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Day to Day Politics: What’s happening in the bear pit?

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Author’s note: I have updated and re-posted this because it is of great public importance.

Has Question Time in the Australian Parliament improved? Well just slightly since Tony Smith took over from Bronwyn Bishop. Bishop was an insult to the intelligence of reasoned people. Although it is only watched by those with a professional interest and political tragics like me, it is nonetheless the prism through which the Australian public form a perception of their politicians.

Now and then news services showcase Question Time and voters are left wondering if it’s for real or just a group of bad actors auditioning for play school.

It is devoid of wit, humour, words of intelligence and those with the eloquence and debating skills to give them meaning. Mostly it embraces a maleness that believes in conflict as a means of political supremacy over and above the pursuit of excellence in argument.

Question Time under Speaker Bronwyn Bishop degenerated into a bear pit of mouths that roared with hatred. The Speaker gave the appearance of disliking men with a bitchy witchlike headmistress’s loathing more suited to an evil character in a Disney movie than a democratic parliament.

Her demeanor was obnoxious, threatening and deliberately intimidating. She was consciously biased to the point of dismissing legitimate points of order out of hand. And in a mocking manner that lacked any dignity and grace. In doing so she gave the impression of a women obsessed with herself and her party rather than acting in the impartial manner the position demands. All with an authoritarian sharp-edged sarcastic manner calculated to make her subjects cringe. Her condescendingly belligerent manner lacked the civility required for reasoned discourse.

Unlike Speakers before her she attended her party’s parliamentary meetings to listen and be advised of tactics in order to respond accordingly. Anything to humiliate the opposition. There can be no other reason for doing so. In addition she regularly used her offices for party fund-raising functions. Something previous speakers would never consider.

She threw out the ”standing orders” and invoked her own set of rules. Particularly when it came to relevance, sometimes ignoring points of order or dismissing them out of hand. She even allowed Ministers to continue talking when points of order had been raised pretending to not to notice members at the dispatch box. Answers were allowed that were so far removed from the question asked that one could be excused for thinking one had a hearing difficulty. All in all Bishop so corrupted question time that it became so totally dysfunctional that it either needed to be terminated or reconstructed.

A new Speaker has returned some decorum to the chamber but it really serves little purpose. In so far as relevance is concerned it has not improved under Smith.

While a lot of the contestation is part of the drama of the Parliament; no one would wish Question Time to be reduced to polite discussion without challenge. Never the less, Question Time all too regularly descends into an unedifying shouting match between the Government and Opposition, damaging the public image of the Parliament and of politicians in general.

According to the Parliamentary Education Office the purpose of Question Time is to allow the opposition to ask the executive government questions and to critically examine its work. Ministers are called upon to be accountable and explain their decisions and actions in their portfolios. Question Time also provides ministers with an opportunity to present their ideas, their leadership abilities and their political skills.

During Question Time, the opposition also has a chance to present themselves as the alternative government

Question Time occurs at 2pm every day when Parliament is sitting and usually lasts for about one hour. By custom, the Prime Minister decides how long Question Time will last and indeed if it will be held at all.

Ministers do not know the content of questions posed by the opposition during Question Time. These are likely to be tough, designed to test ministers’ capacity to answer quickly and confidently.

During Question Time, government backbenchers also pose questions to ministers, in order to highlight government policies and achievements. These are prepared prior to Question Time and are known as ‘Dorothy Dixers’ after a magazine columnist who used to write her own questions and answers.

Question Time has evolved in the Australian Parliament over a long period of time. The first Parliament made provision for questions on notice to be asked and the answers were read to the chamber by the relevant minister. Over time, questions without notice were also put to ministers, particularly in regard to important or urgent matters. The focus in Question Time today is on making the government accountable for its actions and dealing with the political issues of the day.

Well in short that’s the purpose. Does it work in reality? Of course not. Every government on being elected says it will reform Question Time. As part of an agreement with Prime Minister Gillard Rob Oakshot and Tony Winsor made some effort at reform with a greater insistence on relevance and supplementary questions.

Prior to the last election Christopher Pyne, the then Manager of Opposition Business, but better known as ‘the mouth that roared’, or ‘the fixer’, had this to say:

”An elected Coalition Government will move to reform Parliamentary Standing orders in the House of Representatives.”

”Our reforms will make Parliamentary Question Time more concise and ensure Ministers are held to account and remain relevant to questions asked.”

”We will look to strengthen the definition of ‘relevance’ in the standing orders so Ministers must stay directly relevant to questions and ensure Matter of Public Importance debates follow Question Time.”

What a ludicrous load of nonsense. As I stated earlier, there is no requirement for relevance at all. And without it Ministers simply cannot be held to account. Without civility reasoned debate cannot take place. All we have at the moment is a shambolic gaggle of incompetent unedifying politicians not in the least interested in enhancing our democracy. It has degenerated to the point of being obsolete. It needs to be given the flick and rethought.

How should this come about? Try this. Bill Shorten should walk out of Question Time with his colleagues straight into a press conference with a detailed list of reasons for doing so. They being that Question Time has become untenable, so lacking in relevance that there is no purpose in asking questions.

After siting all the obvious reasons he should then, having prepared himself, launch into a list of proposals to make governments and Ministers more accountable. The whole point of his presentation should center on a better more open democracy. An address that takes the democratic moral high ground that is critical of both sides of politics.

”None of us can claim that in this place, first and foremost on our minds is how we serve the Australian people’.’

Let the ideas flow. I propose to appoint now, a panel of former speakers from both sides of the house, to rewrite the standing orders and reform Question Time.

All this is hypothetical of course because I am thinking out loud. But consider the following.

1 An independent speaker. Not a politician. Not only independent but elected by the people. A position with clout. The Parliamentary Speakers Office with the power to name and shame Ministers for irrelevance. Power over politicians expenses. It could include a ‘’Fact Check Office’’

2 Imagine if the Speaker’s Office adjudicated on answers and published a relevance scale on its website. This might serve two purposes. Firstly it would promote transparency and truth and secondly provide an opportunity for ministers to correct answers. It wouldn’t take long for profiles of ministers to build.

3 If in the course of Question Time the Opposition wants to table a document that they say supports their claim, in the interests of openness and accountability it should always be allowed. Documents would also come under the scrutiny of the Speakers Office and both their authenticity and relevance be noted in the Speakers weekly accountability report.

4 Freedom of Information could also come under the umbrella of the Independent Speakers Office with it deciding what could be disclosed in the public interest.

5 Dorothy Dixers would be outlawed because they serve no purpose. If back benchers want information from Ministers, then pick up the bloody phone. Question Time is not a public relations department. A place for policy advertising. Question Time is about Government accountability.

6 I acknowledge that our system requires vigorous debate and human nature being what it is passion sometimes gets the better of our politicians. When it occurs the Speaker should have the power to call time outs.

7 Lying to the Parliament is a serious misdemeanor yet the Prime Minister and the Ministers in this Government do it on a regular basis. An Independent Speaker would be able to inflict severe penalties on serious offenders.

8 In fully answering a question, a minister or parliamentary secretary must be directly responsive, relevant, succinct and limited to the subject matter of the question. Penalties apply.

Nothing has changed. The Government owns Question Time, the Speaker and the Standing Orders.

Democracy is dead. Lunacy prevails. Anyway I think I have made my point.

My thought for the day.

”If you have a point of view, feel free to express it. However, do so with civility. Then your point of view is laced with a degree of dignity.”

 

Bearing the brunt of state-sanctioned thuggery: the Centrelink debt debacle

In a classic operation, most commonly perpetrated by telephone conmen and door-knocking scammers, the Turnbull Government has hit the jackpot. Boasting of returns of over $300 million after hitting up only 169,000 Australians, someone deep in the murky depths of Government has clearly been taking lessons from the lowest of predatory scumbags.

The operation, fondly promoted by the Government as a fair way to claw back taxpayer funds from those who were overpaid social security benefits, has reportedly caused significant angst among the most vulnerable in the community.

The debacle was first reported a couple of weeks before Christmas. In July 2016, the Government introduced an automatic debt identification and recovery system which compares annual income reported to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), with self-reports that welfare recipients provide to Centrelink on a fortnightly basis.

The results have been absurd.

Instead of providing people with a chance to address any identified discrepancy, the ‘system’ simply asks recipients to confirm their total income for the year on the MyGov website. If it accords with the ATO assessment (which it will, for any person who has correctly filled out their tax return and honestly reported their income to Centrelink), an automatic debt notification letter is sent where the system has calculated an overpayment.

Now this sounds fair enough – if a debt is owed.

But the process by which the system calculates the debt is scandalous. By averaging out annual earnings over 26 fortnights, it immediately assumes the person has earned income in every fortnight, was not entitled to benefits during the time claimed, and has therefore committed a fraud against the Commonwealth.

If a person disputes the debt, the Government still insists a payment arrangement is made to clear the debt.

If a person doesn’t pay the debt, it is quickly sent on to the debt collectors.

Those who allegedly owe a debt are threatened with jail if they do not pay.

Centrelink itself (the faceless Government organisation tasked with demanding money with menaces), has recommended distraught residents call the suicide prevention hotline, Lifeline, if they are concerned about receiving a debt notice.

Yet despite this blatantly clear admission of the trauma the system is causing innocent people, the Government is steadfastly proud of its money-making mission.

“From what we’ve seen in a high-volume system, it’s actually working incredibly well,” said Social Services Minister Christian Porter.

Here is some news for Mr Porter. Threatening people with unpalatable outcomes if they do not pay money (whether or not they owe it) is a tactic which has been used by unscrupulously vile and hideous individuals and criminal gangs for centuries to generate cash.

Why? Because it works.

If a person is terrified enough, they will pay up.

And when it is the Government making the demands and threatening to bring in the police for non-payment, there is little wonder so much money has already been collected.

The poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged have no chance against the state-sanctioned thuggery of the Turnbull Government.

The Government, in its attempt to save money and create efficiencies, has resorted to the lowest tactic possible: extortion.

Extortion is the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats. It is a criminal offence when practiced by any other individual. It is applauded as an efficiency when practiced by the Government.

While Porter continues to defend the unconscionable system, which violates every ethical principle and is an abuse of legal process, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce attempts to distract from the shitfest by focusing on those who may have been genuinely overpaid.

“I make no apology for making sure that those who didn’t need it, who got it, pay the money back,” Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said.

Little thought seems to have gone into the many innocent people who are caught up in the mess. The Government has admitted itself that around 20% of debt notices are falsely sent and those people owe nothing at all. Of course, the number of those falsely accused of owing money may well be higher if you consider some recipients have been accused of owing thousands of dollars, but may have been overpaid a mere ten or twenty dollars.

The outcry from the general public has been huge. The media, normally keen to stick the boot into the poor, has jumped on it, but the Government is holding its ground.

Just like the criminal underclass of old, who threaten, coerce and menace innocent people into handing over their life-savings, those responsible for the ‘Robo-Debt’ debacle stand firm. Instead of a baseball bat and balaclava, the Government uses the full force of the law and faceless institutions to muscle the vulnerable into submission.

The tactics used by the Government are nothing short of criminal. Those who are traumatized along the way, and who are pushed to the brink of suicide, are simply collateral damage in the Government’s quest to ‘balance the budget’. It has shunned due process and standard principles for debt identification and recovery. It is exploiting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the community for monetary gain.

Terrifying innocent people into paying money they do not owe is nothing to boast about. It represents a new low for the Turnbull Government.

But like all conmen and scammers, the only way to make the Government back down, is to show it Australians are not weak and will not put up with thuggery.

Every person who receives a debt notice must ask for a review, lodge a formal complaint if the debt is wrong, and contact the Ombudsman. Contact the media. Contact each and every politician involved, including the Opposition and local MPs.

This is a war on the poor that Turnbull cannot and must not be allowed to win.

Slave trade capitalism and the new Republican Party

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Time is a funny thing, especially how the same things seem to happen again and again.

In the early nineteenth century, the young United States of America was heading toward civil war.  The practice of slavery had been accepted, but restrained from spreading further, by the Founding Fathers and the new American constitution. However, with the annexing of the new territories in Kansas and Nebraska, slavery was becoming a major fissure in the cultural landscape of the new nation. During the 1850s one of the presidential hopefuls, Henry Seward made a speech addressing the growing disparity between the wealthy slave owners in the South, and the emerging industrialized society in the north;

“There are two antagonistical elements of Society in America”, Seward proclaimed, “freedom and slavery.  Freedom is in harmony with our system of government and with the spirit of the age, and is therefore passive and quiescent.  Slavery is in conflict with that system, with justice and with humanity and is therefore organized, defensive, active, and perpetually aggressive.  “Free labour” he said, “demands universal suffrage and widespread diffusion of knowledge.  The slave based system, by contrast, ‘cherishes ignorance’ because it is the only security for oppression.”

The freedom that Seward referred to was the free, or non-slave, workers that toiled in the increasingly industrialized northern cities. What is striking about this passage is just how much the sentiments that Seward expressed resonate today.

Today we appear to be facing a parallel scenario to Seward’s, with a push from wealthy multi-national corporations and northern foreign-owned miners who want to spread their low-wage, low skill, high-profit form of business to every state on the planet.

This aggressive and well-funded movement born in American Capitalism now threatens Australian shores; Maurice Newman, chair of the Commission of Audit, attacks the Australian minimum wage, Tony Abbott dismisses of the importance of penalty rates, education reform is defunded and a ‘review’ is announced into the newly minted national curriculum, all nicely framed by ongoing disinformation from government ministers on the reasons for recent collapses in manufacturing in the southern states, all the while encouraging us to drink the trickle-down Kool Aid.

While these attacks on the backbone of a progressive society continue, it seems that there is little fight from either of the standing opposition parties, the ALP or the Greens.

Can we learn anything from the history of slavery and American capitalism?  And in those lessons is there a blueprint for action that we can take now?

Suggesting that American Capitalism is rooted in the slave plantations of the past is not a new thing.  Slave-grown and picked cotton was America’s most valuable export. Without which silver and gold from England and Europe would not have flowed so readily into U.S. Treasury coffers and the pockets of Northern factory owners, providing the much needed ‘capital’ for the growing nation.  Modern management practices also can be traced back to slavers.  Including time and motion studies, and calculating an employee’s worth against ‘unit labour costs’ to calculate productivity.

From this comes one of the central pillars of American capitalism; the practice of paying as little as possible for labour. With many corporations in America, most visibly WalMart and McDonalds, basing their entire business model on hiring unskilled workers that can be paid the absolute minimum.

The difficulty for the workers is that it is not enough.  Recent debate in the USA has revealed that these corporations access billions of dollars in government welfare through their employees.  Because they do not pay their workers a living wage, employees are forced onto welfare programs like food stamps.  The fast-food industry alone rakes in a government subsidy of roughly $7 Billion per year, with McDonalds even having an employee advice line helping employees sign up to government welfare.  These revelations have gone straight to the core of the argument over a living wage, workers rights and the real corporate welfare queens.

In light of this it can be seen that the only difference between Seward’s “two antagonistical elements” and our own is the deep hypocrisy in the arguments of wealthy ‘job creators’.

American, and Australian, elites insist on their quasi-religious, Ayn Rand infused utopian delusion that, instead of inheriting their wealth and profiting from the intelligence and work of generations of workers, they actually built their entire empires by themselves.  This was perhaps best refuted by Bill Clinton when he responded to attacks on President Obama for his out of context “You didn’t build that”:

“The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made . . . Bob Straus, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself. As Straus then admitted, it ain’t so.”

The economy and all the technological advances we enjoy today have been built by the skilled working and middle class that grew from the Industrial revolution in 19th century.  The claim that higher wages hurt business is simply false. It was the massive movement of consumer funds from well paid industrial workers that created the base wealth upon which the post-WW2 industrialized economies have been built.

Without the capital drawn from taxes paid by thousands of workers the ports, rail, and roads built in the 1950s and 60s that transported goods would never have happened. Those same taxes paid for schools that trained up the next generations of skilled employees that businesses could then leverage into creating products and delivering services.

The profits that companies made in the last hundred years were not driven by a select elite purchasing high price items, but by millions of consumers and businesses buying and selling, working and living, increasing demand and driving growth and trade.

When a portion of the population cannot afford to live, then they cannot participate.  When participation in the economy drops so does demand, with employment, trade and profits following soon after.

The rich will always maintain a degree of wealth and privilege.  In many ways the elite still exist in a semi-feudal world where those on ‘their’ lands should be grateful for the opportunity to eke out a subsistence living.   Thanks to their lofty position the wealthy are able enjoy their life regardless of economic conditions, as the businesses that service the wealthy operate in a very different space to the rest of the economy.  They are often able to ride out recessions, and can simply transfer their wealth to another market or country if trade or economies collapse.

The working and middle class, on the other hand, are reliant on trade and education.  The various accountants, tradesmen, managers, shop keepers, artisans, teachers, and lawyers require commerce and constant self-improvement to maintain their standard of living.  Without trade the rich can still enjoy their lands and property without much impact on their life.  However if trade declines or collapses, as seen in the Great Depression and recent Financial Crisis, the middle class and working classes are devastated.

One of the side effects of trade is exposure to new ideas.  Trade also drives innovation and social progress, as both serve to create new markets and new consumers.  All of this is a threat to any established elite, as social progress and greater knowledge builds further demand for equality. Not simply for equal rights for non-whites or non-heterosexuals, but for more equal representation in government, more equal access to opportunity, in short for a more democratic society.  This evolution of more equality in representation is one of the things that the wealthy and political elite fear most.  The American War of Independence and Civil War were fought over just these things.

The feudal world is a remnant that still hangs from our representative democracy.  In many ways representative democracy is the half-way hybrid of feudalism and true democracy.  We rely on a patrician class of political operators to work in our best interests, when in reality they are mainly working in their own self-interest and the special interests of their patrons.  A more direct democracy would see be form of republicanism akin to ancient Athens where all citizens voted directly on bills or the young USA where the voice of the citizenry was a direction for action by their elected representatives.  The attack on workers and education is an attempt to stave off this next logical step in social and political evolution to a more direct and effective democracy.

This is why religious conservatives and economic libertarians attack the means of sustaining a viable middle class.  Poor education dramatically reduces opportunities for employment and advancement, and hamstrings innovations that may threaten the status quo.  Cutting health care forces families to spend more of their income and time on caring for sick or elderly family members.  Failing to invest in effective public transport creates a class divide between those who can afford a vehicle to access job opportunities and those who are trapped in a cycle of poverty due to lack of mobility.

Even now the decision not to build a national, equal-access broadband infrastructure is picking winners and losers.  Those with fibre connections are already enjoying higher house valuations. Once again the inner cities will have the advantages, while the suburbs and regional cities – the tradition heartland of the working and middle classes – are relegated to second class citizens.  How long until cuts to education, health, penalty rates and minimum wage see further collapse of employment options and standards of living in Australia?

For Seward and his contemporary Abraham Lincoln, the principal opposition party of the time was too weak to respond to the pro slavery Democratic Party and the loud threats and aggression from the southern states that demanded they be allowed to establish slave estates in the new territories ‘for the sake of the nation’.

Eventually there was a split, and many from the opposition Whig party joined with other more progressive groups to form the new Republican Party.  Under this banner the nation set about a new path toward the equality promised in the American constitution.  Civil war followed, but the USA emerged stronger and more vigorous than ever.  What followed was over a hundred years of progress and growth that led the 20th century to be named the American Century.

In Australia the Liberal-National governments federally and in the states are filled with a similar aggression to their pro-slavery forebears, and are in a hurry to force their changes on our society before the sleepy masses awaken.  A vocal opposition would do much to quicken this awakening and stifle the fuming vigour of the neo-libertarians.

Unfortunately, the Greens party seem too much interested in attacking the ALP to increase their market share.  Meanwhile the corruption in the ALP Right and the union movement is currently hamstringing the pragmatic and progressive reform elements in the party, and the ALP is nowhere to be found except in lockstep with the right-wing unionists, vague statements on social media and irrelevant emails.

Now more than ever Australia needs a progressive political force that is unafraid to tackle the destructive policies and practices that are currently arrayed against Australia.

The ALP has split in the past; usually with right-wing elements peeling off to create new conservative parties, such as the United Australia Party; forerunner to the modern Liberal Party, and the Democratic Labor Party.

Perhaps now it is up to the progressive and Left in the ALP party to make a stand and plant a new banner that can be a rally point for the dozens of progressive micro-parties that sprang up at the last federal election, for environmentalists, for small businesses, for workers, for entrepreneurs. For everyone who wants better representation, not just in a leadership ballot but in building policy.  For everyone who sees the threat arrayed against our nation and its future, and wants to do something about it.

Perhaps, once again, It’s Time.

Day to Day Politics: Taking credit when none’s due.

Sunday 2 April 2017

1 For all his bluff and bluster, a perpetual smile, together with the occasional stunt, it seems to me that Nick Xenophon really doesn’t achieve much. Such is the case with the Government’s Tax Cuts for business. And I might add that when he does it generally favours a rightish ideology.

Ostensibly all he has negotiated is a one off ‘insult’ payment to pensions of a piddling $75 for a single person and $125 for a couple for those on the aged pension, the disability support pension or the parenting payment.

It’s supposed to cover rising energy prices.

The smiling faces of Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann gave a press conference on Friday to hail the changes as a ”great day for Australian workers and Australian businesses”.

”This is a great result for 6.5 million Australians working for businesses that will get the benefit of this tax cut,” Turnbull said.

My God, you would think they were going to walk into work on Monday to be told their would be an extra 100 bucks in their pay packets next week.

Xenophon additionally negotiated some energy measures including fast-tracking a solar-thermal plant in South Australia. It is already underway and a new National Energy Policy which the chief scientist had already been commissioned to come up with by mid-year. There was also a non-binding promise for a study into the viability of a gas pipeline connecting the state with the Northern Territory.

The Government also promised to enforce a ”Public interest” order on the big three liquefied natural gas exporters in Queensland to force them to pump more gas to the domestic market. Again this was something Turnbull had done when he met gas executives early last month.

It seems to me that Xenophon does this frequently walking away with the credit for doing little other that giving the government it way. He is a PR freak. At the end of the day all he got for tax cuts to the rich and privileged was a one off $153 payment for pensioners.

There is no evidence that these cuts are about ”Jobs and Growth,” no modelling. No statement from the ATO that they will create ”Jobs and Growth.”

As Sally McManus told the Press Club last Wednesday:

”Wage theft is a new business model for far too many employers. Inequality in our country is now at a 70-year high. And 679 of our biggest corporations pay not one cent in tax.”

So the new tax rate will reduce from 30 to 25 per cent over 10 years for companies earning up to $50 million.

With a large number of companies paying no tax at all together with numerous concessions and tax imputation most companies already only pay about 24%.

It is one of the reasons why a report from the Australian Tax Office found that Business Council of Australia members actually paid an effective tax rate of 24 per cent as a group in 2014-2015.

With the lack of evidence regarding any connection to ‘’Jobs and Growth” it is easy to see that this is just old trickledown economics of the sort that modern economists say is past its used by date.

Jacqui Lambie argued that companies – including multinationals – did not need any more help with tax cuts and said the big four banks would receive $7.4bn in revenue if the Coalition’s package went through.

At midday on Saturday while enjoying a cuppa the Prime Minister graced our television screen espousing how we are all going to enjoy the benefits of giving tax cuts to businesses with turnovers of $50 million.

Having already doubled Labor’s debt one wonders where the money is coming from to pay for this. Remember the uproar from the Coalition and the Murdoch press just a few years back.

I can only conclude that the word “lying” in political terms has been replaced with the more subtle reference of “overstatement”. Maybe bullshit would be a better word. One thing is for sure. He is no longer the calm reasoned man of thoughtful disposition we thought we were going to get when he got the job.

While I’m on the subject of energy it’s interesting that a $1 billion battery and solar farm will be built at Morgan in South Australia’s Riverland by year’s end in a project the proponents describe as “the world’s biggest.

An observation.

”Change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making. With Its own inevitability”

2 Germany is set to introduce the world’s first zero-emission passenger train to be powered by hydrogen. It only emits steam.

3 For the time being the fight against changes to 18c has been won. I will now be able to continue writing freely as I have been doing without feeling the need to think up new ways to criticise people.

Against changing 18C – ALP, Greens political party, Nick Xenophon Team, Jacqui Lambie

For changing 18C – Government, One Nation, Derryn Hinch, David Leyonhjelm.

4 From the Labor Party email Newslette:

You’ll remember in Week Two of the election campaign there were raids on Labor in relation to the National Broadband Network. The raids happened after Labor had exposed the Turnbull Government’s incompetent handling of the NBN. This week the Senate inquiry into these raids and the materials which were seized found it was an “improper interference” with the functions of the Parliament. I’ve asked the Speaker how this will now be handled to prevent these issues coming up again in the future. He’ll be reporting back to the Reps when we return for the Budget.

5 Following on from my recent piece ”what’s happening in the bear pit?” I have to report that it’s getting worse. Take a look at this.

6 The Australian made a complete fool of itself when it tried to discredit new ACTU leader Sally Mc Manus.

The story was promoted by the Australian’s associate editor, Caroline Overington, on Twitter before an address by McManus at the National Press Club.

Reporters will asking @sallymcmanus tough questions about her resume when she appears at Press Club today:

Gutter reporting from the Murdoch press.

The Guardian has the story.

On this day in 2016 I wrote:

A Just when we thought Donald Trump couldn’t go any lower, he does.

Trump was asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to define his “pro-life” stance and assertions that abortion should be banned.

”Do you believe in punishment for abortion – yes or no – as a principle?” asked Matthews, during the taping of a town hall event.

”The answer is there has to be some form of punishment,” said Trump.

”For the woman?” Matthews said.

”Yeah, there has to be some form,” Trump replied.

‘Ten cents, 10 years, what?’ Matthews asked again, pressing.

”That I don’t know,” said Trump.

B Billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey, the man who views the world through the prism of his own cash registers, reckons we need a two tier wage system where cheap labour is plentiful.

”Australia doesn’t have cheap labour. Many overseas workers would be prepared to move here for a much better life and half the money Australians earn … I’ve got horse studs and it’s difficult to get staff” he said.

C Conversely, I was reading the daily Morgan Report and would you believe the Fair Work Ombudsman did a nationwide investigation into the fast-food sector and found that nearly half (47 per cent) of 565 spot-checked employers have not been paying their staff correctly, with workers being paid as low as $6 per hour compared to the statutory minimum of $17.25 per hour.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation found that in nearly one-third of cases, the flat hourly rate paid by the employer to its workers was not enough to cover hours attracting penalty rates and loadings, resulting in underpayments for which an employer could be ordered to compensate the underpaid worker, and fined for breach of the applicable Industrial Award.

Royal Commission, anyone?

My thought for the day.

“We are given the gift of foresight however, we choose to be reactive rather than proactive. Why is it so?”

PS: I think the only thing I have missed is Mark Latham’s manners, but I will give it a miss.

 

Day to Day Politics: They call it “Question Time” but you’re not compelled to answer.

Thursday 11 August 2016

Parliament starts again in a week or so and without doubt, given the Government’s slender majority, and a defiant Senate, it will be a torrid time. Central to how the public view the Government’s performance are the snippets they glean from Question Time.

Question Time in the Australian Parliament is an insult to the intelligence of reasoned people. Although it is only watched by those with a professional interest and political tragics like me, it is nonetheless the prism through which the Australian public form a perception of their politicians.

Now and then news services showcase Question Time and voters are left wondering if it’s for real or just a group of bad actors auditioning for play school.

It is devoid of wit, humour, words of intelligence and those with the eloquence and debating skills to give them meaning. Mostly it embraces a maleness that believes in conflict as a means of political supremacy over and above the pursuit of excellence in argument.

Question Time under speaker Bronwyn Bishop degenerated into a bear pit of mouths that roared with hatred. The Speaker gave the appearance of disliking men with a bitchy witchlike headmistress’s loathing more suited to an evil character in a Disney movie than a democratic parliament.

Her demeanour was obnoxious, threatening and deliberately intimidating. She was consciously biased to the point of dismissing legitimate points of order out of hand. And in a mocking manner that lacked any dignity and grace. In doing so she gave the impression of a women obsessed with herself and her party rather than acting in the impartial manner the position demanded.

All with an authoritarian sharp-edged sarcastic manner calculated to make her subjects cringe. Her condescendingly belligerent manner lacked the civility required for reasoned discourse.

Unlike Speakers before her she attended her party’s parliamentary meetings to listen and be advised of tactics in order to respond accordingly.

Anything to humiliate the opposition. There can be no other reason for doing so. In addition she regularly used her offices for party fund-raising functions. Something previous Speakers would never consider.

She threw out the ‘standing orders’ and invoked her own set of rules. Particularly when it came to relevance, sometimes ignoring points of order or dismissing them out of hand. She even allowed Ministers to continue talking when points of order had been raised, pretending to not to notice members at the despatch box. Answers were allowed that were so far removed from the question asked that one could be excused for thinking one has a hearing difficulty.

All in all she so corrupted Question Time that it became totally dysfunctional.

While a lot of this contestation is part of the drama of the Parliament; no one would wish Question Time to be reduced to polite discussion without challenge. Nevertheless, Question Time all too regularly descends into an unedifying shouting match between the Government and Opposition, damaging the public image of the Parliament and of politicians in general.

According to the Parliamentary Education Office the purpose of Question Time is to allow the opposition to ask the executive government questions and to critically examine its work. Ministers are called upon to be accountable and explain their decisions and actions in their portfolios. Question Time also provides ministers with an opportunity to present their ideas, their leadership abilities and their political skills.

During Question Time, the opposition also has a chance to present themselves as the alternative government.

Question Time occurs at 2pm every day when Parliament is sitting and usually lasts for about one hour. By custom, the Prime Minister decides how long Question Time will last and indeed if it will be held at all.

Ministers do not know the content of questions posed by the opposition during Question Time. These are likely to be tough, designed to test ministers’ capacity to answer quickly and confidently.

During Question Time, government backbenchers also pose questions to ministers in order to highlight government policies and achievements. These are prepared prior to Question Time and are known as ‘Dorothy Dixers’, after a magazine columnist who used to write her own questions and answers.

Question Time has evolved in the Australian Parliament over a long period of time. The first Parliament made provision for questions on notice to be asked and the answers were read to the chamber by the relevant minister.

Over time, questions without notice were also put to ministers, particularly in regard to important or urgent matters. The focus in Question Time today is on making the government accountable for its actions and dealing with the political issues of the day.

Well in short that’s the purpose. Does it work in reality? Of course not. After Bronwyn Bishop was removed for gross indulgences of her parliamentary allowances, the new Speaker Tony Smith has reignited a modem of decorum.

However every government on being elected says it will reform Question Time. As part of an agreement with Prime Minister Gillard Rob Oakshot and Tony Windsor made some effort at reform with a greater insistence on relevance and supplementary questions.

Prior to the 2013 election Christopher Pyne, the then Manager of Opposition Business, but better known as the mouth that roared, had this to say:

“An elected Coalition Government will move to reform Parliamentary Standing orders in the House of Representatives”.

“Our reforms will make Parliamentary Question Time more concise and ensure Ministers are held to account and remain relevant to questions asked”.

“We will look to strengthen the definition of ‘relevance’ in the standing orders so Ministers must stay directly relevant to questions and ensure Matter of Public Importance debates follow Question Time”.

What a ludicrous load of nonsense. As I stated earlier, there is no requirement for relevance at all. And without it Ministers simply cannot be held to account.

Without civility reasoned debate cannot take place. All we have at the moment is a shambolic gaggle of incompetent unedifying politicians not in the least interested in enhancing our democracy. It has degenerated to the point of being obsolete. It needs to be given the flick and rethought.

How should this come about? Try this. Bill Shorten at the height of the next example of Question Time’s irrelevance should walk out of the parliament together with his colleagues straight into a press conference with a detailed list of reasons for doing so.

They being that Question Time has become untenable, so biased that there is no purpose in asking questions.

After citing all the obvious reasons he should then, having prepared himself, launch into a list of proposals to make governments and Ministers more accountable. The whole point of his presentation should center on a better more open democracy. An address that takes the democratic moral high ground that is critical of both sides of politics. He should take the political moral high ground.

“None of us can claim that in this place, first and foremost on our minds is how we serve the Australian people”.

Let the ideas flow. I propose to appoint now, a panel of former speakers from both sides of the house, to rewrite the standing orders and reform Question Time.

All this is hypothetical of course because I am thinking out loud. But consider the following.

1 An independent speaker. Not a politician. Not only independent but elected by the people. A position with clout. The Parliamentary Speakers Office with the power to name and shame Ministers for irrelevance. Power over politicians expenses. It could include a ‘’Fact Check Office’’

2 Imagine if the Speaker’s office adjudicated on answers and published on its internet site, a relevance scale. This might serve two purposes. Firstly, it would promote transparency and truth, and secondly provide an opportunity for ministers to correct answers. It wouldn’t take long for profiles of ministers to build.

3 If in the course of Question Time the Opposition wants to table a document that they say supports their claim, in the interests of openness and accountability it should always be allowed. Documents would also come under the scrutiny of the Speakers Office and both their authenticity and relevance be noted in the Speaker’s weekly accountability report.

4 Freedom of Information could also come under the umbrella of the Independent Speakers Office with it deciding what could be disclosed in the public interest.

5 Dorothy Dixers would be outlawed because they serve no purpose. If back benchers want information then pick up the bloody phone. Question Time is not a public relations department. A place for policy advertising. Question Time is about Government accountability.

6 I acknowledge that our system requires vigorous debate and human nature being what it is passion sometimes gets the better of our politicians. When it occurs the Speaker should have the power to call time outs.

7 Lying to the Parliament is a serious misdemeanour yet the Prime Minister and the Ministers in this Government do it on a regular basis. An Independent Speaker would be able to inflict severe penalties on serious offenders.

8 In fully answering a question, a minister or parliamentary secretary must be directly responsive, relevant, succinct and limited to the subject matter of the question. Penalties apply.

At this point in time nothing has changed. The Government owns Question Time, the Speaker and the Standing Orders.

My thought for the day.

“To those who think they can win a debate by being loud and crass. I say be quiet. To those who think they can win with a perceived superior intellect I say be humble. Discourse requires civility in order to produce reasoned outcomes”.

 

Day to Day Politics: It’s really play school but they call it “Question Time”

Saturday 19 March 2016

Question Time in the Australian Parliament is an insult to the intelligence of reasoned people. Although it is only watched by those with a professional interest or political tragics like me, it is nonetheless the prism through which the Australian public form a perception of their politicians.

Now and then news services showcase Question Time, and voters are left wondering if it’s for real or just a group of bad actors auditioning for play school.

It is devoid of wit, humour, words of intelligence and those with the eloquence and debating skills to give them meaning. Mostly it embraces a maleness that believes in conflict as a means of political supremacy over and above the pursuit of excellence in argument.

Question Time under former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop degenerated into a bear pit of mouths that roared with hatred. The Speaker gave the appearance of disliking men with a bitchy witchlike headmistress’s loathing more suited to an evil character in a Disney movie than a democratic parliament.

Her demeanour was obnoxious, threatening and deliberately intimidating. She was consciously biased to the point of dismissing legitimate points of order out of hand. And in a mocking manner that lacked any dignity and grace. In doing so she gave the impression of a women obsessed with herself and her party rather than acting in the impartial manner the position demands. All with an authoritarian sharp-edged sarcastic manner calculated to make her subjects cringe. Her condescendingly belligerent manner lacked the civility required for reasoned discourse.

Unlike speakers before her she attended her party’s parliamentary meetings to listen and be advised of tactics in order to respond accordingly. Anything to humiliate the opposition. There can be no other reason for doing so. In addition she regularly used her offices for party fund-raising functions. Something previous speakers would never consider.

She threw out the ‘standing orders’ and invoked her own set of rules. Particularly when it came to relevance, sometimes ignoring points of order or dismissing them out of hand. She even allowed Ministers to continue talking when points of order had been raised, pretending to not to notice members at the despatch box. Answers were allowed that were so far removed from the question asked that one could be excused for thinking one had a hearing difficulty.

All in all she so corrupted question time that it became so totally dysfunctional that it either needed to be terminated or reconstructed.

A new speaker has returned some decorum to the chamber but it really serves little purpose.

While a lot of the contestation is part of the drama of the Parliament, no one would wish Question Time to be reduced to polite discussion without challenge. Never­theless, Question Time all too regularly descends into an unedifying shouting match between the Government and Opposition, damaging the public image of the Parliament and of politicians in general.

According to the Parliamentary Education Office the purpose of Question Time is to allow the opposition to ask the executive government questions and to critically examine its work. Ministers are called upon to be accountable and explain their decisions and actions in their portfolios. Question Time also provides ministers with an opportunity to present their ideas, their leadership abilities and their political skills.

During Question Time, the opposition also has a chance to present themselves as the alternative government

Question Time occurs at 2pm every day when Parliament is sitting and usually lasts for about one hour. By custom, the Prime Minister decides how long Question Time will last and indeed if it will be held at all.

Ministers do not know the content of questions posed by the opposition during Question Time. These are likely to be tough, designed to test ministers’ capacity to answer quickly and confidently.

During Question Time, government backbenchers also pose questions to ministers, in order to highlight government policies and achievements. These are prepared prior to Question Time and are known as ‘Dorothy Dixers’, after a magazine columnist who used to write her own questions and answers.

Question Time has evolved in the Australian Parliament over a long period of time. The first Parliament made provision for questions on notice to be asked and the answers were read to the chamber by the relevant minister. Over time, questions without notice were also put to ministers, particularly in regard to important or urgent matters. The focus in Question Time today is on making the government accountable for its actions and dealing with the political issues of the day.

Well in short that’s the purpose. Does it work in reality? Of course not. Every government on being elected says it will reform Question Time. As part of an agreement with Prime Minister Gillard, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor made some effort at reform with a greater insistence on relevance and supplementary questions.

Prior to the last election Christopher Pyne, the then Manager of Opposition Business, but better known as the mouth that roared, or the fixer, had this to say:

“An elected Coalition Government will move to reform Parliamentary Standing orders in the House of Representatives.”

“Our reforms will make Parliamentary Question Time more concise and ensure Ministers are held to account and remain relevant to questions asked.”

“We will look to strengthen the definition of ‘relevance’ in the standing orders so Ministers must stay directly relevant to questions and ensure Matter of Public Importance debates follow Question Time.”

What a ludicrous load of nonsense. As I stated earlier, there is no requirement for relevance at all. And without it Ministers simply cannot be held to account. Without civility reasoned debate cannot take place. All we have at the moment is a shambolic gaggle of incompetent unedifying politicians not in the least interested in enhancing our democracy. It has degenerated to the point of being obsolete. It needs to be given the flick and rethought.

How should this come about? Try this. Bill Shorten should walk out of Question Time with his colleagues straight into a press conference with a detailed list of reasons for doing so. That being that Question Time has become untenable, so lacking in relevance that there is no purpose in asking questions.

After siting all the obvious reasons he should then, having prepared himself, launch into a list of proposals to make governments and Ministers more accountable. The whole point of his presentation should center on a better more open democracy. An address that takes the democratic moral high ground that is critical of both sides of politics.

“None of us can claim that in this place, first and foremost on our minds is how we serve the Australian people.’’

Let the ideas flow. I propose to appoint now, a panel of former speakers from both sides of the house, to rewrite the standing orders and reform Question Time.

All this is hypothetical of course because I am thinking out loud. But consider the following.

1 An independent speaker. Not a politician. Not only independent but elected by the people. A position with clout. The Parliamentary Speakers Office with the power to name and shame Ministers for irrelevance. Power over politicians expenses. It could include a ‘’Fact Check Office’’

2 Imagine if the Speakers Office adjudicated on answers and published a relevance scale on its website. This might serve two purposes. Firstly it would promote transparency and truth and secondly provide an opportunity for ministers to correct answers. It wouldn’t take long for profiles of ministers to build.

3 If in the course of Question Time the Opposition wants to table a document that they say supports their claim, in the interests of openness and accountability it should always be allowed. Documents would also come under the scrutiny of the Speaker’s office and both their authenticity and relevance be noted in the Speaker’s weekly accountability report.

4 Freedom of Information could also come under the umbrella of the Independent Speakers Office with it deciding what could be disclosed in the public interest.

5 Dorothy Dixers would be outlawed because they serve no purpose. If back benchers want information then pick up the bloody phone. Question Time is not a public relations department. A place for policy advertising. Question Time is about Government accountability.

6 I acknowledge that our system requires vigorous debate and human nature being what it is passion sometimes gets the better of our politicians. When it occurs the Speaker should have the power to call time outs.

7 Lying to the Parliament is a serious misdemeanour yet the Prime Minister and the Ministers in this Government do it on a regular basis. An Independent Speaker would be able to inflict severe penalties on serious offenders.

8 In fully answering a question, a minister or parliamentary secretary must be directly responsive, relevant, succinct and limited to the subject matter of the question. Penalties apply.

Nothing has changed. The Government owns Question Time, the Speaker and the Standing Orders.

Democracy is dead. Lunacy prevails.  Anyway I think I have made my point.

My thought for the day.

IF you have a point of view, feel free to express it. However, do so with civility. Then your point of view is laced with a degree of dignity.

The Rule of Limitation of Excess

When Caesar Augustus first learned of the loss of Varus’s legions to an ambush by the Germanic tribes in the Teutoburg Forest (the “Battle of the Teutoburg Forest described as Clades Variana (the Varian Disaster) by Roman historians—took place in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE, when an alliance of Germanic tribes ambushed and decisively destroyed three Roman legions …” (Wiki’) ), he wept and refused to have his beard or hair cut for months. He then set about to limit the boundaries of the Roman Empire so as to withdraw to a more secure defensive strategy. He set limits on the expansion.

This situation of a “Rule of Limitation of Excess” can be applied to many situations: financial credit, automotive mechanics, building construction, even social discourse and political grandstanding … as we are all witnessing at this very moment with this hopeless government.

Applied to the philosophy of neo-liberal economics, it soon becomes apparent that the call to aspirational goals by many neo-liberal prophets cannot possible be achieved by too many people, and it was always a lie to claim it could be so. Even disregarding the incapacity of many to have the skills and rat-cunning to achieve such, there always was going to be the one big hurdle at which the majority would fall … and it is a salutary lesson for us to see just how this would come about.

I should think that we are all aware of the comparison equation, when we, say, go to a restaurant and proclaim that the “Italian porcini-chestnut gravy w/ the French duck and Moroccan potatoes” to be the best you have ever tasted this side of Provence! And who can forget Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle: “This is going straight to the pool room”? Of course, to claim a thing as the best or the richest there has to be another “yardstick” to measure it against. So to make the gross assumption that a people ought to aspire toward some unspecific level of materialism, is to give false hope mixed with a knowledge of certain failure for the many, while using that vain presumption of the people to secure political skin and a hoped for government.

The impossibility of a majority of a population ever reaching a level of wealth that will secure them from the inevitable costs against their savings is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetuated upon the Australian public. I can remember back in the earliest days of the beginnings of personal superannuation, when during a smoko break, a group of us subbies were discussing our retirement plans with super as the centre-piece, after listening to the many levels of financial limits hoped to be achieved, it dawned upon me that if all these sums were added up amongst all the baby-boomers-  who would hope to retire within several years of each other – the accrued amount of dollars needed to pay out the sums would bankrupt Fort Knox! So I concluded that two things must happen: a) the expected sum of moneys could never be fully realised or exploited, and b) the financial sharks would move in for the kill.

In light of the many examples of “running costs” and “grand fraud”, both those expectations have been filled. Because the one rock solid principle of mammoth wealth, is that the money held in the vaults and deposits or investment havens by those oligarchs and moguls, can only drop to a certain value and no lower for that principle to hold to the expected measure of respect needed by its owner to proclaim themselves of the percentage of the elite and powerful.

“For the great body of the people in any modern community, the proximate ground of expenditure in excess of what is required for physical comfort is not a conscious effort to excel in the expensiveness of their visible consumption, so much as it is a desire to live up to the conventional standard of decency in the amount and grade of goods consumed. This desire is not guided by a rigidly invariable standard, which must be lived up to, and beyond which there is no incentive to go. The standard is flexible; and especially it is indefinitely extensible, if only time is allowed for habituation to any increase in pecuniary ability and for acquiring facility in the new and larger scale of expenditure that follows such an increase. It is much more difficult to recede from a scale of expenditure once adopted than it is to extend the accustomed scale in response to an accession of wealth” (Thorsten Veblen).

If the “limit of excess” is breached by a nation’s treasury in a monetary way, and more dollars are printed (leveraged), the value of that currency is, of course, diminished and can get to a point in uncontrolled excess that a kit-bag of money is needed to buy one loaf of bread! I need not give any examples of this happening.

Likewise, if there grows an limitless excess of upper middle-class wealth so that too many “entrepreneurs” clutter the environment, there is a devaluing of aspiration and an arising of such a number of hustlers and con-men that would equal the days of the street-corner patent-medicine salesmen and bogus stocks and share salesmen, and the nightly news would be bracketed with angst and concern for the rise and fall of the monetary markets. Oh, wait!

So if we go back to when Caesar Augustus set a limit to empire, it caused deep and dangerous ructions amongst those mercenaries and slave traders who made their and Rome’s wealth on the back of plunder and rapine of new conquered territories, thus putting a limit on the entrepreneur of those times to expand their wealth. And so there grew the capacity and number of the agents provocateur and saboteur to try to start wars so as to be able to capitalise on the resulting chaos. Again … Oh, wait!

I would say the western world has reached its “limitation of excess” of the old “plunder and rapine” style of economic management and has yet found sufficient reason or intestinal fortitude to switch to a more socialist program of people, capital and commodity management. An inevitable conclusion to a system that is running on empty. All that is left to do is to drive the “capitalist running dogs” over the edge of their self-created abyss into their rubbish-bin of destiny … before they destroy all that is left in this world.

Follow the money in five easy steps

By JD Anthony

One word economy

Our nanna told me that “a penny saved is a penny earned” but I doubt that now. A dollar saved is a dollar not spent. It just sits the moneybox doing nothing. Only spending gets money circulating and only in circulation can money generate production and value.

Two moneyboxes

When I was a kid I had two money boxes. One was rather racist, in keeping with the times – a cast iron gollywog. You put a penny in his outstretched hand and flipped a lever and he swallowed the coin. Our grandfather, born in the 19th Century, gave us one each and then slipped us a penny every time he visited. I’ll admit my sister and I loved it.

When the gollywog was full mum would unscrew the back and we’d transfer the coins to a State Bank tin, shaped like the Bank’s headquarters in the city.

When that was full we’d walk up the street to the local State Bank branch and hand the money to the man over the counter. My pale blue passbook had an official seal with the lion and the unicorn, and the words “Guaranteed by the Government of Victoria.” I remember asking mum what “guaranteed” meant and she said we could always get the money back if we needed to spend it, which I often did on bows and arrows and cowboy guns and later on comics. But of course it actually stayed there for years until I left home and found there was more in the account than I remembered, and was pretty pleased with myself when I bought a motor bike.

And so I grew up believing that banks were friendly places that helped you save, looked after your money, and paid it back with interest. Many years later I went to that same bank to get a home loan for our first weatherboard house. Because this was a public institution that I believed I could trust. It took another forty years for me to see the true character of modern day banks and to finally realise how duped we were when Joan Kirner sold our State Savings Bank to the Commonwealth Bank so Hawke and Keating could privatise it.

Maybe I’m too trusting, a slow learner. Over the years that trust has evaporated and a harder-edged sense of politics now moulds my ideas.

I grew up with some racist ideas too, which I gradually came to regret and change. But I’ve kept the gollywog out of nostalgia. It wasn’t his fault, nor mine. As workers and consumers we are all just products of our times.

Lately I’ve been reading “The Production of Money” by Ann Pettifor which helps me frame banking and modern money systems, which in their turn are major producers of this, the financialised and globalised era of capital. The following is not so much a review of that book as a rolling reflection on the first few chapters.

Three revelations

A common view is that banks act as middle men between savers and lenders – storing all those pennies from the nation’s piggy banks and lending them out to investors and entrepreneurs who then make a profit so the repayments return to us as interest on our savings accounts. Nothing could be further from the truth, although it had some validity back in the gollywog days.

Another misconception, or myth, or even perhaps a lie is that the banks have minimum reserves to keep them safe. This is sometimes called the money multiplier or fractional banking – that governments ensure banks have enough cash stashed away (10% say) to cover them when they make loans, if the loans go bad.

It’s true the main commercial banks have accounts with the national Central Bank but these accounts are mainly used to settle inter-bank payments by computer entries – debiting and crediting payments so the system is balanced. There are no “reserves” involved. There is no cash involved either. There are also various prudential and risk management measures in place but, as the GFC showed, these are inadequate and governments had to step in to protect the banks that were supposedly “too big to fail.”

Ann Pettifor clarifies these confusions in her book The Production of Money, in fact she blows such fallacies out of the water. In Chapter 2 she records how Ben Bernanke, then Governor of the US Federal Reserve, described on TV the bail out of a major insurance company to the tune of $85 billion dollars, not with taxpayer funds nor financed by government “debt,” rather, he explained, “we simply mark up their account by computer entry!”

This money did not “come from” anywhere, it was created, invented, conjured out of thin air. On the 13 March 2009 that $85bn did not exist, on 14 March it sat as a line item in the insurance company’s Federal Reserve account. On 15 March the Governor of the Fed explained it’s appearance on the CBS show 60 Minutes. The same day they started spending it to pay down debt and shore up assets so they would not follow Lehman’s investment bank into oblivion.

This was a great revelation to me because you never see stuff like that in the finance reports on mainstream media. But there’s more. The Bank of England described modern money creation in a Quarterly Bulletin back in 2014. Although not widely known amongst ordinary people, commercial banks create money out of thin air whenever they issue a loan. Bank loans (housing, commercial, investment, personal, cars and so on) create 95-97% of the money in circulation! Oh yes, the government creates only 3% or in some cases five. So one day there’s not enough money and the next there might be too much. It’s unregulated and almost entirely in private hands, under private control.

A third, similar revelation came from Germany’s Bundesbank in its April 2017 Monthly Report – explicitly stating that banks are not intermediaries, transferring money from savers to investors, but rather creators of money.

Once these revelations about the nature of money started to sink in, my disbelief switched to “how come we didn’t know this?” I discovered that the Bundesbank had previously laid it all out in 2010, in a publication entitled “Money and Monetary Policy” (pages 88-93). I found a quote from the Right Honourable Reginald McKenna dating from 1924 – “Every loan, overdraft, or bank purchase creates a deposit, and every repayment of a loan, overdraft, or bank sale destroys a deposit.” He was a former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chairman of the Midland Bank (quoted on the Sensible Money website, which includes a clear video explanation). I also found a host of blogs and “serious” websites discussing these very issues – Prime Economics, Positive Money, Sensible Money, the New Economics Foundation. You can google them all in a quiet moment.

According to Pettifor none of this is new, nor really revelatory if you’d been following the money. Keynes explained it in his General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, and long before him the Scottish political economist John Law did too. She lists a number of other monetary theorists including Schumpeter, Galbraith and Minsky who all saw that, in a nutshell, there is no money in the bank before the borrower applies for a loan, and that the system runs on credit. And credit, of course, is another word for debt.

Four central banks

Modern states have “central” banks to control the nation’s money supply, manage inflation and interest rates, and settle inter-bank payments. Privately owned until World War 2, most are now in public hands though supposedly “independent” of government control.

The archetypal Bank of England was founded in 1694, following the Dutch and Italian model. It’s original remit was to provide credit to the British Crown and so free them from the “robber barons” who had been the only source of loans – drawing wealth from land, peasant labour, corn, gold and so on. This borrowing, especially to finance the wars against France, came at such high interest that immense taxation was required to repay it. From the start the BoE simply created money because it “never professed to make its issues square exactly with its coin and bullion.”  Originally a private bank, it was nationalised in the Keynesian heyday, 1946, forming a fascinating mirror to its foundation date.

Its website says it’s purpose is to promote “the good of the people of the United Kingdom by maintaining monetary and financial stability.” It’s one of the main central Banks in the world, along with US Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank. Australia’s Reserve Bank is also up there in the top eight. Interestingly our Reserve says on its website that it has three core purposes – the stability of the currency, maintaining full employment, and contributing to the economic prosperity and welfare of the Australian people. What we see in the Australian case is an almost total focus on the first purpose – which boils down to managing inflation – and a complete disregard for full employment and the prosperity/welfare of the Australian people.

All four of these Central Banks have the power to create money themselves, and to control how the commercial banks (their customers) create that other 95%. The big four, though not Australia, have tried this mainly through the mechanism of Quantitative Easing (QE) where they conjure up new money electronically to buy financial assets from the commercial banks. Often this is redemption of government bonds, thus restraining the current government debt and injecting electronic cash into the financial sector. The theory is that the latter will in turn loan to productive investors to get the economy moving again.

Except it hasn’t got moving, not in Japan, not in Europe and only very slightly in the USA. The banks have pocketed the new money, paid down debts, cleaned up balance sheets, and bought their own “fictional” assets to hedge their bets, like share portfolios and even gold. Nothing productive about QE.

Although all modern Central Banks have a stated mission to serve the citizens of their respective countries, the biggest of them (the US Federal Reserve) is actually owned by the big commercial banks it supposedly oversees. And a quick look at the board members of our Reserve Bank (under public ownership) shows a bunch of company directors but no pensioners, unionists or workers. Six older white men and three white women.

How does all this happen and yet most people, most voters, have no idea about it? How has the finance sector become the master rather than the servant of the productive economy? How is it that the Central Banks, including our Reserve Bank, ignore employment and focus almost exclusively on money supply?

Pettifor’s thesis, similar to that of Steve Keen and many other heterodox macro-economists, is that the economics profession has been captured by neoclassical thinking – austerity, micro-economic focus, balanced government budgets, chasing a utopian myth of supply: demand equilibrium, and so on. She points out that these “flawed, ideological theories and models” are a great comfort to financial elites, and quotes Satyajit Das from his book Traders, Guns and Money:

“Modern finance is generally incomprehensible to ordinary men and women … The level of comprehension of many bankers and regulators is not significantly higher… It was probably designed that way. Like the wolf in the fairy tale: All the better to fleece you with.”

Steve Keen, in his Debunking Economics, demolishes the validity of those neoclassical assumptions that underpin mainstream economics, the ideology behind unfettered free markets, commercial banking, the finance sector, all government departments and university courses. He shows in detail how they lack empirical support and produce neither efficiency nor equity for the majority of people. He describes neoclassical economics as a “degenerative” research program, generating no new knowledge but shielding its core beliefs from critique. Himself a Professor of Economics, he states baldly that “Economics is too important to leave to the economists.”

In the second half of The Production of Money Ann Pettifor puts forward a political program, based on Keynes’s work before and at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, aimed at reigning in the immense power of commercial banks. Her central point is summed up by the phrase “make finance capital the servant rather than the master of the productive economy.”

Hers is not a revolutionary program, she does not seek to overthrow capitalism. Rather to smooth it out, make the “business cycles” less disruptive and hence more efficient. With the corollary of greater transparency and justice for ordinary people and the chance of saving the planet from resource depletion, pollution and abrupt climate change. Pettifor’s attitude could be described as socially democratic.

G20 protestors act as zombies – the consumers and victims of financialised capitalism (Photo by Friedemann Vogel-Pool/Getty Images)

Five possibilities

Although the big banks, and to a lesser extent the Central Banks, create money at the flick of a computer keystroke, we must bear in mind is that credit money is not the same as “VALUE.” They are creating credit/debt which must be invested in productive industry before it can be realised (made real) as wealth and value. All too often this phantom credit is going into share buybacks, CEO salaries, housing bubbles and the like. Could this be turned around? Are there alternatives?

Ann Pettifor thinks so, and while I won’t go into the detail she provides in the latter part of her book, it’s fascinating to imagine a better world based on her ideas. For example:

  1. If the big banks were brought under democratic control and to some degree of public ownership, then the stated goals of full employment and national prosperity (a common wealth) could be pursued, rather than the current endless greed of high interest rates and investment bubbles. Finance could again assume the role of public service.
  2. QE could be put to productive use instead of lining the pockets of hotshots in the finance industry. QE funds could be used for socially productive purposes such as reforesting the plains, cleaning up rivers and creeks and wetlands, building wind farms and tidal generators, installing PV panels on all domestic properties, funding schools and TAFE, establishing free medical clinics across the country. And so on.
  3. If the Commonwealth issued money rather than allowing the private sector to monopolise the process, the Job Guarantee favoured by Modern Money Theory could be established leading to basically full employment. All those who wanted to work could do so.
  4. A renationalised CBA – Australia’s previously government-owned bank – could issue loans at a low interest rate (essentially enough to cover inflation) that would force the commercial banks into a truly competitive environment. Interest rates could be brought down for small business across the board. More innovation, lower costs, higher employment.
  5. Keynes reportedly said – “above all, let finance be primarily national” (quoted in The Perils of Free Trade by Herman E Daly) – and Pettifor builds upon this notion an extensive rewinding of globalisation. Her intent is to regain national political autonomy from the international financial institutions. That entails re-establishing capital controls to restrain and regulate capital flows across the world, presently conducted in the blink of the eye via the internet. “We need to reform and adjust monetary policy. We need to bring offshore capitalism back onshore” (page 159).She knows that national governments will not tackle such politics and calls on “people” to lead, especially women and environmentalists. She is not starry eyed.

Hmmm, an ambitious political program. Maybe she is a revolutionary after all?

 

Further reading

Ann Pettifor, The Production of Money, Verso, 2017

Steve Keen, Debunking Economics, Zed Books, 2011

Herman E Daly, The Perils of Free Trade, Scientific American, November 1993

Ann Pettifor, The Power to Create Money Out of Thin Air: A review essay of Geoffrey Ingham’s Capitalism from – Prime Economics

Ann Pettifor – Lecure at the London School of Economics

Positive Money: How Banks Create Money

Sensible Money – Where does money come from?

Reginald McKenna quoted in Sensible Money

Reserve Bank of Australia about the Board

Francesco Defila The Bank of England changed everything

BoE Quarterly Bulletin: Money creation in the modern economy

Zeta online discussion: Fallacy of Fractional Reserve Banking

Bundesbank Admits that Credit is Created out of Thin Air quoted in online blog

Norbert Haring, Bundesbank rejects 100% money, Real World Economics Review, May 16, 2017

 

This article was originally published on ranterrulze.net.

Day to Day Politics: German parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage

Wednesday 5 July 2017

The vote by 393 to 226, with four abstentions, followed 40 minutes of often heated and highly emotional debate, reflecting a wider, decades-long argument over marriage equality. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, voted against the move, despite having paved the way for the law’s passage by inviting MPs to vote according to their conscience.

Meantime in Australia the Government continues to frustrate the publics will on the matter. Surveys continuously show around 70% of Australians support Marriage Equality. Yet the Government, for political reasons prevaricates, insisting on having a plebiscite to confirm what the surveys show at a cost of $200 million. The simplest method of resolving the issue would be for our parliamentarians to do what we pay them to do. Vote.

While the rest of the world acts our Government can only think about appeasing a minority of far right religious nutters in their ranks.

IT’S TIME FOR THE PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA TO REFLECT THE PUBLICS WILL

Marriage Equality and Why I Support It.

More than 760 million people now live in countries where same-sex marriage is firmly legal.

 2001 – The Netherlands

The Netherlands was the first country to pass legislation to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, divorce and adopt children

.2003 – Belgium

Belgium’s parliament voted to allow same-sex marriage in 2003, with legislation in 2006 granting same-sex couples the right to adopt children.

2005 – Spain and CanadaIn 2005 Canada became the first country outside of Europe to legalise same-sex marriage. Parliament passed legislation after a steady march of court rulings had legalised the practice in the majority of the country’s provinces.

The Conservative Party attempted to repeal the legislation one year later but was defeated.

Spain’s parliament narrowly passed some of the world’s most liberal marriage equality laws in 2005, extending full rights to same-sex couples.

The move saw protests from Catholic officials and brought large crowds to the streets in Madrid.

2006 – South Africa

South Africa’s parliament legislated for same-sex marriage in 2016, codifying a 2015 court decision which found that restricting marriage to heterosexuals was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

It remains the only country in Africa where same-sex marriage is lawful. The legislation passed with overwhelming support.

2009 – Norway and Sweden

Norway replaced its civil union laws with full marriage and adoption rights in 2009. Parliament was split over the issue.

In 2017 the Norwegian Lutheran Church, to which most Norwegians belong, voted to authorise its pastors to conduct same-sex marriage.

Sweden’s parliament passed same-sex marriage laws decisively in 2009, also replacing earlier civil union laws. The Church of Sweden allows clergy to officiate ceremonies.

2010 – Portugal, Iceland and Argentina

Portugal legalised same-sex marriage in 2010 through a parliamentary vote. In 2016 parliament overturned a presidential veto and granted same-sex couples the right to adopt.

Iceland’s parliament unanimously passed same-sex marriage legislation in 2010. Couples were already able to adopt.

The country’s Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, was one of the first to utilise the legislation, marrying her partner, Jónína Leósdóttir.

Argentina’s parliament narrowly passed same sex-marriage laws in 2010, following several regional areas passing civil union laws.

The law sparked outcry from Catholic groups in the country as it became the first in South America to legalise same-sex marriage.

2012 – Denmark

Denmark passed same-sex marriage legislation in 2012. Couples already had the right to register as partners and adopt children.

2013 – France, Brazil, Uruguay and New Zealand

New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific to legalise same-sex marriage when parliament comfortably passed the law in 2013. The law also allowed couples to adopt.

France legalised same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption in 2013, a move which attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters and counter-protesters.

Uruguay decisively passed same-sex marriage legislation in 2013. Couples already had the right to adopt.

Brazil became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage not through legislation, but with a court ruling.

The National Justice Council ruled in 2013 that civil registrars must offer same-sex marriage services, after several regions had already legislated for legalisation.

2014 – The United Kingdom, excluding Northern Ireland

In 2013 British parliament passed a law which would legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales the following year. In 2014 the Scottish parliament passed a similar bill.

Northern Ireland has not passed same-sex marriage legislation.

The Church of England remains opposed to same-sex marriage, despite ongoing internal debate over the issue.

The UK has performed hundreds of same-sex weddings in Australia for dual citizens.

2015 – Ireland, United States and Luxemburg

In 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States declared that the constitution protected the rights of citizens to marry, regardless of gender.

The divided Obergefell v. Hodges ruling instantly legalised same-sex marriage across all 50 states, several of which had already legislated the issue themselves.

It was the same year that Ireland became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote.

The majority Catholic country voted in support of same-sex marriage with a majority of 62 per cent.

Luxembourg’s parliament overwhelmingly supported same-sex marriage and adoption legislation in 2014, which came in to force on January 1, 2015.

Less than four months after the law came into effect, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married his partner, Gauthier Destenay.

2016 – Colombia and Greenland

In 2016 Colombia’s top court ruled that the country’s constitution guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage for LGBT+ citizens.

Greenland’s parliament unanimously voted to adopt the marriage and adoption legislation of its parent country, Denmark, in 2015. The legislation came into effect for 56,000 Greenlanders in 2016.

2017 – Finland

The Finnish parliament passed same-sex marriage legislation in late 2014, and in 2017 rejected a citizens’ petition to repeal the law.

The law came into effect this year. Every Nordic country now has legal same-sex marriage.

2017 – Germany

Pending – Taiwan

In 2017 Taiwan’s top court issued an ultimatum to the parliament: legislate same-sex marriage within two years or it will become legal regardless.

Some of the aforementioned countries have had same-sex marriage legalised from one to ten years. The fabrics of their societies have not unraveled; they haven’t been struck by lightning. They have not been tormented by natural disasters, or the wrath of God. They have not fallen off the face of the Earth and they have not tumbled into any sort of moral abyss.

On the contrary, the experience seems to have been a positive one, social harmony is constructive and the emotional, physical and sexual health of gay people has improved. Some of these countries even feature high in the” happiest countries” surveys and the divorce rate for gay couples is better than that of heterosexuals. I have read the after legislative experience of many of these nations and there is no evidence that same-sex marriage will have catastrophic consequences for society.

Traditional Marriage

I recall last year reading a book titled “The History of Sex” and was surprised to find that the early church debated for around 100 years what was the most natural position for a women during intercourse. Therefore, I was not at all surprised to find that when you research the history of marriage it is littered with ongoing fundamental change. It is rooted in several different ancient cultures including Roman, Hebrew, Germanic and the medieval practices of the early church. It took the Protestant reformation to transform it from church ownership to the realm of government.

Early marriage had nothing to do with love but was more to do with inheritance and ownership than anything was and, marriages were arranged without the consent of the girl involved and more often when they reached the age shortly after menstruation. In addition, we must keep in mind that females in early society were treated with pro creation in mind and not much more.

For a short history of marriage in western society, I recommend you Google “The Sex Atlas” Erwin J. Haeberle, Ph.D., (Ed.D.)

It is important for both those who oppose gay marriage (and any re structure of the construct of the family) and those who support it to understand that marriage in western civilisation has constantly been subject to change, both by the church and by secular authorities. If you take the time to research the history of marriage, you will find this to be the case.

State of current marriage

The institution of marriage has changed dramatically over the past several decades. In 1997, the average age a male married was 24 and by 2003 had increased to 31. For females, it was 21 and 29. This is partly attributable to a rise in people who chose to cohabit prior to marriage or as a substitute to marriage. In 1971, around 16% of people chose to cohabit prior to marriage and this rose to 76% in 2007. Note. You can find all relevant data on this subject on the ABS Webb site.

On the one hand, Australia has an enormous marriage industry but on the other 50% of marriages break down. Marriage is becoming increasingly unpopular and some would argue in terminal decline. In Australia, there are many reasons for this but the decreasing interest and membership of churches is an important factor.

In the USA the number of married adults has dropped to about 52 percent in 2008 from 72 percent in 1960 and 39 percent of Americans consider marriage obsolete

Traditional marriage or marriage in its current state is a failed institution (some believe it will become extinct) and becoming less and less popular. Therefore one has to ask exactly what is it that needs protection. On the other hand, we might ask do we need a new concept of what marriage and the family should be.

 Challenging the Christian Objection

Religion in Australia seems to have influence that outweighs its relevancy. Once the church led the way in social morality but society has overtaken it. Only 8% or less of the population attends church on any given Sunday. In the previous census, 64% of the population nominated themselves as Christian and a recent survey suggests that it will be around 40% in the one currently being analysed.( note this may be disputed because they are two different things) And of the 40%, only 20% practice their faith. The same survey said that a major turn off for people was the church’s inability to accept gay people. If fact the churches refusal to recognise homosexuality generally contributes, further to its demise.

Therefore, Christianity has an influence that is disproportionate to its participation in a secular society.

The Christian faith teaches that all people are equal before God. However, does the church actually participate in this affirmation? The short answer is no.

Often you will hear Christians say ‘Oh we don’t dislike homosexuals we just hate the sin’

I have always found this to be infuriatingly condescending.

In a discussion with a Christian friend recently, it was said that there were no homosexuals because God did not make any. It was also stated that gay people chose to be that way and not because the were made that way. This is indicative of the absurdity of the Christian argument. It is a fact that some men and women for whatever reason choose a gay lifestyle however the fact is that men and women are born homosexual the same as heterosexuals are.

During the last three decades, for example, organisations representing 1.5 million U.S. health professionals (doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, and educators) have stated definitively that homosexual orientation is as natural as heterosexual orientation, that sexual orientation is determined by a combination of yet unknown pre- and post-natal influences, and that it is dangerous and inappropriate to tell a homosexual that he or she could or should attempt to change his or her sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice; it is primarily something that takes place at birth. People do not decide to be gay just as in the same way as one does not decide to become heterosexual.

Homosexuality can be observed and is common in the animal kingdom. Birds do it, bees probably do it and fleas may do it, too. Among the many examples are penguins, who have been known to form lifelong same-sex bonds, dolphins and bonobos, which are bisexual apes. Various explanations have been advanced for the evolutionary advantage that such relationships might confer. For example, female Laysan albatrosses form same-sex pairs, which are more successful at rearing chicks than single females. But they may help preserve those of the group to which they belong.

Animals unlike humans do not have moral free will, so it is difficult to argue that they choose to be the way they are. So one could argue that the existence of homosexuality in the animal kingdom demonstrates that it is not a sin against nature.

The crux of the Christian quarrel with homosexuality stems from the interpretation of Biblical scripture. Alternatively, more precisely selective interpretation mainly from Christians who see the Bible as literally true. That the word of God is infallible.

If that were so, we would be practicing the following. DEUTERONOMY 22:13-21

If it is discovered that a bride is not a virgin, the Bible demands that she be executed by stoning immediately.

DEUTERONOMY 22:22

If a married person has sex with someone else’s husband or wife, the Bible commands that both adulterers be stoned to death.

MARK 10:1-12

Divorce is strictly forbidden in both Testaments, as is remarriage of anyone who has been divorced.

LEVITICUS 18:19

The Bible forbids a married couple from having sexual intercourse during a woman’s period. If they disobey, both shall be executed.

MARK 12:18-27

If a man dies childless, his widow is ordered by biblical law to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir.

DEUTERONOMY 25:11-12

If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife seeks to rescue her husband by grabbing the enemy’s genitals, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her.

The list goes on: The Bible says clearly that sex with a prostitute is acceptable for the husband but not for the wife. Polygamy (more than one wife) is acceptable, as is a king is having many concubines. (Solomon, the wisest king of all, had 1,000 concubines.) Slavery and sex with slaves, marriage of girls aged 11-13, and treatment of women as property are all accepted practices in the Scriptures. On the other hand, there are strict prohibitions against interracial marriage, birth control, discussing or even naming a sexual organ, and seeing one’s parents nude.   In fact, the Bible accepts sexual practices that we condemn and condemns sexual practices that we accept

Personally, I have never understood the fundamental clash between free will and literalism. Christians will argue on the one hand that God gave us free will but on the other insist that we interpret the Bible literally. Surely, the two are incompatible.

The way certain Bible verses are used to condemn homosexuality and homosexuals is born out of ignorance. Jesus says nothing about same-sex behaviour. The Jewish prophets are silent about homosexuality. Only six or seven of the Bible’s one million verses refer to same-sex behaviour in any way — and none of these verses refers to homosexual orientation, as it is understood today.

Most people who are certain they know what the Bible says about homosexuality do not know where the verses that reference same-sex behaviour can be found. They have not read them, let alone studied them carefully. They don’t know the original meaning of the words in Hebrew or Greek. In addition, they haven’t tried to understand the historical context in which those words were written. Yet the assumption that the Bible condemns the practice has led to Christian homophobia. Moreover, it must be remembered that that word homosexuality is a recent addition to the English language and is not used in the bible.

Now lets look at the most quoted verses used in support of the anti-gay argument.

GENESIS 2:21-25

THE CREATION STORY

This creation story is primarily about God, a story written to show the power of God who created the world and everything in it. It teaches that ultimately God is the Creator, that God shaped the world.

What does the creation story say about homosexuality? Nothing actually just like many other things. It does say that it is “natural” that a man and a woman come together to create a new life. Some people take this to mean that gay or lesbian couples are “unnatural.” They read this interpretation into the text, even though the text is silent about all kinds of relationships that don’t lead to having children:

  • couples who are unable to have children
  • couples who are too old to have children
  • couples who choose not to have children
  • people who are single

Are these relationships (or lack of relationships) “unnatural”? There’s nothing said here that condemns or approves the love that people of the same sex have for each other So I believe the creation story says a lot about God’s power and presence in the universe — but nothing about homosexuality as we understand it today.

Having said that I should point out that one would be hard pressed to find many Christians in Australian mainstream churches who take the creation story literally. Most are more inclined toward evolution. Although in the USA 80% of people still believe in the creation story.

LEVITICUS 18:22 AND 20:13

THE HOLINESS CODE

Leviticus 18:6 reads.” You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination.” A similar verse occurs two chapters later, in Leviticus 20:13: “A man who sleeps with another man is an abomination and should be executed.” On the surface, these words could leave you feeling rather uneasy, especially if you are gay. But just below the surface is the deeper truth — and it has nothing to do with sex.

Leviticus is a holiness code written 3,000 years ago. This code includes many outdated sexual laws. It also includes prohibitions against round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics, eating pork or shellfish, getting your fortune told, and even playing with the skin of a pig. So what is a holiness code? It’s a list of behaviours that people of faith find offensive in a certain place and time. In this case, the code was written for priests only,

What about this word abomination that comes up in both passages? In Hebrew, “abominations” (TO’EBAH) are behaviours that people in a certain time and place consider tasteless or offensive. To the Jews an abomination was not a law, not something evil like rape or murder forbidden by the Ten Commandments. It was a common behaviour by non-Jews that Jews thought was displeasing to God.

Jesus and Paul both said the holiness code in Leviticus does not pertain to Christian believers. Nevertheless, there are still people who pull the two verses about men sleeping together from this ancient holiness code to say that the Bible seems to condemn homosexuality.

It’s important to remember that in every age, people of faith are responsible for setting moral and ethical standards. Nevertheless, people of faith must be very careful not to allow prejudices to determine what those standards should be.

There are other Bible verses readily quoted from the Book of Romans and of course the story of Sodom both of which can be shown to be misinterpreted and not necessarily in a homosexual context. I think an often-overlooked scripture that supports the existence of homosexuality is Mathew 19 Verse 11 Jesus is talking about marriage and say’s ‘For there are different reasons why men cannot marry. Some because they were born that way.’

That to me is very compelling.

Historically, people’s misinterpretation of the Bible has left a trail of suffering, bloodshed, and death.

Misinterpreted the Bible has done terrible things. The Bible has been misused to defend bloody crusades and tragic inquisitions; to support slavery, apartheid, and segregation; to persecute Jews and other non-Christian people of faith; to support Hitler’s Third Reich and the Holocaust; to oppose medical science; to condemn interracial marriage; to execute women as witches; and to support the Ku Klux Klan. Shakespeare said it this way: “Even the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

It’s time we re-defined the concept of family and allowed same sex marriage.

It is difficult in 2013 to believe that any sensible government would not be swimming with the tide of public opinion. Over 60% of Australians support same sex marriage. If the ALP is looking to resurrect its popular base then surely they must return to their ideological roots and support a change to the marriage act at its next national conference.

Gay people like heterosexual people fall in love with each other but in this country are denied legal recognition within the institution of marriage. Society say’s that it’s all right for gays to pay taxes, vote or even die for their country but legal marriage is out of the question.

Yes, gay folk are real people with real hearts and their love for their partners is just as precious as the love between a man and a woman. Moreover, they want to get married for exactly the same reasons as everyone else does. They’re in love. They want to make a commitment to each other.

This is a matter of gender, equality, natural justice and human rights. I do not see how allowing same-sex couples to get married hurts anyone else. Marriage brings so much joy, not to mention for families and friends. Every mum wants to see her son or daughter get married. It should not make any difference if her kid is gay.

Research has shown that gay people make loving parents. Sexual orientation makes no difference to one’s ability to parent. Hence gay and lesbian couples can be just as good as parents as heterosexual couples. Kids deserve the stability that comes with marriage. The whole of society benefits with more love in the world. It is nonsense for people to say that marriage will be devalued if consent is given to homosexuals. Heterosexuals have already considerably damaged the institution. It seems to me that if more people get married the more relevant marriage will become.

Straight people don’t have to believe in God or go to church to get married, so why is religion suddenly a big issue when we’re talking about gays getting married? And most importantly, we’re talking about civil marriage here, so it’s a civil rights issue. If the church does not want to marry, gay people then so be it. They need not be compelled to do so. Gay’s I am sure would be happy at the registry office. I do concede though that Christian gays would prefer a religious church ceremony.

Even if Christians believe the homosexual union of marriage is wrong does it follow that they have the right to impose that view on an Australian secular society.

The bottom line is that marriage is about love and commitment, a big commitment. If someone is willing to make that kind of commitment, we should not be stopping him or her. We should be saying “go for it”, and “we’ll be there to support you every step of the way”.

“It’s really simple. If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex.”

In other words, why not allow gay marriage?

Resources

The Bible

Ending Sexual Apartheid Michael Kirby

The Gay Christian Network

Yahoo answers

Australian Labor Party

Psychology Today

A History of Marriage – Magnus Hirschfeld

The Age

Punch

Wikipedia

The Bible and Gays – The Rev Mel White

 

 

“You can have your cabin back”

By Kyran O’Dwyer

It seems odd to try and write a piece about our First People, when I hold no qualification to do so. It is, however, entirely acceptable, bearing in mind we, with no more than a few centuries of occupation as qualification, continue to tell our First People how we expect them to live and behave.

Their tens of thousands of years of occupation of this land mass has rendered them voiceless. We not only disallow their voices to be heard, unless it’s through a ‘white’ construct, we deride and ridicule any notion that they might know what they are doing. Let alone any notion they may have any notion of what they need or want.

We have held numerous enquiries and royal commissions, usually when the atrocities against our First People are simply too obvious, too egregious, to ignore. Every single time, the recommendations of the enquiries are held up as some sort of acknowledgement that wrongs were committed, with the promise we will do better. Every single time, the recommendations languish, whilst our leaders exonerate their pathetic inaction by pointing to the enquiry being held, rather than the recommendations being ignored.

The recent Uluru statement was not the issuance of an ultimatum. It was an assertion of fact. How can we continue to prescribe remedies for our First People whilst ignoring their contribution?

We are fast approaching NAIDOC week. It’s one of those feel good times, when we pay lip service to their existence, and their right to existence, whilst ignoring the underlying problem. The elephant in the room. They will be tolerated, but not heard.

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.

NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.

We encourage all Australians to participate in the celebrations and activities that take place across the nation during NAIDOC Week.

Dear Uncle Tom, you can have your cabin back.

This is the ten year ‘celebration’ of the intervention. By any definition, a monumental failure. Stan Grant wrote about it, and as with most of his work, he is eloquent, impassioned and sincere.

Whilst in agreement with Mr Grant about the failure of the intervention, Chris Graham on New Matilda suggests a conflict of interest on the part of Mr Grant. Mr Grant, an employee of the ABC, fails to mention that his employer was instrumental in the formation of the intervention policy.

Ah well, that’s all water under the bridge. We have the ‘welfare card’ as our newest ‘innovation’ (to use a talcum’ism, rather than call it what it is, a reincarnation of failure), telling our First People what they need, whilst ignoring what they deserve. Another platitudinous intervention.

We have a federal grant to build lots of houses in the NT for our First People. Yeah, OK, lots of people made money and not many houses were built.

There was the story of the turnaround in the Katherine Hospital outcomes for patients when they actually talked to the patients.

There was the story of a ‘mentoring’ program in Western Sydney, where First People elders mentored youth on traditional medicines. Oddly, unfunded by any government assistance, yet very successful.

There was the story of Mr Voller, who was released from prison – where he was undeniably abused – into the custody of a program, to be mentored. Wanna guess which one was better?

There are many stories about the successes of our First People. They are the ones where we pat ourselves on the back, where we say it’s OK, one of them succeeded. There was an interesting article on the ABC posted by some bloke from the New York Times. It’s a tad brutal, pointing out that incarceration, unemployment, demeaning, belittlement, is the reality for our First People. In that scenario, suicide is a most viable option.

In my opinion, completely and utterly without qualification, the Uluru statement did not go far enough. It should not have been a reasonable request to be heard. It should have been a demand for ‘treaty’. One of the Commonwealth’s richest members (yep, Australia) is the only Commonwealth country that does not have a treaty with its First People.

It seems to me unlikely our leaders will ever grasp that. Not without numerous referendu’s and plebiscites. More platitudinous enquiries.

1922, in Eire, they resuscitated a culture. When they taught the dance, the song, the language, in primary schools. Our leaders will never get that. Perhaps our primary school teachers and principals will show these miserable bastards they are wrong. By inviting our First People to do what they do best. Be themselves. And be bloody proud of it.

“Now two rivers run their course
Separated for so long
I’m dreaming of a brighter day
When the waters will be one.”

No Pasaran!

“No Pasaran! The cry went out, the Fascists are about! “No Pasaran! And so the war began.”

That is the start of an early draft of what I hoped would be a rousting piece of rhyming poetry I wanted to write just these last couple of days. You can see by the syllabic construction of that phrase: “No pasaran” that it has a natural “beat” a rhythmic sequence like a marching foot-fall or the beat of a drum. Perhaps, if it were loud enough, the beat of a human heart. It is a natural for building on … almost like a Sousa march.

No Pasaran!

Credit for that (no pasaran) goes to the fiery Spanish Communist party leader Dolores Ibárruri (1895-1989), whose popular nickname was “La Pasionaria” (“The Passion Flower”).

On July 18, 1936, mutinous Spanish Army troops led by Generalissimo Francisco Franco invaded the Spanish mainland from Morocco, with the goal of overthrowing Spain’s elected Republican government. This was the beginning of the bloody Spanish Civil War.

The next day, July 19, 1936, Ibárruri made a brief but eloquent speech on Radio-Madrid.
She urged her fellow citizens to put aside their other political differences and join together to fight against Franco’s Fascist forces.

“Young men, prepare for combat!,” she said. “Women, fight alongside your men in order to defend the lives and freedom of your sons. All workers, all anti-fascists must now look upon each other as brothers in arms.”

It was to be built on the words spoken by that Spanish lady; “La Passionaria” … “No Pasaran!” (They shall not pass!) in the time of the Spanish civil war. But while I had the words almost down pat in my head, the rhythm kinda sorted and the rolling theme just about right. I could not put it down on paper. I started, but I bulked at the actual printing out what I had now questioned in my mind the veracity of the honesty of the poem.

Because of course, Franco did break through their barricades. He did “pass” their fighters and their walls with the help of the other fascista in Germany and Italy. Franco’s only hope, the fascist cowards only hope of success is to “gang-up on their opposition … they did break through the barricades and take control of the country … and they mocked and sneered at the cry of resistance of “No Pasaran!” The right wing still mock and sneer at what they disparagingly call “leftie rantings” … but they do not, cannot know the real meaning behind those words; “No Pasaran” … they do not have the depth of understanding the cultural collective of the working people of not just one country, but the entire world..the entire span of human recorded history. “No pasaran” strikes a deeper cord in the worker’s heart than just a cry of resistance with arms..it is a barricade against the attempted conquest of all vulnerable peoples, a cry of resistance to reject the tyrannical fascist/corporate mindset from the very heart of a people. It is a rejection of the selfish, oafish, cruel nature of exploitation that would set citizen against citizen, brother against sister, one ethnic group against another and use religion, that over-arching drug-of-least-resistance to enact violence and hatred against all.

No Pasaran!

No Pasaran!…They will not pass! They will never be part of our lives! They will never be accepted into our hearts!

But there now is a weakness in the wall … a blind-spot that the right-wing has found and is exploiting to entrap the more gullible and naive of the working class to trust them to lead the nation. The entrepreneurial middle class has taken a leaf out of Greek mythology and used a “Trojan Horse” to break through the innermost defence to plant their disease of divide and rule within the heart of the nation. It has used the stupid to attract the stupid, much like one uses a cut piece of bait from the one fish to attract and catch another of the same species. The right-wing has used those now familiar fools so clumsy in their knowledge of politics and social needs, but so rat-cunning in their use of phrasing of tongue so that it appeals to the most gullible … the almost incoherent imbecility as appealing to the most uneducated knowledgeable group as also to the most educated knowledgeable “don’t-want-to-see” group, one may be more savvy than the other, but in the end both as dangerous and as gullible as each other.

I penned an article calling for; “A Revolution against the Middle-Classes” in which I claimed that history has shown that once the Entrepreneurial/Speculative (mark that; The Entrepreneurial/Speculative ) middle-classes gained control of political governance, it spelt the beginning of the end for not only the economy of a nation, but of the nation itself! I do not demur from that claim..unfortunately, a few folk seemed to take such a accusation on a whole class as a personal attack upon themselves. Why? I can only presume some sort of personal interest in the claim, perhaps as a kind of “gate-keeper” of that philosophy. But whatever it was, it has cost me in blogging cred with some people. I expect no better with this article, and it tells me just how far the middle-class virus has penetrated into our everyday lives when a large section of the voting public will trust, without question, a lying, tax avoiding wealthy dilettante to rule the nation.

There was an interview with Richard Flannigan on ABC tele a while back. It traced his career as a struggling and now successful writer. I admire Richard Flannigan immensely. I like his honest approach to his art and also his social conscience that he infuses into his writing. He spoke in answer to a query on a career in writing; “if the writing out of his stories diminishes the writer inside?” He answered in the affirmative, quoting F.Scott Fitzgerald in his piece called “The Crack-up”, who reiterated his thoughts, but there is another angle to that “emptying of the spirit” … there is another “breaking of the heart” of anyone who creates art from their heart.

There is a moment in the creation of art, where the artist, of whatever skill or ethnic group, of whatever genre, must ask themselves ; “For whom am I creating this?” they must ask themselves that or they might as well keep the image or process to themselves and go their way (for the “true artist”, the “honest artist” creates their art for their fellow peoples; “everything comes from without, not within”), leaving the vacuum to be filled by some other nature. Of course, the problem for the creative artist is that driving urge to create that forces one to go to the workshop and produce that piece just to stop it rolling around inside the head like a ball-bearing in a tin-can … to, as Henry Lawson once said; “I had to write it down or burst!”

For myself, an amateur at best, a scribbler at worst, many times I have asked that question of myself … which brings me back to the start of this piece where I stated (and I have to say that there have been many times lately) where I have not wanted to put down created characters and incidents..not wanted to share those experiences with my fellow citizens. And when I have pushed myself to do that, I have felt a great disappointment in “exposing” the characters that I do love (even when at times fictional) and the situations that I do treasure. I have felt I have let them down or used them in a most venal way. I feel “dirtied” by the experience. Quite disappointing.

But, of course, there are many others who must feel the same way. I would call them friends and I would willingly, gladly share experiences with them … for they too, would, I suspect like myself, hold true to their hearts that universal cry of revolution that has rung down the ages, despite many attempts to be smothered by a suffocating “mummyism” of middle-class servility.

“So raise the Scarlet Standard high
within its shade we live and die
though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
we’ll keep the red flag flying here.”

No Pasaran!

What the UK General Election result means

When Theresa May called a snap election in April, opinion polls had her Conservative Party 20 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Media commentators predicted her government would be returned with a majority of around 90 seats.

For the entire campaign Corbyn and his fully costed policies – including more spending on government services, a more equitable tax system and re-nationalising former government owned enterprises – were dismissed as unaffordable and unworkable.

The narrative that Corbyn was a ‘disaster’ and that the only option was for people to vote for more austerity and corporate cronyism, was proclaimed not only by the Conservative Party, corporate interests and the mainstream media, but also by a significant portion of his own party.

In spite of this, over a million 18-24 year-olds registered to vote during the campaign. On the final day before registrations closed, a record 622,398 people, two-thirds of them under the age of 35, registered to vote. Turnout on Election Day was 68.7 percent, the highest in 20 years, and appeared to be highest in seats with large numbers of young voters.

The result was the biggest swing to Labour since 1945.

This is a victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s mantra of ‘for the many not the few’ over Theresa May’s hollow rhetoric about ‘strength and stability’, neither of which she now possesses.

Theresa May is still the Prime Minister but she leads a minority government dependent on the erratic, and Brexit-sceptical, Democratic Unionist Party. May’s government is weak and lacking credibility, it is Corbyn’s Opposition who are strong and stable. Labour’s policy platform is now firmly entrenched in the political mainstream and, unlike the government’s austerity measures, have given people hope.

Corbyn didn’t succeed because of an Obamaesque vision, or a Trudeau like charisma, he succeeded because of his policies, and the passion with which he campaigned on them. Those policies are as old and well-worn as Corbyn himself. They come from the same beliefs held by the equally uncharismatic Clement Attlee, who lead Labour to their biggest endorsement ever in 1945. They are the policies of Social Democracy. The foundations of the modern welfare state. We tried them before, and they worked very well. They created a fairer and more equitable society, a society we’ve started to lose.

When it comes to living in a capitalist system, we’ve exhausted our options. There’s nothing new to offer from anywhere on the political spectrum. What many incumbent Right wing governments are offering – austerity, curtailing of civil liberties, and ‘trickle-down’ economics – have all been tried before. They are as harmful today as they were before Social Democracy took up the reins in the wake of the most destructive war in history.

Social Democracy created the National Health Service, it entrenched free education as a right for all children, it generated near full employment and real wage growth. Social Democracy made capitalism bearable. It has educated more people, created more equity and fairness, and resulted in more peace and prosperity for more people than any other political system.

The UK election has shown that Social Democracy belongs very much in the political mainstream. It is austerity measures and corporate greed that is unaffordable and unworkable.

Social Democracy is far from perfect, and it won’t in itself save the planet from war, injustice or the destruction of our environment. It’s obvious however that our current political trajectory is creating more conflict, inequity and environmental degradation. Those who benefit the most from the political status quo are afraid of Social Democracy, they have good reason to be.

Theresa May sends message to a Turnbull government of slogans, secrets and lies.

Stunned by what the press insists is a “shock” election result in Britain where, inexplicably, hollow slogans, austerity economics and Sir Lynton Crosby’s fear tactics fail to win the day for Tory crash test dummy, Theresa May, our political world is reeling this week as MPs joust with shock jocks in a knee-jerk war on terror while Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel obligingly offers our fearless leaders another chance to dodge any real commitment to climate change.

Political actors dig deep. Best mystery shopper is won easily by One Nation’s epic failure to yet provide a coherent, credible explanation of who paid for Pauline’s Jabiru, while stunt of the week goes to Adani’s incredible “Green Light to Carmichael” oratorio Tuesday, a stirring, religious work relayed faithfully by media and featuring standout performances from fossil fuel fan-boy Resources Minister Canavan and Queensland coal-lobby groupie, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The staging of Green Light … reveals just how far faith-based decision-making has usurped reason across our nation and not just in Queensland. Coal worshippers surrender critical faculties for the sublime irrationality of a cargo cult.

Adani cult followers echo Melanesian millenarians who believed that ritual projects such as building a runway would result in the appearance of coveted western goods. Everyone stopped anything else to await largesse from a great silver bird returning to their sky.  Today, we may substitute port or railway for runway, but parallels are disturbing.

A glance at the Adani cargo cult’s articles of faith reveals a supernatural power; the vise-like grip of group delusion.

Ritual chanting displaces communication. The mine is going ahead! JOBS. Thousands of jobs will now “flow” say the faithful. 10,000 jobs, Adani devotees chant. An ecstatic Canavan ups that to 15,000, this week, just because he can.

Reality check. In 2015, Adani’s expert, Jerome Fahrer, ACIL Allen economist, estimated ongoing full-time employment for only 1464 workers and only at the expense of 1,400 jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and other mining projects.

It may be fewer. CEO Jeyakumar Janakaraj, boasts he will fully automate all of the vehicles used in the mine and the entirety of the process from the mine to the port:

‘When we ramp up the mine, everything will be autonomous from mine to port … this is the mine of the future‘

Jobs will be lost as existing mines are put out of business by Adani’s automated, hugely subsidised competition. Subsidising Adani makes our former car industry protection appear a bargain, writes Bernard Kean.

The $320, 000 royalty holiday -which will cost taxpayers $253 million over the next five years – which has recently been redefined as not a royalty holiday at all but an indefinitely deferred payment arrangement – promised by  Palaszczuk’s government plus the NAIF billion dollar loan, means each job will cost taxpayers $900,000.

Part of the Green Light … stunt is a desperate gamble. The stakes are high. The government is already in over its head.

A state government which has invested $8 billion on coal-related infrastructure between 2009-2014, on an industry which provides only 4% of its revenue, may well keep a poker face, but this week’s press release – declaring a business is up and running without funding is a bizarre stunt which would get any local company into trouble with ASX rules.

In reality, Adani is further from opening its proposed monster mine than it was five years ago, while India turns to cleaner, cheaper solar energy and coal profits decline. India plans to be 60% fossil fuel free in energy in ten years.

No new coal-fired power station will be approved in India. Nor would it be economic. A Gujarat power station set to import half of the Adani mine’s coal, now believes it can’t afford to. No wonder nineteen banks have refused Adani finance.

Gautam Adani, however, is content to cynically blame activists, a theme embraced by the august upholders of traditional but doomed faith-based causes supported by our media, especially The Australian and The AFR.  

“We have been challenged by activists in the courts, in inner-city streets, and even outside banks that have not even been approached to finance the project,” Adani claims,

“We are still facing activists. But we are committed to this project.”

Committed? None of Adani’s legal challenges prevent it from acting on its 2014 government environmental approvals.

A fascinating twist in the coal cult narrative come from Kooyong coal-raker, the terminally conflicted energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg. He’s all for carbon capture and storage. Don’t we know that the world is full of CCS power plants? We had better get our skates on. Build some. Those in the coal cult are immensely encouraged.

It’s another delusion, if not a blatant lie. Although one small, 528 MW third, $5.5 billion over budget, plant will be commissioned, in Mississippi the reality is there are but two massively expensive plants in commercial operation. These compress CO2 to force previously unreachable oil out of defunct wells in an Enhanced Oil Recovery Process.

Never mind that in the process, 30% of the CO2 escapes back into the atmosphere. Never mind that the plant saves CO2 to avoid global warming only to extract more oil which will boost global warming. Never mind the expense. None of this matters to the true believer. Just don’t expect any of it to bear any relationship to reality.

Simon Holmes a Court calculates just to capture all of the emissions of the Loy Yang power station in Victoria, we’d need a plant 13 times bigger than Petra Nova in Texas. With currency and Australian labour rates, but allowing for some economies of scale and ‘learnings’, that could cost AUD$15–25bn.

Luckily, because we live in an eternal present, now that history itself has been effectively consigned to the dustbin of history, no-one asks Josh about ZeroGen our cute, little 2006 CCS plant project in central Queensland.

ZeroGen was a relatively tiny, 390 MW net coal-fired power station which would capture 65% of its emissions.  It received $188 million in grants but after a projected cost blowout from $1.2bn to $6.9bn the project collapsed six years before its scheduled 2017 completion date, scuttling hundreds of millions of public funding.

Josh is on another mission, of course. He’s been ringing his party’s back-benchers to sell Alan Finkel’s cop-out Energy Review which tenderly preserves the pernicious myth that safe, reliable baseload power can only come from coal or gas – and not those fickle wind turbines that ABCs Chris Uhlmann blamed for the SA blackout.

Judging by his appearance on ABC Insiders, Josh has learned to speak softly and stare a lot whenever Barrie Cassidy asks questions:

So the Finkel Review suggests that you can reduce emissions and cut power prices and keep coal in the mix. It sounds too good to be true?

Bazza is right on the money but Frydenberg praises Dr Finkel’s report. In a vain and irritating quest for authority, he repeats Dr Finkel every chance he gets to praise the Chief Scientist.

Josh still pretends that electricity prices are high not because of his government’s Jihadist mission to privatise all public utilities according to the dictates of Neoliberal Ideology, the Liberal religion but because of something he invents called “regulatory uncertainty”.

Then he’s off, demonising alternatives to fossil fuel power generation. Renewables are dodgy, “a less stable system because we’ve failed to properly integrate wind and solar.”

Happily for the coal lobby,  Dr Finkel’s report allows us to have half of our power generated by burning coal by 2030 but he doesn’t say who’s going to build the new ones we’ll need. Nor who will finance them. Nor how this will help us with our feeble Paris targets. Even given his soft sell, Josh is at odds with the review he is flogging. Finkel is clear

“Investors have signalled that they are unlikely to invest in new coal-fired generation …”

Luckily, few people still watch the ABC, increasingly a Coalition megaphone, – and Barry won’t press him on key details. He allows him to claim that CCS is a real possibility for future investment in lower emission technology.

While Finkel proposes a new regulatory framework, his review leaves open the central issue of a CET, a clean energy target, which it says is “a role for government”. No preferred emissions threshold is offered. The stage is set for the coal lobby and its allies to press to raise the bar high enough to permit the operation of current coal-fired plant.

Above all, although he promised the Senate that his review would help Australia meet its Paris agreement and reduce its economy-wide emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2030, The Chief Scientist’s report won’t help.  The modelling Finkel provides for electricity sector emission reductions, 28% below 2005 levels by 2050 suggests a figure about half what it should be. His own Climate Change Authority Report confirms this.

Wages stagnate, consumer confidence is down, unemployment remains high and underemployment is huge. Since his better economic managers came to power with their jobs ‘n growth slogan, Scott Morrison has little to crow about.

Growth has slowed from 2.6% to 1.7%. While unemployment rate may have remained at 5.7%, wages growth has continued to fall below its then record low of 2.1% to an even lower mark of 1.9%.

Yet Morrison is all over the news in an orgy of self-congratulation and oleaginous good cheer this week.

Our Federal Treasurer says our economy is “transitioning” from a mining boom to a more diversified economy. Better times await us. It sounds like a slogan Theresa May sagely rejected. Ross Gittins, moreover, reminds us that mining accounts for 7 per cent of Australia’s total GDP and employs 230,000 people or 2 per cent of Australia’s workforce.

Transitioning is not reflected in investment projections. Mining investment is forecast to fall another 22% next year, and a 6% expected rise in non-mining investment will not compensate. Yet Morrison is mindlessly upbeat.

Despite our government’s worshipping the same neoliberal creed and embracing the same trickle-down tax cuts which bring income inequality in Theresa May’s Britain to 1930s levels, we are nowhere near technical recession here. Nowhere near.

ScoMo, our bullet-dodging Federal Treasurer, juggles dodgy figures to claim that we have overtaken the Netherlands in a record-breaking run of prosperity but only if we misread Dutch data, prefer GDP figures to GDP per capita, confuse job ads with real employment and hope that after mining and real estate, something will turn up.

Alas, Morrison fails to look to Japan. As Saul Eslake shows, Australia would need to avoid consecutive quarters of negative real GDP growth until at least 2024 if it is truly to be able to claim this “world record” as its own.

Greg Jericho also points out Morrison is factually incorrect. Australia beat the Netherlands in June 2013. The Dutch avoided a technical recession for only 87 consecutive quarters. But technical recession is a “dopey” measure. We are being conned. In 1982, Holland’s economy had shrunk by 2.5% in one year even if “technically” it had avoided recession.

Similarly, in December 1991, three months into our golden run, the Australian economy was 1% smaller than it was the previous year. Technical recessions rely on GDP. If we use GDP per capita we have had two recessions since 1991.

Yet these are both arbitrary measures. We may as well use the percentage of working age people in work.

On this measure our record of economic activity is pathetic.

Australia’s economy grew by a whopping 0.3 % in the first three months. Nothing we could do about that, the Treasurer says.  He blames the weather. It could be a genuine world first.

“Weather conditions during the March quarter did affect exports,” Morrison says. … Exports declined by 0.6% in the quarter, detracting from growth … particularly in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.”

Morrison’s waffle does little for the 730,000 Australians out of work and the 1.1 million who are underemployed but our national pride rallies after a full body Reiki massage from visiting US Alliance evangelist James Clapper, whose appearance is part of the total care package conferred upon the nation by our special relationship with Washington.

The most marvellous contribution of Coalition politics to our national well-being, apart from the politicisation of the public service including, now, our Chief Scientist is surely our nation’s US sycophancy, a state of servile dependency on one great and powerful friend given expression by “man of steel”, US lackey and war criminal, John Winston Howard.

“Lying rodent” Howard, as Russell Galt swears metadata pack-rat, AG Brandis called the then PM, was inspired to invoke the US Alliance while flying home post 9/11.

“While high over the Indian Ocean”, he lyrically records, he saw how we could join a “war on terror” proposed by the US. It led us to send troops to Afghanistan, from whence some were destined never to return, and to provoke a wave of international terrorism by illegally invading Iraq on a pretext of seizing WMDs.

Howard, as Albert Palazzo’s recent declassified report shows, aimed to boost our US Alliance, but his big success was simply in helping make Australia a much better target for terrorism, as Paul Keating pointed out last year. It’s been the elephant in the room ever since however much MPs gibber about how terrorists hate our way of life.

Howard’s grand claims are exposed. Enforcing UN resolutions, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism –  even rebuilding Iraq after the invasion, are dismissed as “mandatory rhetoric” – a term which also fits the treacle from a series of US VIPs visiting Australia recently to profess America’s undying love for us.

We love to be flattered. Happy clappers abound at the National Press Club’s US-Alliance revivalist meeting in Canberra, Wednesday, when former Director of National Intelligence, James Robert Clapper Jr drops in again for a post-retirement rub-down after his top-secret visit here last year. This week it’s a very public sharing of the love.

ANU kindly gives Lucky Jim a gig as a Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor and a spot at the ANU Crawford Australian Leadership Forum where the old spook will put the wind up the nation’s movers and shakers.

Keep an eye on China, he says. Beijing may interfere with your politics just like Moscow did with ours. The Russians are not our friends, he warns. The Donald is done for. Watergate pales in comparison to Trump’s Russian allegations.

While cooking Trump’s goose, Clapper is also here to remind us all how much the US means to us in trade and regional security and how we need to keep faith with our big brother and suffer Trump awhile. Our bonds go deep.

“The values (and interests) we share, the things that fasten our two countries together, far transcend a transitory occupant of the White House,” he promises. He’s not wrong: the US has been doing us over for decades.

We like it that way. Not one of the assembled hacks can bring themselves to ask soapy Jim why in 2007, only a few years after it was signed by John Howard, our AUSTFA, a “free trade” agreement supposed to increase Australian access to the US market led to the highest trade deficit we have ever had with any trading partner.

DFAT statistics reveal that the United States is Australia’s second-largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, worth $70.2 billion, as of 2015 yet, Australia imports more than double the amount from the U.S. and is 15th on the list of U.S. principal export destinations.

So much to fear, so little time. Clapper also adds a dash of Brandis’ Sinophobia as he warns how China may try to buy in to our democratic processes. Beware of donations and watch out for fake news, he adds, helpfully. Who would have thought?

Clapper would applaud our surveillance strategies; urge us to keep our metadata. No-one asks him why his NSA illegally collected data at all on millions of Americans or why he chose to deny this in 2013, before a senate committee, inspiring calls by US lawmakers for his indictment for perjury.

Such a challenge would amount to blasphemy. It is an article of modern Australian political faith that any self-respecting scribbler sing praise to our superiors, or their mates, including visiting American political mendicants.

Anything less would be heresy. And Illegal. As Gillian Triggs reminds us we are fast making it illegal to challenge our government. Triggs, of course, is by no means alone in voicing her concern over a government by secrets and lies.

Only October, for example, UN special rapporteur, independent expert Michel Forst recommended we continue to press for an Immigration Department that is open and accountable and which doesn’t hunt down whistle-blowers.

Forst’s report concludes that Australian governments have effectively gagged civil society advocates with secrecy laws, funding cuts and restrictive contracts that prevent them speaking up about human rights abuses.

It’s a theme taken up by Lenore Taylor who reflects on the Tory automaton Theresa May’s election loss. Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State and runaway winner of biggest family bible at government swearings-in is keen to tell groups they can get funds from government but only if they pack in the advocacy lark. Give up their reason for being.

Lenore is right. Democratic government is about enabling advocacy. Respect. And it’s about governing for all. If there were a message in it for Turnbull it might go like this:

You can’t deliver on your hollow promises of jobs and growth, so stop making them. Start listening. You’ll see that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Heed the opinion polls. Stop the play-acting. Spare us the speeches and the sloganeering. To adapt a slogan on a billboard in the UK somewhere: Jobs and Growth, my arse.

Take a long hard look at yourself. If all you are is a front for the bankers, businessmen and big investors, if all you can do is subsidise a dying coal industry, still hell-bent on profit at the cost of life on this planet, stop faking it.

There’s never been a more exciting time to call a snap election.

If all you can offer are tax cuts to the rich, spare us the hokum; the empty cliches of trickle down economics. The drivel about flexible hours and delivery options. Stop the con about non-existent growth in jobs and higher wages.

Above all, stop pretending terror is cured by curtailing our freedom and riding rough-shod over our legal system. Get out of America’s wars, however, much you may be flattered by your wily big brother’s attentions.

Or continue to repress advocacy and free speech; repeat your meaningless slogans about national security. Persecute the poor, the frail and the elderly. But you won’t stay in government very long.  You don’t deserve to. As May just found, the people are on to you.

Trump’s unplugged tour will bury his presidency.

 

While Donald Trump’s “Dancing with Swords” world tour of five nations, featuring an in-house Saudi arms bazaar, is a shot in the arm for Sunni Muslims and a boon to Wahhabist fundamentalists everywhere, his gratuitous insult to Nato and the other 194 nations who have also signed the Paris Climate Accord has commentators scratching their heads.

Bizarrely, Trump proposes a Saudi-led Arab Nato and on Fox and our ABC a big deal is made of his big arms deal. It’s not hard to sell arms to the world’s largest arms importer. Yet it may not be a safe long-term investment.

Saudi Arabia, is so profligate that while it earns half a billion dollars a day from oil it may be broke in five years. While its king travels with a thousand strong retinue, and his son “Deputy Crown Prince” Muhammad bin Salman can blow half a billion on a yacht, a quarter of the population lives on less than AU$20 per day.

The Arab Nato joke adds to Trump’s “kumidia alakhta” or comedy of errors. Middle East “terrorism” groups – Isis and al-Qaeda, aka the Nusrah Front – have their fountainhead in Saudi Arabia, a nation which Hilary Clinton in a Wikileaks cable notes “remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups.”

Even more worryingly, Trump attacks Iran; demonising it for “fuelling sectarian violence”.  He rebuffs the new, moderate, Iranian government in its attempts to open up communications with the West. Instead, the US will boost its alliances with decrepit autocratic regimes across the Gulf. Peace in the Middle East? Trump torpedoes his own mission.

Most of the Trump Unplugged tour is puzzling, especially, his minders’ decision to muzzle The Donald and exhibit this astonishing performance artist as if he were merely an amazing dancing bear. No reporters. No press conferences. Even Twitter is forbidden. Nothing beyond his scripted imbecilities and the odd anti-Nato, anti-Teheran tirade.

So sad. This a presidency which can conduct its entire foreign policy in 140 characters. Or fewer.

It’s a big risk, too. The president’s only protection from the weight of expectations; being totally crushed by his role is to shoot his mouth off. Now he’s being paraded, like some mute Caliban, a poor credulous monster on a world stage; terrifying in his manifest inadequacy. You can see all of Europe’s leaders talking behind his back. What is going on?

In the Vatican, Wednesday. A gimlet-eyed Francis is on Trump’s case. He calls the president on his pivot to Potizza.

What do you feed him? Potizza?

“Potizza?” Mrs Trump asks in some surreal catechism. “Yes.” But her monster, Trump, can hear only the word pizza.

Francis teases the First Lady, playfully fat-shaming her husband, after a private audience with The Donald, incredible bulk, deal-maker extraordinaire and fearless leader of a single-page nine bullet point brief irony-free world.

Potizza is a Slovenian pastry. The Donald is a patsy. He’s been sent on a papal visit by his minders to him get out of Washington. Talk up US arms deals with the Saudis. Boost stocks. While he’s at it he can get peace in the Middle East. Above all, there is to be no news. It has to be repeated. No conferences. No reporters asking questions.

Sound like a plan? The Donald’s nine-day, five nation itinerary is put together mid-flight by 36 year-old Jared Kushner, Trump’s spoilt son-in-law, whose expertise in rack-renting and real estate speculation is an ideal fit for diplomacy. The president is confined to Kushner’s wooden script on teleprompter and the odd, informal, social awkwardness.

Kushner is Trump’s chief foreign policy adviser because Rex Tillerson goes on and on. But even his First Roadie cannot fix the president’s short attention span, his lack of curiosity, his aversion to detail or depth.  The Donald can wing it in Israel where his attacks on Iran help distract from their settlements and it suits the Saudis to indulge their new champion. Yet even then the president goes gaga with Bibi.  The trip is a minder’s conceptual and logistical nightmare.

Compounding his worries over how to manage a testy father-in-law who can’t read briefings, Kushner is accused Friday by Russian Ambassador Kislyak, of trying to set up a secret communication with The Kremlin, using Russian channels, at a meeting attended also by Michael Flynn, December 1 or 2, during Trump’s transition, a move that would shield them from monitoring by US intelligence. The White House declines to comment.

Kushner excuses himself several days early and returns to Washington, subdued but with no intention of standing down.

Nothing to see (or hear) here, National Security Adviser HR McMaster claims later, gamely evading the point.

“We have back-channel communications with a number of countries so, generally speaking about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner,” McMaster says. He doesn’t say that he approves of a private citizen, such as Jared Kushner was at the time setting up such a channel.

Kushner’s alleged push for a secret channel to Moscow is the most damning accusation yet in the FBI investigation of Trump’s Russian links. And most difficult to explain. Why would Trump’s team need such a scheme? Why did Kushner leave his meetings with the Russians off his security clearance form? How can his lawyer claim this was an oversight?

Trump’s tour  begins and ends with damaging allegations of impropriety. It does nothing to take any of the heat.

In fact Trump unplugged, The Tour, turns up the heat. The accidental president alienates Nato leaders by haranguing them for not paying their fair share.  He’s incorrect and the rebuke is likely to backfire. Nato nations, may challenge US anti-Russian propaganda; the reality of Russian attack. Those facing austerity budgeting may question the benefit of maintaining an expensive commitment to a Cold War organisation already 25 years past its use-by date.

The president also is at odds with the G7. After three days of lobbying and despite Pope Francis’ prompt last Wednesday in presenting him with his Encylical on Climate Change, he wimps out of giving the other six members any US endorsement of the Paris Climate Accords. Will the US be the first of the 195 signatories to withdraw? The suspense is not inspiring.

Trump’s excursion into Arab politics is also disturbing. As the Saudis collar him; claim him in a feudal way, the US publicly backs a nation whose Wahhabist fundamentalism helps breed terror, it deepens Shia- Sunni enmity by branding Iran as the real enemy of Mid East peace.  For corporations in the war business, however, the trip is a YUGE success.

Lockheed, Raytheon (RTN), Boeing (BA) and General Dynamics (GD) all see their shares rocket Monday following news of the deal. Raytheon, Lockheed and General Dynamics reach record highs, as does defense company Northrop Grumman (NOC). Defence stocks have been soaring for the past year on hopes that US defence spending would continue to increase despite federal budget cuts elsewhere. It has risen $54 billion. Boeing stocks are up 18% this year.

Perhaps the pope was being broadly allusive in his joke about Trump’s gluttony. He would know that this most narcissistic, materialistic president cares only about himself. No-one would need to tell Francis that Trump worships only wealth. Luckily, thanks to his irony by-pass, the joke goes over The Donald’s  head. A notorious fat-shamer himself, the newly- badged Emir of Mar a Lago misses the dig or the souvenir family photo with Pope could have turned ugly.

Only last year, Trump called Francis “disgraceful” for questioning his faith. Of course, there’s a Church of Gordon Gecko.

Beyond his sly dig at Al Donald’s girth, doubtless, is Francis’ fatherly concern that the easily-fatigued, elderly US president keep his strength up on his first big OS gig. Those Saudi sword dances can take it out of a man. Not to mention the weight of the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar  the Saudis have just thrust upon him. What were his advisers thinking?

Francis has foresight. By Saturday, a bewildered Trump will lose the plot. Stand up. Wander off set during a joint press conference in Tel Aviv with Bibi Netanyahu. Is it dementia? Luckily, shocked staffers, rally sufficiently to turn the dazed and disoriented president around and head him back to Bibi for another photo op and yet another bizarro handshake.

What did happen in the Vatican? Did Trump tread on his holiness’ toes? The two leaders are not close given the Pope’s interest in climate change is at odds with the billionaire president’s desire to make more of it. Make money out of it.

Reopen coal mines. “Trump digs coal” was one of his winning campaign slogans. End the war on coal. Jobs. His Energy Independence Executive Order suspends more than half a dozen measures enacted by Obama and boosts fossil fuels.

Mad Matt Canavan and barking Barnaby Joyce have been taking notes for Adani, a local version of the same show.

Other things have inflamed the relationship. Francis’ warned voters last year that Trump is not a Christian.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said publicly during Trump’s lumbering run for office, pointedly, keeping the Church out of US politics.

Treading carefully to observe Vatican protocol, however, are Trump’s women. Their black, funereal outfits, headgear and stiff posture offer an Adams family album look to photographers, while Melania’s long-sleeved Dolce and Gabbana outfit is almost certainly a nod to local industry, della moda Italiana and not an attempt to look like a mobster’s widow.

Is Trump’s presidency mortally wounded? Impeachment, experts warn, is a long and uncertain process. The White House is getting all lawyered up for a fight. Yet while reports of its death may be premature, this week Trump’s team certainly appears zombified. Trump’s trip, his first big foreign adventure has created more headaches than it cured.

Trump unplugged is a YUGE step away from peace in the Middle East. It reveals a White House in the grip of Neocon hawks who are cynical enough to present arms sales to the Saudis as some kind of peace initiative.

Above all Trump’s tour has cast doubt on US leadership in Europe and revealed the president to be a coward on climate change. In dramatically revealing his ineptitude to the world, his gig has diminished his credibility and his legitimacy.

Nothing good may come of it although it will accelerate his administration’s demise.

America – what have you done?

By Ad astra

If Leo Tolstoy were alive today, instead of creating Anna Karenina he might find writing Donald John Trump more intriguing. I suspect he would again begin with similar memorable words: “Happy presidencies are all alike; every unhappy presidency is unhappy in its own way.”

Just beyond its three-month mark, Trump’s presidency is already uniquely unhappy, sad, chaotic, unpredictable, reckless, irrational, erratic, and ignorant. His Republican colleagues find it bewildering and jarring; much of the American electorate find it bitterly discouraging; and the rest of the free world, extremely dangerous.

And even as the Trump saga is being wrapped in words by the media, day after day, hour after hour, it is becoming more grotesque, more astonishing, and more alarming.

Trump is in the midst of a diplomatic firestorm centred on what he did or did not say to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. His account of it varies depending upon what random thought happens to be traversing his unruly mind when he speaks or tweets.

At first there was denial of the Washington Post report of Trump’s disclosure of intelligence information that could jeopardise a crucial intelligence source, in this instance probably Israel. Like a small child showing off his toys, he even boasted to Lavrov “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

Then, when Trump realized that the truth could no longer be denied, he declared that he had every right to disclose such intelligence, and that his actions were ‘wholly appropriate’. This seemed to fly in the face of the outright denial by National Security Advisor H R McMaster “The President engaged in ‘routine sharing of information’ and nothing more…the story that came out tonight is false. I was in the room, it didn’t happen.” Time will expose the truth, which any sane president ought to know. Even crooked Nixon knew that!

Then there was the sacking of FBI chief James Comey. The story changed by the day. Trump said Comey asked to have dinner with him, a highly improbable scenario. Then Trump said Comey asked him that he keep his job, an implausible tale. Then he said that Comey reassured him three times that he was not under investigation. It is beyond belief that an FBI director would reveal such information even if it were true, which it was not.

Then Trump allegedly asked Comey to wind up the investigation into former national security adviser, Michael Flynn with: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go…He’s a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” General Flynn resigned after being confronted with the fact that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.

While Comey has not commented on Trump’s request, his colleagues know that he is a fastidious note taker and almost certainly has a written record of his encounter with Trump, which will now be revealed at a Senate intelligence committee that has requested that notes of the meeting be out in the open. He has been invited to testify in both open and closed-door hearings. What will Comey say?

Having been described by Trump as a “grandstander” and a “showboat”, that he was “crazy, a real nut job”, and having accused him of incompetence: “Because he wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply, he was not doing a good job.”, Comey is unlikely to be favourably disposed to bailing Trump out. Not satisfied with demeaning Comey publically, Trump took to threatening him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”

Alongside this development, the US Justice Department has appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to oversee an investigation into Russia’s influence on last year’s US presidential election. Trump denies any influence.

And this extraordinary saga has emerged in just the last couple of weeks, dwarfing Trump’s previous transgressions! His recent misdemeanours may be the ones that will land him in trouble with the law, or possibly a move to impeach or remove him.

In an opinion piece Fear and loathing inside the beltway in the May 20 edition of The Weekend Australian, conservative commentator Chris Kenny, in an article that is largely defensive of Trump, writes:

…his character was so obviously flawed, policies so contradictory and utterances so impetuous that his promise of much-needed change seemed far too risky…Four months into his presidency, Trump does not seem to have had a single comfortable day in the Oval Office. His self-inflicted problems include: random tweeting that ranges from barbs about television shows and shots at opponents to serious policy announcements and foreign policy posturing; difficulty implementing his agenda, such as his migration controls, caused partly by his previous loose language; and poor selection of staff, from his since-departed national security adviser Michael Flynn to spokesman Sean Spicer, who is often as incoherent as the President he seeks to clarify.”

If a conservative like Kenny thinks this way, is it any surprise that less favourably disposed journalists are so vitriolic in their criticisms of Trump?

This piece could go on and on detailing Trump’s words, deeds, tweets and behaviour since his inauguration, indeed from the time he entered the presidential race. This is not my purpose. You have read about these matters or seen them on TV ad nauseam; you need no reminding. My purpose is to explore what’s behind Trump’s behaviour.

Here is my assessment, my opinion. You may have another viewpoint, which you can express in Comments below.

To me the following seem to be Trump’s underlying personality defects, which evoke his extraordinary behaviour:

Lack of insight
This seems to be the most cogent explanation of his behaviour.

He seems to have little idea of the impact on others of his demeanour, his language, the words he uses, his verbal and non-verbal expressions, his constant use of Twitter, his body language, his use of hand gestures, and his manner of dress and deportment.

He seems not to comprehend that he has become an object of ridicule, a laughing stock the world over in the eyes of journalists, commentators, politicians and the general public.

Have we ever experienced an American President who has been so unfavourably received? His approval ratings in the US are the worst ever for a president so soon after inauguration, and steadily getting worse. And don’t forget this is despite him still attracting a large coterie of fervent supporters, who will seemingly go on supporting him no matter how badly he behaves, no matter how ineffectual he is, no matter how many promises he breaks.

Sadly, lack of insight of this magnitude is virtually incurable. So used has he become to having extravagant accolades heaped upon him by the sycophants with whom he surrounds himself, in his reality TV shows and in his business world, that the lack of them in the rough and tumble world of politics and news reporting is unnerving for him.

For Trump, deprivation of praise and admiration for his words and actions is distressing in itself, but combined with penetrating and persistent questioning from the media, and robust criticism of his behaviour and his decisions, it is all too much for him, causing him to declare publically that “I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly than the political media.” He has repeatedly described media criticism of him as “fake news”, labelling the media as the “opposition party”.

He insists that he is the subject of “…the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”, and after a special counsel was appointed to explore the involvement of Russia in his election campaign, he protested angrily that “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”

Observers see this whingeing about his own predicament as hypocrisy writ large when they reflect on how in the election campaign they saw him repeatedly condemn Hillary Clinton, call her ‘The Devil’, a ‘nasty woman’, ‘a disgrace’, ‘a liar’, and then threatened her with a special counsel to look into her use of a private email server if he were president, going on to insist that she should be in jail, which evoked the ‘Lock her up’ chant from his followers.

 

 

Paranoia
As the paragraphs above signal, Trump appears to have a deep-seated paranoia. He fervently believes that people are out to ‘get him’: the media, his opponents, some of his colleagues, and even his staff, whom he accuses of ‘leaking’ against him. As a wise colleague once reminded me; “If it’s true it’s not paranoia”, and certainly it is true that many people are out to get Trump. But the extent to which he believes this is abnormal.

Definitions of paranoia include:
A tendency on the part of an individual toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.

A mental condition characterized by delusions of grandeur or persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically worked into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder… in which the person loses touch with reality.

Do some of these describe Trump’s behaviour? You be the judge.

Delusions of grandeur
Who could ever forget Trump’s ‘Let’s make America Great Again’? How many times has he adorned his initiatives with words that indicate they will be ‘great’? How often has he insisted that he will ‘drain the Washington swamp’ a mammoth task that no other has attempted, much less achieved? Yet he has vowed that he will.

Delusions of grandeur are related to paranoia. They are a fixed, false belief that one possesses superior qualities such as genius, fame, omnipotence, or wealth. In popular language, this disorder is known as “megalomania,” but is more accurately referred to as “narcissistic personality disorder” if it is a core component of a person’s personality and identity. In such disorders, the person has a greatly out-of-proportion sense of their own worth and value in the world.

Narcissistic personality disorder
Many commentators have labelled Trump as narcissistic; his behaviour fits that description.

The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include: a grandiose sense of importance, a belief that one is special and unique, a requirement for excessive admiration, and a strong sense of entitlement. The narcissist is exploitative, lacks empathy, is arrogant, and is envious and jealous of others.

Trump’s egotistical, bombastic behaviour matches most of these attributes.

Overbearing, punitive, bullying and ruthless behaviour patterns
Trump is an angry man. When he doesn’t get his way, or feels he has been let down, he reacts furiously. Trump is well known for “Your sacked”, not just in his reality TV show, but now with his colleagues and staff, as past-FBI Director Comey knows only too well.

Trump is known for getting his own way. He is combative and belligerent. Those who displease him are removed. His White House staff lives under the cloud of instant dismissal if they do not perform. The poorly performing Press Secretary Sean Spicer must fear coming to work every day.

Even the way he signs and then displays his signature on his Executive Orders, with his sycophantic staff looking on and politely applauding, highlights his arrogant and attention-seeking disposition. In this regard he reminds us of Kim Jong Un and his sycophantic generals clapping their ‘Dear Leader’.

We know too that Trump is a habitual liar. He finds no virtue in sticking to the facts and speaking the truth. Having an honest conversation with him is a challenge both for his staff and the media.

Willful ignorance
Throughout his short presidency, Trump has shown lamentable ignorance.

He is ignorant of legislative processes, which delayed passage of his replacement of Obamacare. He seems to have little idea about how to address his other signature policies: large corporate tax cuts and infrastructure development. As a result the stock market went up in anticipation of action; now it’s down again as nothing is happening. He is not used to negotiating with politicians, despite his boasting about his skill in ‘closing a deal’ – he’s even written a book about it!.

He is ignorant of international politics and diplomacy, and so puts his foot in it regularly. His naive and rude treatment of Angela Merkel is a case in point.

What is more alarming is his disinclination to take expert advice. He finds briefings boring, insisting that he doesn’t need to be briefed every day about the same things, as he is “very smart”. He seems to have a restricted attention span. His staff and colleagues were petrified about what he would do and say on his first overseas trip to sensitive political places. His indiscretion about passing onto the Russian foreign minister sensitive intelligence about ISIS activities scared everyone about what might happen abroad. In the end, although there were some Facebook-worthy visuals, some embarrassing moments with world leaders, and some defiant utterances, there were no grave faux pas. Middle East experts though are unimpressed, and find his new tune on Islam unconvincing.

He is willfully ignorant about climate science, global warming, the need for environmental protection, and is ready to let fossil fuel producers do their worst. He is threatening to pull out of the Paris agreement on global warming.

He is ignorant about the nuances of free trade agreements and has indicated that the US will withdraw from NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement. He boasts that he will bring jobs back to America from countries to which they have disappeared. He has no idea of how complicated that is, nor the effects of automation on international job transfer.

For the most powerful man in the world to be so dangerously ignorant, yet so arrogantly assured of the rightness of his own opinion is hazardous for all countries that trade with America, and all the others that will be affected by global warming.

The man is an unsafe ignoramus, who seems to have little or no insight into his condition.

So there it is – my analysis of the personality and behavioural defects that afflict Donald John Trump.

If Leo Tolstoy was to be reborn today and set about writing a play about this man’s presidency, how would it unfold? I suspect that Tolstoy’s portrayal of the bizarre unreality of Trump’s unhappy presidency would evoke an accusation that, as an author, he was guilty of outrageous fabrication – surely no presidency could be this weird!

America – what have you done to us?

To many Americans, Trump behaves like a dangerous out-of-control lunatic. Now though, even some of his own supporters are attacking their Republican representatives at town hall meetings over broken promises, and the media is scratching to find GOP members to talk in defence of Trump.

But he still has millions of devoted followers who dwell on his every word, which will support him until their dying breath.

It is these Americans that have done this to us. Frighteningly, they would likely do it all over again.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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