineptitude.

After its humiliating loss at the Wentworth by-election, and the obvious reason for it – the undignified removal of its well-liked member Malcolm Turnbull, a modicum of insight might have been expected as the extent of the Coalition bloodbath at the recent State Election in Victoria was being exposed on ABC TV. But no, Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg was soon on the airwaves trying to convince us that the disaster unfolding before his very eyes had nothing to do with the disrespectful extrusion of Malcolm Turnbull and his replacement with a novice. ”It was a state election run on state issues” he insisted. Of course state issues were prominent, but only blind and deaf Freddie would not acknowledge the influence of events in Canberra. Coalition supporters handing out how-to-vote cards reported how often voters curtly informed them that they were not going to vote Liberal because of what the party had done to Malcolm Turnbull. Josh was in denial, deaf to what he was hearing, blind to what he was seeing. He even accused Bill Shorten of arrogantly believing he could ‘measure the curtains in The Lodge’. He looked foolish. As Crikey’s Charlie Lewis put it: ”It was the rhetorical equivalent of jamming his fingers in his ears and making ‘la la la’ noises. Right on cue his fellow-denialist Eric Abetz, always ready to argue the inarguable, followed him. Peta Credlin soon joined the chorus of denial in The Australian, arguing that the Bourke Street terrorist attack made the Coalition’s campaign on ‘law and order’ tricky because public sensibilities prevented them ‘going in hard’!

This chorus of denial has since been drowned out by a plethora of commentary that has pinpointed the ‘toxic Canberra culture’ as a potent reason for the Coalition’s decline. Defeated Coalition Leader Matthew Guy and John Pesutto, member for Hawthorn, who saw his re-election cast into doubt as he commented on the ABC’s election panel, had the good grace to concede that the Canberra shemozzle was a telling reason for the Coalition’s defeat. Even the State president of the Liberal Party, Michael Kroger got the message and resigned. Now, Coalition members in NSW, petrified about the ‘toxic’ behaviour of their Canberra counterparts, are running a mile to distance themselves for fear of contamination during the upcoming NSW State election.

Next, along came arrogance to further stain the Liberal flag. PM Morrison, who ought to have been a little contrite, came out arms flailing, insisting that notwithstanding recent electoral debacles, the Coalition would triumph at the next federal election. Voters would reward the Coalition for its outstanding economic success and reject Labor’s high-taxing policies, he insisted. And he reinforced his words by angrily shouting them whenever he could – at doorstops, in press interviews, in Question Time, in parliamentary debate. He turned up the volume as he fumed.

But for arrogance writ large, there could scarcely be a more brazen display of it than dark-suited Coalition members walking out of the chamber as Julia Banks announced a few days later that she was withdrawing from the Coalition to sit on the crossbenches. You can hear her speech in the Featured Video. Of course their leader has form in walking out when females are speaking in the House!

Anger soon stained the Coalition’s flag. Shocked at its electoral reversals, and extrapolating these to the May federal election at which many Coalition members could see their seats evaporating, the prospect of losing a comfortable income evoked much anger and distress.

Although a cluster of Liberals joined their leader to unveil their anger, none could match him; his shouting became more and more raucous. And when schoolchildren organized a rally in school hours to protest against the government’s lack of action on climate change, Morrison exploded. In typical ‘strict father’ mode, so well described by George Lakoff, he condemned the rally with: “Each day I send my kids to school and I know other members’ kids should also go to school but we do not support our schools being turned into parliaments.”

Following his leader, Resources Minister Matt Canavan added that he wanted children in school learning about how to build mines, do geology and how to drill for oil and gas“which is one of the most remarkable science exploits in the world”. He warned the students that their protest was ”the road to the dole queue”. Clearly, he not only lacks insight into the motivation of the protesting students; he remains intractably wedded to the outmoded technologies that scientists assure us will bring about global devastation and render the planet uninhabitable. He was angry and confused, along with many of his parliamentary colleagues.

In response to the PM’s reprimand, one student said: Mr Morrison’s comments were ‘ridiculous’. It is as if he expects us to be completely apathetic towards the world and its issues until we reach the age of 18, when we are suddenly supposed to become well-informed voters with our own developed opinions…Mr Morrison says that he does not support our schools being turned into parliaments. Well, maybe if the people in our Parliament listened to the science and took action like those of us in school, we wouldn’t have to resort to strike action like this.” A campaign organiser said that Mr Morrison’s comments had actually boosted the protest’s profile and spurred more people into action. Another example of Morrison’s ineptitude and lack of insight!

Greens leader, Adam Bandt who had met with some of the students involved and backed their actions, said: “The PM is unbelievably out of touch with young people, not only in Australia but around the world…these students want a leader to protect their future, but they get a hectoring, ungenerous and condescending rebuke from someone even worse than Tony Abbott.” 

So it came to pass that on the last day in November eight thousand students from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour, Bendigo and twenty regional areas did head to the nearest Parliament House or the offices of members of parliament to take part in the strike, quite undeterred by the angry rebukes from their parliamentarians. More protests are to follow. The repercussions will long reverberate.

The next shade of blue to tarnish the now-very-dull Liberal flag was confusion. Clearly the Coalition, the PM and his ministers are rattled, beset as they are with electoral defeat after electoral defeat, abysmal opinion polls that never improve, a confident Labor Opposition, and a cluster of policies that even their own supporters won’t accept, the most recent being its energy policy. And all they do in response is to shout more and more angrily.

Denial, arrogance, anger and confusion bring in their wake ineptitude, the fifth shade of faded blue to tarnish the Coalition flag.

Virtually everything Morrison and his ministers now say and do reeks of ineptitude.

The Coalition is lost. The path ahead is beset with intractable difficulties, insurmountable problems, and an impoverished mindset incapable of addressing them. Ideological shackles restrict their thinking; outmoded beliefs curb their judgment; antediluvian attitudes constrain their reasoning.

Foolishly, they have corrupted their flag. And in the process they have besmirched our National flag too.

The once proud true-blue Liberal flag hangs tattered and limp. Only five shades of faded blue remain.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Satanic Football Ban – Christian School Acts

By David Ayliffe 

Children at a remote Victorian Christian School have been forbidden to watch, play or discuss football by the conservative Principal of the school, Phil Upright, who calls the game “Satanic”.

Pastor Phil Upright, who leads the “Discriminate a right and a Privilege Independent Thinking Political Party” also heads Liberty Christian Church and is Principal of the Church’s Christian School in the small Wimmera town of Genesis.

Upright not only bans the sport but has pioneered a revolutionary re-education program called “On the Mark” to help students repent of “the aberration of football”. The course trains students to “resist the devil” through fasting and prayer, repetition of Bible verses whenever football urges arise, and a prohibition on ice cream for offenders.

Locals report that the secret weapon in the course is a huge black leather King James Bible weighing as much as three six packs of lemon squash – the beverage of choice of the church – that participants are required to carry with them all day and use as their pillow to sleep at night.

The On-the-Mark Bible, weighing in at about 6kg, is reportedly so heavy that students struggle to hold it in their arms with two hands clutched around it. Young teenagers have been seen struggling through the main street holding the Bible, only able to manage a few steps at a time before they have to stop and rest. Some have even been seen falling down under the weight.

Yet Pastor Upright claims “this has been a Godsend, the huge Bibles help our children expend energy they may have otherwise used in the addictive pursuit of Football. On the Mark is helping us curb a problem in our community and stop it reach epidemic proportions as is seen throughout the nation. It’s incredible to think that in Victoria we now have a public holiday for Football – you’ll never see that for Christianity, except for Christmas and Easter.”

Upright claims that On the Mark has been 95% successful with suffering students now able to resist the lure of the ball.

“God’s purpose for leather is Bibles, not football!”

A large black and white sign “God’s purpose for leather is Bibles not football” adorns the entrance to Liberty Christian Centre welcoming visitors to 9 to 9 Sunday services at Liberty Christian Church where Pastor Phil amazes his congregation with preaching through 12 hour worship services that draws football references from every verse of the Bible. A quiz during the service has members producing obscure verses from the Old and New Testaments to which Pastor Phil reveals the anti-football purpose in the verses. The member who proposes the most obscure Bible verse on the day receives a Six Pack of Lemon Squash from Pastor Phil.

Elders Jack and Jill Godwin, long term members of the church and repeat recipients of the Six Pack award preferred to remain anonymous when they spoke to the writer. Singing the praises of the church and Pastor Phil’s grand football fight beamed each week on the big screen, Jack Godwin held back tears as he said “I would have never known that Jesus was thinking of football in the shortest verse in the Bible, John Chapter 11 verse 35 where it says “Jesus Wept”!, “Pastor Phil has opened my eyes to it. God has given Pastor Phil an incredible prophetic gift to see what others can’t see, and worse, will never see.”

“Would you like a pikelet,” his wife Jill declared to the author as she continued on from her husband “On those two words alone, “Jesus Wept”, Pastor Phil covered the history of AFL going back to when it was founded in 1858. He preached on that for 7 weeks producing 35 hours of teaching material that is sold through his Amazon online shop and is being used around the world … in some places.”

Upright is not applauded by all in Genesis. President of the local Country Women’s Association and widow of a former Shire President, Ethel Campfort. Ethel – 86 years old – and by her own confession a lifelong AFL “tragic” Collingwood supporter, has organised protests outside Upright’s church. The protests involved fellow CWA members regularly holding cake sales outside the church with large signs around their table: “FOOTBALL FOR ALL!”, “FREE THE CHILDREN!”, “BAN THE BIG BLACK”, and “MOTHERS FOR FOOTY”.

“It’s dreadful seeing healthy young children and strapping teenagers walking down the Main Street muttering Bible verses under their breath and buckling under the load of Bibles so big they should be on wheels,” says Ethel Campfort.

“Some of these kids can barely walk carrying those Bibles. It’s a crime and should be banned. Upright should be laid low in prison.”

Rumours that Upright has argued in Liberty Church that too much Football would lead to blindness have not been confirmed.

The Culture Wars

The Liberal Party cultural wars are having a detrimental effect on the rest of us. Here are two examples.

Without rehashing old news, Australia had a functioning carbon pricing and emissions trading scheme around 5 years ago. It was canned by the Abbott government after mounting the mother of all scare campaigns about $100 lamb roasts and the town of Whyalla being wiped off the map. Abbott’s then Chief of Staff, now a member of the right-wing mafia that promotes their ideological claptrap on Foxtel’s Skynews after dark, admitted later that the scare campaign was exactly that, a scare campaign without any basis in fact.

The ALP recently launched its energy policy for the 2019 Federal Election. The framework of the policy was partly pinched from the Turnbull LNP Government — the ‘National Energy Guarantee’. It is probably clever politics however history tells us that this watered down ‘least-worst’ policy was formatted specifically to stand a chance of getting the legislation through the Liberal and National Party rooms, rather than the Parliament or even addressing some of the needs and wants of residential and commercial energy users. It didn’t get up because the usual suspects determined to change the Prime Minister instead. The ALP policy from years ago was a better mechanism for reducing carbon emissions as there is a direct correlation between emissions and cost — something business understands.

As the ALP policy was released, the posturing from the Luddites in the LNP commenced again. As Katherine Murphy observed in The Guardian

The energy minister, Angus Taylor, by way of riposte, bunged on a high-vis vest, stood in front of a smelter in Tomago, and talked about Shorten having to nominate which burping cows he would cull, which, for a person of Taylor’s intelligence and technical expertise, must feel about as close as it comes to End Times.

We’ve been here before: the hyperbolic carry on, it’s all pretty tired.

The thing is that Taylor, as Energy Minister, should know better. More forms of renewable energy are being commercialised all the time. It wasn’t a ‘world first’ when the then ALP South Australian State Government chose to accept Tesla’s offer to construct a very large battery, connected to the electricity grid.

So, how did that work out? Pretty well actually, as we discussed in January this year. In fact it worked so well that Victoria purchased a couple of Tesla batteries last March. If Taylor still has any doubts, maybe he should talk to his South Australian party colleagues who took over the state government during the year.

The South Australian government will launch its Home Battery Scheme in October, which will offer South Australians subsidies of up to AU$6,000. In the wake of the government’s announcement, [Sonnen] the German storage provider has revealed plans to manufacture up to 50,000 battery storage units at the former Holden site in Elizabeth, creating hundreds of jobs.

Ooops! Clearly the truth isn’t getting in the way of this story. The issue is that reducing emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere is essential for our kids and grandkids — who at the current rate of environmental change (ignored by the LNP government) will be unable to live in a large part of Australia in decades to come. It could be worse — a number of Pacific Islands could disappear altogether! Now that is worthy of a scare campaign.

The dux of St James’s College in Brisbane’s inner-city Fortitude Valley graduated a week or so ago with a number of academic awards, high achievement in her Year 12 subjects as well as successful completion of two University level subjects while still at school. She wants to be a doctor and on the face of it, she has every right to believe she could be successful in attempting the demanding University course.

Except it won’t happen unless she can get a scholarship. The dux is a Sri Lankan asylum seeker, Soumi Gopalakrishnan, who arrived in Australia on a fishing boat around four years ago. The problem is that the LNP Government policy has determined that Gopalakrishnan and her family are here on asylum seeker visas. Asylum seekers are considered to be full fee-paying international students. Full fee students have to pay for their course (in this case over $100,000 per annum for the next five years) annually up front.

Gerry Crooks, the Principal at St James, said

“The school has obviously played a very significant part in getting them to where they are, but it’s been a privilege for us. I think they’ve given the school far more than we could ever give them as a family,”

For the record, St James is a ‘Catholic Co-educational Secondary College in the Edmund Rice tradition’ and, as well as offering free education to Gopalakrishnan, provided a public transport card for travel to and from school. A day after ABC chose to publish the story of Soumi Gopalakrishnan, a number of people and organisations had offered to assist her financially to attend University.

In contrast, our narrow minded, mean and vindictive government, currently lead by Morrison, who proudly shows off his bizarre ‘I stopped the boats’ trophy to the media will happily look the other way when illegal immigrants arrive by plane and overstay their visa, which actually is a crime. He and his government apparently don’t have a problem in bullying and victimising for political purposes those who attempted to arrive or settle here over the past five years with the perfectly legal right to claim asylum according to the 1951 UN Convention signed by then Prime Minister and Liberal Party ‘demi-God’ Robert Menzies.

And there is still some doubt that anything Morrison did to ‘stop the boats’ had any effect in any case — the number of people who were prepared to attempt to arrive in Australia by boat was declining, months before Abbott and then Immigration Minister Morrison conceived ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’.

Yes, both the power generation wars and the drawn-out war on refugees are fear-based campaigns. Hopefully the Victorian State election plus recent by-elections in Wentworth, Braddon, Longman and so on will give the conservative parties in Australia the final realisation that fear and scare campaigns that have stood them well since Menzies was warning about ‘reds under the bed’ are now useless. People clearly aren’t ‘buying’ the ‘Whyalla wipe-out’ or refugees are all ‘gang members in the making’, preferring to support plans and visions for the future. Unfortunately (for the Liberal Party), sections of their ‘broad church’ are too involved in their own cultural wars to see the wood for the trees.

What do you think?

This by 2353NM article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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