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Search Results for: false boast

The Coalition’s False Employment Boast

Bill Shorten addressed the National Press Club on Tuesday and committed a future Labor government to a policy of full employment. When asked by Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30 Tuesday evening what he considered to be an acceptable unemployment level, he said 5%.

It was a safe answer, but not the right answer. Full employment should mean just that; he should have answered, 0%. Full employment means a full time job for everyone who wants one and a part time job for everyone who wants one.

Anything less is not full employment. Whether or not Bill Shorten understands this, is open to conjecture. But on the other side of the parliamentary chamber, they don’t even care. Full employment is anathema to conservative, neo-classical politics.

Their most recent mantra, ‘jobs and growth’ is a smokescreen to hide their conviction that a minimum level of unemployment (somewhere between 5-8%), is needed to maintain an orderly workforce and control wages growth.

The present level has been hovering around 6% for the last two years and is probably right on the mark for them, evidenced by their lack of interest in reducing it.

Unemployment dropped to 5.8% for February due to a steep fall in the participation rate, but the trend figures are not encouraging, even worse when we compare February 2016 results with September 2013, when the Coalition came to office.

The ambivalence demonstrated by the government on the issue of employment is breathtaking. That the MSM allows them to get away with it, is outrageous.

Michaelia-Cash-_-glamour_-21Mar14-rex_b_810x540 Minister for Employment, Michaela Cash salivated recently over the claim that 300,000 new jobs had been created in 2015, but could not point to one convincing government initiative that had contributed to it. Well, let’s take a closer look at those figures.

You may remember one of Tony Abbott’s core election promises in 2013 was the creation of one million jobs over the next five years and two million jobs in ten years.

What he didn’t tell us was that natural population growth plus immigration requires around 125,000 new jobs to be created each year just to maintain existing levels of employment. Boasting to create one million jobs in five years sounds impressive, but in reality, it barely covers the minimum required.

And, as it happens, they have Buckley’s chance of achieving that.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show the September 2013 unemployment rate was 5.7% in trend terms. At that time there were 706,400 unemployed. In February 2016, unemployment was trending at 5.8% with 736,600 people unemployed, meaning unemployment has increased by 30,200 over the past 2 years and 5 months.

The same ABS reports show that 11,646,800 persons were employed in Australia in September 2013, while in February 2016 that number was 11,903,100. This tells us that there were 256,000 new jobs created over the past 2 years and 5 months (a big drop from that short term 300,000 in one year boast).

However, it gets worse. From an available workforce in September 2013 of 12,353,200 we grew in numbers to 12,639,700 in February 2016, an increase of 286,500. Which means the 256,000 new jobs created have failed to keep pace with population growth, let alone reduce existing unemployment.

By any language or spin, this is a failure of government to sufficiently stimulate the economy.

tonyabbott Tony Abbott’s 1,000,000 new jobs in 5 years was a pipe dream. He, or whoever came up with it, might as well have dreamt it.

No doubt Scott Morrison will put the usual optimistic spin on the latest figures but when proper comparisons are made, one can clearly see, that in trend terms, we are going in the wrong direction.

Blood on your hands, Prime Minister?

“Future generations will thank us not for what we have promised but what we will deliver – and on that score Australia can always be relied upon,” Scott Morrison.

 

“PM, good morning to you. Do you have blood on your hands?” chirps a chipper Karl Stefanovic, who wears the same suit on Nine’s Today for a year to point up the sexism behind critics of former co-host, Lisa Wilkinson who dared wear the same shirt twice in four months. No-one noticed Karl; proving a breakfast TV point about sexist objectification which is neither original, unresearched, nor something not well understood by half the population. Perhaps in his next stunt he could don a dhoti – if he wants to disappear completely.

Everybody notices Morrison’s racist dog-whistle, “we’ll decide which of our citizens return to Australia and the circumstances in which they do so.” It’s a Tampa-style homage to his mentor, “lying rodent” John Howard. Thanks to both, it’s OK if our PM abandons the rule of law to be “tough on borders”. Or is it?

The criminalising of citizens just because they want to come home from pandemic-ravaged India is unprecedented. Experts warn that it may not even be legal. Former Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane asks what citizenship means if you can’t rush home from OS in time of crisis. Morrison’s practising discrimination; promoting an Australia where some are more Australian than others.

Typically hypocritical, Scott Morrison was quick to bag Queensland, last September, for closing its border, a move by a state aimed at saving lives, but one which drew the PM’s ire for risking Australia’s “humanity”.

Not that the federal government is keeping us all safe at home. The New England Journal of medicine reports new research suggesting Astra Zeneca, the mainstay of Australia’s vaccine program, is just 10% effective against the virulent South African Covid strain, which is found in Bali and Djakarta this week.

A range of vaccines would have been a wiser choice. Pfizer, for example, shows 75% effectiveness. Yet we’ve been unable to secure adequate Pfizer supplies. Nor do we have the multinational’s consent to manufacture our own even if we were all tooled up and ready to brew up a batch, as is CSL’s Melbourne lab, whose output the Morrison government keeps secret, in case we discover just how inadequate it is. Calculation based on current production, however, suggests it will take until 2024 before we’ve all had an AZ or Pfizer jab.

Preferably Pfizer. Because the SA variant shares key characteristics with another highly infectious variant which emerged in Brazil, (P.1) AstraZeneca’s vaccine may also have low efficacy rates on P.1. But Mum’s the word. Besides the government is in crisis management mode bringing citizens home from India. Or not.

Worse, the PM cops flack from unexpected quarters including the PM’s own back-bench, its chipper TV breakfast show hosts and its fair weather friends, Australia’s mainstream media. Even Tory hacks, such as Andrew Bolt say the decision to lock out brown Australians “stinks of racism”.

The death of any one Aussie will shame the PM, Bolt warns. By Saturday, one death is reported but this prompts the PM to declare that we don’t repatriate people with Covid-19. Always been policy. Standard practice globally. The man’s family is incensed. Even worse, “pushback” transcends mere mortals to reach the divine-pavilion of celebrity-cricketers, (Amen). Morrison just has to walk it all back. Duck, weave, deny and lie.

Karl’s first up on the PM’s media crab-walk, Tuesday. Our nation’s divinely ordained pastor, Morrison, to whom God speaks through a Ken Duncan photo of an eagle, confirming that he chose Scott ‘n Jen to lead us all, tries to weasel out of all responsibility for his SNAFU-prone government’s dumbest stuff-up.

Karl’s co-host, Allison Langdon, is on the (eye)ball, however. She cuts to the chase,

“The problem you have here, Prime Minister, the optics of threatening your own people with jail and huge fines is not a good one.” Criminalising citizenship? Definitely not a good look for a government which has busted a gut ear-bashing us all with how Aussie citizenship is a privilege not a right. Like extra virgin oil. Here’s Dutto blowing his bags over a bill entitled, Strengthening the Integrity of Australian Citizenship in 2017.

“Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia.

Citizenship is at the heart of our national identity. It is the foundation of our democracy…”

Work hard? Morrison’s off like a frog in a sock. Like a democracy sausage – all sizzle and no meat. His mission? He wants to con us that his fiat banning all travel from India is no big deal. What began as a brown ban is quickly toned down to a “temporary pause” until 15 May. It’s a worry. There’s a temporary pause on investigation into the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, two years ago. As always, there’s a herd of scapegoats to whom he can pass the parcel of blame, this government’s next best game after its game of mates.

It’s the media’s fault. It hasn’t been helpful for “these things to be exaggerated,” he tells reporters, Tuesday.

It’s the doctors. The government’s acting only on the best advice of its medical experts – we are told ad nauseam – despite Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly making no such advice. In fact, the CMO alerts the federal government to the dire health risks to citizens who will be trapped in India by any travel ban.

It’s the law’s fault. Hunt tells a sleepy nation at just past midnight Friday a week ago, but this just buggers up Morrison’s attempt to blame the media for the threat of fines and gaol sentences. Hunt is unequivocal,

“Failure to comply with an emergency determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 may incur a civil penalty of 300 penalty units, five years’ imprisonment, or both. The temporary pause will be reconsidered on 15 May by the government following advice from the chief medical officer (CMO).”

Morrison, however, can’t resist one last squeeze of the lemon even though the pips are squeaking.

“I’m not going to fail Australia. I’m going to protect our borders at this time.”

A duly sceptical Dennis Atkins in The New Daily won’t have a bar of it. Gutless Morrison “tried to pretend this didn’t happen six days later by saying it was the media’s fault, but he and his health minister did it. They did it for one reason: to get a tough guy headline, and that mission was accomplished.”

And because they could. The Biosecurity Act 2015 gives unbelievable power to the government, says Marque Lawyers partner, Michael Bradley, once a human biosecurity emergency has been declared.

Section 477 gives the health minister power to “determine any requirement that he is satisfied is necessary to prevent or control the entry of the disease into Australia.” This can include “requirements that restrict or prevent the movement of persons between specified places.”

But Greg Hunt’s got to watch himself. Measures must be “effective, appropriate and no more restrictive than necessary” – lyrical legalese from the unacknowledged poets of the world, as Shelley nearly said. A legal challenge on these grounds is mounted by Marque Lawyers, who file a case against Hunt in the Federal Court, Wednesday, on behalf of Gary Newman, a 73 year-old, who’s been banged up in Bangalore since last March.

Justice Stephen Burley will expedite the case for a hearing the following week.

Whilst there may be an implicit constitutional right to return, which courts would be unlikely to find unlimited, Bradley argues, the current ban is illegal – because it exceeds what is appropriate – and because it’s outside the powers which the constitution gives to federal government. Bradley echoes many others in noting that there are means by which the government could have rescued its 9000 citizens, concluding that its actions are “unlawful, disgraceful and racist.”

Another shot across the bows of Scotty’s Tampa 2.0 is fired by the UN’s commissioner for human rights, Rupert Colville who lets our federal government know that what it’s proposing flouts Australia’s human rights obligations; breaches international law.

“In particular, article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is binding on Australia, provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Elvis, aka his impersonator, Michael McCormack rushes on to ABC radio to repeat ScoMo’s sophistry that his government has to take a hard line but it never meant to lock anyone up … At this time.

Given his past record, Morrison, as did Abbott before him, is likely to tell the UN to stop meddling in our affairs, which rather defeats the object of signing up to international agreements.

“We can never answer to a higher authority than the people of Australia,” Morrison said two years ago. “We should avoid any reflex towards a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community and, worse still, an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy.”

Is the PM is channelling Trump? It won’t wash. The Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, has already warned our PM that the scrutiny Australia is receiving is based on the high standards we ourselves helped create.

Marque Lawyers may well contend the ban is unconstitutional, but Morrison repeats no-one is going to gaol or anything. Welcome back to a Joh Bjelke-Petersen moonlight stage-like age of innocence and endemic corruption where the separation of powers can’t exist if your leader’s never heard of them. Not to be outdone, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews pops up to take matters from the subliminal to the ridiculous.

Always a barrel of laughs, a boss whom a senior Liberal adviser alleges to be “disrespectful, humiliating and demeaning,” Karen Andrews cracks hearty, at Wednesday’s chook-feeding presser. The best way to avoid doing time would be to stay where you were, if you were stuck in a raging pandemic, quips Kaz.

What a scream. Morrison’s cabinet is full of stand-up comics but lately it’s pure theatre of the absurd.

Only a ScoMo government could have a minister opine that your right to return is perfectly safe – provided you don’t try to exercise that right. Phil Ruddock is similarly reassuring in his religious freedom to discriminate bill which seems to have risen without trace to the Prime Minister’s orifice. But let’s not race ahead.

“Jailing and fining returning Aussies, I mean, as a sitting prime minister, it is incredibly heartless,” Karl Stefanovic says.

“Pretty much zero” chance of that happening replies Morrison, scrambling the separation of powers.

ScoMo tells Karl he doesn’t mean anything by his threats, Karl. His government’s vibe, Karl, is just one big warm and fuzzy buzz, Karl; like Strawberry Fields, Karl, where “nothing is real; nothing to get hung about.”

Karl’s keen to shirt-front Morrison but the PM’s dog-whistle is already exploding in his face as his hard borders, brown ban on Australian citizens’ trying to return from India earns a serve from “cricket great” Michael Slater. Meanwhile talking heads defend the PM; tell us how popular hard borders are with voters.

The messaging from the PM’s office is determined to blur the distinction between closing a state border and preventing Australians returning home from a nation which faces a catastrophic Coronavirus pandemic.

ScoMo’s speaking eagle must have been a wedgetail. He’s in a tight spot. Add in our pretensions to do business or be done over by Adani and how Modi loves our true blue, clean as a whistle Aussie coal. The ban has the government wedged between a black rock and a hard place. Aussie icons as Michael Hussey, who’s got Covid, David Warner, Steve Smith and Pat Cummins are stuck in Delhi. (Note: these men are cricketers a sport in international decline before Coronavirus struck, yet still more popular than religion in Australia.)

When Cricket Australia (CA) talks, governments take notice. On ABC TV’s PK show, some suit from CA, one of our Kafkaesque sports bureaucracies – aka “controlling bodies” that rival the medieval papacy for administrative bureaucracy – and alleged corruption – warns us that cricketers, bless their flannel trousers, may be super-heroes but some may still need a bit of TLC or an 1800 number state of the art type telephone counselling service when they return to the unreality of their Peter Pan lives.

Yes. It’s the poor hard-done by cricketers who tug CA’s heartstrings not those suffering the worst Covid outbreak yet, a pandemic which could reach a million cases per day. And unlike our own hospitals, or those to which cricketers would have access, India must deal with a dire shortage of essential supplies such as oxygen.

But no such TLC from CA nor from Barry O’Farrell our invisible ambassador to India for Sonali Ralhan’s father who dies in a New Delhi hospital Wednesday. Ralhan says she contacted consular officials with “great hopes” at first that her parents would be helped home. Instead, she finds herself mourning the death of her father.

“I write to you with so much anger brewing inside me,” Ralhan writes 6 May. “I am an Australian citizen and highly disappointed to be one today. What nation disowns their own citizens? (It) is a matter of wonder for the entire world.”

The family’s suffering is not helped by what seems to be Australia’s unjust targeting of citizens in India.

No ban happened with the UK or the USA, commentators helpfully chorus. They overlook at least 40,000 poor souls stranded overseas, whom Deliverance Morrison promised to bring home by Christmas, past. Plus both nations had more infections per capita than India, busting open the PM’s specious, “safety first” argument.

It doesn’t help Morrison when he claims that he’s halting all flights to safety from a pandemic ravaged land just so he can bring more Australians home safely. The fruit-loop is drowning in his own word salad gloop.

But blood on his hands? Is Karl plagiarising the late, great, Richard Carleton? Or paying homage? Or is he just quoting Slater, former Aussie cricketer cum presenter? Either way, Karl gets up Morrison’s nose.

“No, Karl,” the PM snaps. “We haven’t had a shift. How you’re reporting it is a shift.”

Mission accomplished. Morrison reverts to his government’s Trumpian default. Any unwanted criticism is fake news. He rebukes his genial host before falsely accusing a servile media for misrepresenting his government’s position. Position(s). It’s so simple a young child could grasp it, as The Monthly‘s Rachel Withers explains.

“The government will be defending the ban, which it insists it has the power to implement, but it won’t be imposing it, despite deliberately invoking it.”

It’s not an invisible pivot. It’s more of a flip-flop with a lot less flip than flop. Morrison is just making empty threats to act tough. Again. Like the war with China, pencil-rattling Pezzullo is picking in his bid to get back to Defence. Insiders say it will never happen. The Pezz is also over-stepping the mark for a shiny bum; an unelected pencil-pusher, even if his boss sees fit to over pay him nearly a million dollars a year.

Morrison utterly contradicts his Health Minister. Huntaway Hunt our fearless leader’s cub was baring his fangs and howling at the moon, midnight Friday. You could be banged up for five years or fined $66,600 if you even looked like you were an Aussie booking a flight home to safety. No wonder Labor is having fun accusing the Coalition of chest beating gone wrong. It’s easy to understand. But first make sure you have a chest.

Slater’s stuck on the subcontinent as Big White Bwana Aussie cricket commentators love to dub India, unable to get back to his Island Continent home on the NSW waterfront somewhere- just because the federal government’s sprung a travel ban. He’s not a happy camper. He nicks off to the tropical haven of the Maldives, a “no news, no shoes” Shangri-La, haunt of the rich and infamous, where COVID-19 is still a risk along with insect-borne diseases such as dengue, Zika virus and chikungunya. Falling coconuts can kill you, too.

China’s Long March 5B, which sounds as if it should be a pencil but is, in fact, a spacecraft plunges into the sea nearby but as its government says, most of the rocket burnt up on re-entry and besides it’s too early to know if any of the debris from the ten storey cylinder actually fell on any of the Maldives 1192 islands.

Slater’s not going anywhere. But the biggest threat to life in the low-lying islands is climate change, which for Morrison, or his former finance minister and newly appointed secretary-general of the OECD, who takes up his five year term in June, Mathias Cormann, will all be solved by exporting our super high-grade, extra clean coal to India where its cheery blaze will lift millions out of poverty as it heats the planet into oblivion.

Ninety islands have disappeared so far and even by the typically generous projections of climate scientists, the entire Maldives archipelago will be underwater in eighty years. Ironically, in a microcosm of parts of Australia’s economy, the tourism, on which islanders depend, fuels the global heating which will drown them. But to a man of Morrison’s faith, it’s all part of God’s plan. Whilst many churches are concerned about climate change, there is not a murmur from any evangelical group. It’s a perfect setting for Slater’s attack on Morrison.

Of course Morrison’s got blood on his hands. With this happy clapper, punters are spoilt for choice. And Karl knows it. It’s dramatic irony – if you could call Today’s cheesy infotainment a drama. A woman is killed a week by a current or former partner. Experts warn the Morrison government that its recent abolition of the family court will help cause a spike in men’s violence (or domestic violence as it’s officially euphemised). As Abbott’s border enforcer, we can only guess how many of Morrison’s boat turnbacks ended badly.

We do know that 23 year-old Iranian Kurd, Reza Berati was bludgeoned to death inside the Manus Island gulag, one of our offshore prisons we’ve been happy to call detention centres. Witnesses say guards were in a frenzy and jumped on the man’s head in a rage.

Despite first telling parliament it happened outside the compound during the riot where dozens were injured on Manus 17 February 2014, despite assuring all parties that G4S were able to maintain security without the use of force, Morrison did update his story several days later. Naturally, then PM Tony Abbott was quick to defend his captain’s pick.

After Morrison is caught out lying, Abbott helpfully declares that Morrison’s doing a “sterling” job, adding that “you don’t want a wimp running border protection.”

Blood? Morrison knifed his own PM, Turnbull in August 2018. Then, there’s the two thousand Australians who died after receiving Centrelink Robodebt letters of extortion. Thank heavens we don’t have a wimp in charge. But boosting a macho man image means putting in the hard yards. Take Scotty’s marvellous Barnes dancing.

Scott Morrison and Andrew Twiggy Forrest at Christmas Creek FMG mine site

Shots of Twiggy and Scotty in hi-vis rig stretching to Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Man along with 300 Fortescue Metals Group miners in a workout routine at the Christmas Creek iron ore mine in WA, also reassure a nation sick with worry over PMs turning wimpy or compassionate or that the Coalition is soft on its promises to dance in step with mining oligarchs. After a night on the beers, Scotty’s up early the next morning for the workout photo-shoot travesty.

Whilst statistics show our average worker may be a woman health professional, tradie votes depend on spinning work as blokey and physical; something you do outdoors in your hard hat and Yakka overalls, Bro.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest join workers for morning exercise during a visit to the Christmas Creek mine site in The Pilbara, Western Australia, Friday, April 16, 2021. (AAP Image/Pool, Justin Benson-Cooper)

Just in case limbering up to “Barnesy” isn’t enough bullshit in itself, Twiggy leaves nothing to chance, Fortescue’s owner tells Sam Maiden and other media hacks on tap that a bend and stretch routine is vital to get its workers ready for a long hard day’s work in the mine.

What isn’t spelled out is how highly automated and (buzzword-alert) “autonomous” modern mining is. While fitters have light, driverless, vehicles to fetch spare parts, even the big trucks can drive themselves. Fortescue boasts a fully automated haulage operation.

Still, it would pay to limber up before hitting the computer console or checking the smart sensors and drones.

Similarly, Scott Morrison’s office has cleverly taken much of the drudgery out of the PM’s work, substituting instead hand-crafted moving pictures of our leader being a man of the people, celebrating small business heroes in barre classes, building a Bunnings kit-set chook house or fawning all over the nation’s richest man, iron ore miner, Dr Twiggy Forrest, who in 2020, completed a PhD in marine ecology. As you do.

Scotty sucking up to Twiggy? Check. Hamming it up? Check. Token women workers taking part? Check. There’s even more talk, again of a gas-fired power station at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter. Visionary. We’ll all be paying for it in the Coalition’s insatiable appetite for state socialism despite its gospel of self-help, small government and the invisible hand of capitalism. The word is Snowy Hydro’s already approved the little beauty which is said, variously, to be set to deliver anywhere from 350 to 1000MW – but you know how good our Minister for fossil fuel Energy, Angus Taylor, is with figures. And doctored documents. Just ask him. Or Clover Moore.

One thing not in dispute is the buckets of money Coalition government’s lobe to shower over the fossil fuel industry. A ten billion dollar a year annual subsidy helps the little Aussie billionaire battlers.

Who’s beating the drums of war? Just in case anyone, anywhere, is in any doubt as to who’s a climate criminal, mining muppet Scott Morrison, the only PM to flash his pet black rock in parliament, seals the deal for Australia when he takes his mark at the back of the pack of forty world leaders at the USA’s virtual Earth Day climate summit, 22 April. On ANZAC Day, Mike Pezzullo, deftly turns our attention to the fact that those drums of war don’t beat themselves in the mother of all beat ups our war with China over another bit of China.

In a forum set up so that forty nations can increase their commitment to fighting global heating, ahead of a Conference of Parties, (COP26) scheduled to be held in Glasgow, this November, Morrison pledges to do nothing. Nothing but spin. Australia will make “bankable” reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, he says; even without a concrete 2050 net-zero target.

Cutting emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, our current target, is already “insufficient” in the eyes of Biden’s administration.

As for being relied upon, just look at Kyoto, another meeting with the aim of producing binding commitments to reduce emissions. We are the world’s Artful Dodger, (a type-cast role played by “I’d Do Anything” Morrison at fifteen in the 1982 Sydney Boys High School production of Oliver!)

Kyoto credits – brainwave of John Howard’s Environment Minister Robert Hill are now off the Coalition table but that doesn’t mean other nations have either forgotten or forgiven our chicanery and bad faith.

Even a late spot on the programme flatters Morrison. He’s lucky to be invited to speak at all. Perhaps he believes in doing nothing because, the end times are upon us, as all good Pentecostalists believe.

Australia gets the Graveyard shift on a Long Earth Day’s Night. So why not tell the world just how much his government is a front for fossil fuel corporations who would kill the lot of us just to boost a balance sheet?

President Joe Biden sensibly leaves before ScoMo gets his slogan mojo on. Nature abhors a vacuum. “It’s not the when or the why it’s the how,” he says as if he’s doing some cheesy infomercial to teach teenagers, how good is consent. But he has no “how” to demonstrate and his insistence that carbon capture and storage is a viable technology makes us a laughing stock. We’ve spent nearly a billion dollars failing to make it work.

The Earth Day Zoom meeting is an international forum which acts as a prelude for heaps of other huff n’ puff stuff. BoJo is holding a G7 while Norway is getting the whole band back together.

Scotty’s also a hot prosperity gospeller. Believers get rich. The godly become wealthy and the wealthy become godly. If global heating means the world is going to fry like a fisherman’s basket, that’s God’s plan. Try to combat that? Sacrilege. Or even sin. Nothing to be done. Yet as one of the saved, our wealthy PM’s our to save others. Because he knows it’s what God wants him to do. Even if it means a Yuri Geller truth-bender. Not only does our happy clapping, rapture-rat, evangelical fabulist and con-artist, PM lie about Australia’s climate change policies, he bags every one of the forty nations who pledge to slash their greenhouse gas emissions.

The summit may be seen as the United States’ homage to the potlatch, a traditional, ceremonial gift-giving amongst some North American first peoples in which goods are given away for power in a complex ritual which includes the reaffirmation of family, clan and international relationships. The US opens the bidding with a pledge to cut emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

While a terrified nation hides under the doona, our PM spruiks hydrogen. Not just any hydrogen or the green hydrogen advocated by some climate change experts but hydrogen that will be produced by burning coal or gas. The details are murky. Morrison’s a big picture man. As big as possible when he’s in the frame, posing as a tough on borders populist or a mate of Twiggy Forrest and his working class men. No hint emerges from the PM or his government that extending fossil-fuel usage is an act of wilful criminal negligence if not homicide.

His answer to what Biden calls “the existential crisis of our time”? Hydrogen valley. Where the fatuous meets the vacuous. Setting up a totally unnecessary coal-fired power station in the Hunter. Seriously.

It’s not the why or the when it’s the how. It doesn’t help that Scotty’s still a rusted-on fanboy of The Donald or that his microphone is off or – he’s on mute – as he is in half of all households around the country. The President has already left the building. This administration will decide later how it will reward Australia’s obstructing global consensus in curbing carbon emissions and embracing renewable energy.

Trade Tariffs may well be added to nations such as ours which seek to evade their international responsibilities with regard to curbing greenhouse gas emission and climate change abatement. It will not go well for us.

Joe Biden knows that Morrison’s not speaking to him. The PM’s not trying to reach an international audience. His remarks are for domestic consumption. Our totally transactional PM is frantic to appease the right wing of his party which, he believes, will see him as a true believer with his hard-line stance on border protection. Yet it is, in fact, an act of calculated, callous inhumanity which goes against the spirit of our constitution and against the letter of international agreements to uphold human rights which we once helped to write.

Morrison is right – but not for his vacuous rhetoric. Future generations will judge us on what we deliver. Just as they judge us today on what we do rather than whatever our government might say – and then pretend it didn’t say or try to crabwalk away from. The inaction of this government to honour its obligations to its citizens in its travel ban on those trapped in India – or its chicanery on energy or climate change, its betrayal of its stewardship, or duty of care of the planet for future generations, is an indictment of its motives to seek and hold power for its own sake and a travesty of democratic principle and responsibility to its people. It is also a declaration of moral bankruptcy.

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Morrison can’t take a trick

Warning: this article discusses rape.

Morrison can’t take a trick lately. He fails the 4 million Covid vaccinations by March target he set in January. Massively. Andrew Laming is off on empathy training to stop his stalking women; curb his up-skirting? Because the party needs the pervert’s vote. Morrison doesn’t have the bottle to sack him. He’s barely promoted Amanda Stoker as deputy of his new women’s taskforce when Grace Tame calls him out. He’s either pulling a swiftie or he’s got dud judgement. And the latest skirmish in the PM’s guerrilla war on women who investigate rape accusations against mates and staffers blows up in his face.

The PM smears Sam Maiden via a snide dig at Sky’s Andrew Clennell for an act of sexual harassment in a News Corp women’s loo. But it didn’t happen. News Corp and Sky swiftly point out how wrong he is. Water closet-gate will be his undoing. But how good is ScoMo as a rapid-fire shit-canner?

“One more scandal. One more boneheaded disgrace. One more backbench troll sent off to study how to impersonate a human being.” Speaking at the ALP’s virtual annual conference, which our press mostly ignores, Bill Shorten sees Morrison’s as already a virtual minority government in disarray.

AFR’s Aaron Patrick has to do Morrison’s hit job for him. It backfires badly. “A crusade of women journos,” upbraids Maiden, Laura Tingle and others for being good journalists and being women.

“Anger at the government over the abuse of women is being led by a powerful group of female journalists,” Patrick pouts in a personal attack rubbishing the “challenging,” “spiky” and “difficult” Maiden’s single mother’s poverty, the writer’s bad temper and ambition. Other women are incensed.

“So apparently giving Brittany Higgins a platform, calling the powerful to account, exposing government coverups & a vile rape/sexual assault culture in Parliament House, is not journalism. According to the AFR, it’s angry activism. Welcome to the new world order boys. Tweets Lisa Wilkinson.

Morrison makes a shocker of an apology on Facebook and on MSM. Blames the emotion of the moment. His cabinet reshuffle just looks like a ruse to demote Dutton, Porter and Reynolds, promote Stoker and to dodge responsibility for his government’s sexism. Misogyny. He press-gangs his women ministers into a “taskforce” to deal with girly stuff. But he and Marise Payne will “co-chair” it, just to keep it on track.

Why put four men in a women’s taskforce? It’s Morrison’s signature; he loves to smirk while twisting the knife. He must know we see him thumbing his nose. The taskforce is just another cynical act of coercive control in the abusive relationship his sexist government has with the nation’s women.

But first his vax debacle; the four million Covid jabs, he promised us by 31 March turn out to be a paltry 600,000. Only 3.4 million shy. The “vaccine rollout” won’t even meet his fudged target (2.0) of the end of April. Seventy-seven leading epidemiologists warn, Tuesday, that failure to vaccinate within the year will pave the way for dangerous mutations against which most current vaccines will prove useless.

Complicating matters, a tad, AstraZeneca, (the only vaccine we, plebeians, are due to get) may cause blot clots in the brains of those under sixty. But only seven people have died, worldwide. So far. And we won’t be halting the program because our Therapeutic Goods Administration says no.

Of course, our corporate elite call the shots behind the scenes. Peter Costello is smirking all the way to the bank. The underwhelming, $161 billion Future Fund, which dropped 0.9% in value last year, whose grandiosely-titled “Board of Guardians,” he chairs, has doubled its one billion dollar investment in vax manufacturers to a $2 billion punt during the pandemic. Costello also chairs Nine newspapers. Always plugs a good cause. While Greg Hunt boosts the TGA ceaselessly, the investor class is in for the kill.

Covid Commission adviser, “Babies Overboard” Jane Halton, has also healthy interests in our nation’s well-being including being Director of Crown Resorts, the COVID-19 quarantine facility in Victoria.

Best TGA in the world, says Greg Hunt. Endlessly. A model regulator. Who is he kidding? While there’s not a corporate arse, in any boardroom, anywhere, this government won’t blow smoke up, the TGA is supposed to be a government body. But it’s one which depends on those it regulates for its funding.

A watchdog which receives funding from health and medical companies has no conflict of interest? Model regulation? Not its transvaginal mesh scandal. The TGA approved the mesh without any studies to show it was a safe or effective prolapse treatment. It wasn’t. Thousands of women report complications, including severe pain and damage to nerves and nearby organs, including the bladder and bowel.

Similarly, a herbal remedy for benign prostate enlargement, from The Tomato Pill Company is TGA approved, despite research showing it is no better than a placebo. Clearly, critics just don’t know how our TGA works. If you have BPH, you might like to try a tomato pill, a TGA spokesperson says.

Morrison could bullshit for Australia but even then he meets only 15% of his original target. Work Experience Boy, Minister for Health Hyperbole, Hunt storms Sunrise, Today and sundry other TV infotainments to spruik his government’s huge success. In Hunt’s view, we’re the envy of the Covid World. Everything his government ever does is world beating or world-leading. Even its wanking. Revelations that Liberal staffers regularly film acts of self-abuse at work do help take the focus off rape cases and the government’s failure to honour its vaccine commitments. Thank you, Peter van Onselen.

(Anxious readers will be relieved to learn that one Liberal has now been sacked for jerking off at work). Bound to fix the problem. But even this token bust is too much for Michelle Landry who stuns everyone when she is sent out to praise the young man.

“The young fellow concerned was a really good worker and he loved the place. I feel bad for him about this, but it’s unacceptable behaviour,” Landry, assistant minister for children and for Northern Australia, says, outside Parliament, trivialising, if not normalising, lewd sexual misconduct – whilst neatly turning the perpetrator into the victim – a common inversion in the defence of male violence and sexual abuse and no small part of Morrison’s declaration of Christian Porter’s innocence and need for sick leave.

“Politician feels bad someone is suffering from the consequences of their own actions. Right,” tweets former Fairfax reporter now The Guardian Australia‘s Political journalist, Amy Remeikis.

Others see the behaviour as more disturbing; a defilement or desecration. If it’s not an act of violence, it’s certainly an offensive display of disrespect to any female boss. Ten has video of at least four other staffers in a “wankers at work” video which those involved keenly shared amongst friends.

But Morrison moves on. Reports of any man masturbating over a woman boss’ desk are now consigned to the memory hole of history. Furthermore, it’s been made quite clear, in the usual fashion, that this story or others related to it, are not to be pursued if you value your place in the Canberra Press Gallery.

The PM would love to pick a fight with the states over his own failure to honour his vaccine promise. But the states aren’t having a bar of it even if the PM’s office is able to team up with News Corp to release figures which imply that vax hoarding is the reason for the slow pace of the rollout. Time for a reset.

Enter the ineffable Hunt. No-one believes Hunt. Ever. His spin echoes the twaddle of his “meet and beat” our Kyoto targets. Or his soil magic, a boondoggle of bogus carbon offsets to pay polluters to plant trees they would have planted anyway. Offsets were never measured nor were they permanent.

Our vaccine delivery’s been overhyped and under-delivered, writes Stephen Duckett, The Grattan Institute‘s Health Director, who diagnoses a lack of urgency and poor phasing – frontline workers should have been vaccinated first. Delivery has been compromised, furthermore, by being politicised with Liberal Party logos everywhere and countless, interminable, brag-fests of self-advertising and relentlessly upbeat, absurd over-promising. They call this messaging? The danger of this hype, notes Duckett, is that it leaves no margin for error; blocks any capacity for a government to learn from its mistakes.

Learn? This is a government of covering up mistakes. Beyond even Hunt’s puffery, our PM of sleaze-baggery, self-interest and government by decree even takes a hit in Murdoch’s News Poll. Amen.

Run by YouGov, News Poll now operates solely online – a change which may render it even less reliable than last election, an epic fail that would cause any self-respecting poll to close down – but there’s also an Essential poll out to suggest that Australian women don’t like what they’re seeing in their PM.

Women’s disapproval of the PM rises ten per cent in two weeks – from 30% to 40%. His approval rating drops to 57% (from 62% earlier in the month) driven by lower approval from women (59% to 49%). Three out of four Australian women do not believe women are treated fairly in politics.

Not meeting the women marching for justice has cost him. The sex scandals may not have helped. Along with Michelle Landry’s loveable lad with Portnoys’ Complaint, reports pour in of rent boys, assignations, orgies during Question Time, abuse of Parliament House’s prayer room for carnal pursuits.

Certainly not helping is the government’s mishandling of the rape allegation against former Attorney-General Christian Porter by Katharine Thornton, a complaint she emailed police not to proceed with, a day before the woman, tragically, took her own life. To pronounce Porter innocent is not leadership by the PM but a painful, gratuitous, reminder to women of how the system works to protect men.

Speaking of protecting men, where’s Bruce Lehrmann, the former Liberal staffer in Linda Reynolds’ office? The rising star seems to have vanished in plain sight after committing himself to a North Shore mental hospital. All this helps turn Morrison’s dag persona into a reprehensibly clueless Mr Magoo.

Yet is anyone fooled? The PM is as quick to tip a bucket of shit as he is with a disappearing trick.

No-one’s sure Lehrmann still in the country. No-one’s talking. Million dollar man, ($914,000 PA) Phil Gaetjens reveals he’s “paused” the inquiry that the PM set up because the AFP told him to. The AFP denies this – only quickly to change its tune. It’s clear to all, except, perhaps, Brittany Higgins, that there’s no inquiry under way. The AFP, moreover, not only lack the resources and the experience to pursue a rape investigation, since its inception in 1979, it has done nothing to embarrass a sitting government. It’s sheer bastardry to keep up the pretence. But don’t expect Morrison to back down. He enjoys it.

Worse, there’s an orchestrated campaign to discredit Higgins and to impugn her character which ranges from Eric Abetz’ alleged slut-shaming to the alleged briefing against her from the PM’s office. In similar vein, Aaron Patrick attacks Samantha Maiden, who published details of the late Katharine Thornton whom Christian Porter is alleged to have raped. Maiden also broke Ms Higgins’ story.

A cabinet reshuffle is just what’s needed. A reset. While he’s at it, Pro-Mo sets up his own advisory council or taskforce, a cringeworthy display of tokenism and duplicity nurtured by a pliant MSM.

The Liberal’s woman problem? Fixed. Morrison anoints Marise Payne,“the PM for women,” a preposterous over-promotion, to say nothing of its dud subtitle. A journo asks if Payne’s newly exalted status means he’s PM for blokes only? Morrison walks back his spin to a meaningless “Primary Minister for Women.” Now his mob will be all ears to all women. Just don’t expect an answer from his five media advisers. His government by secret fiat is flat out hiding its stuff ups. It has so much to cover up.

Crikey’s Amber Schultz asks Nick Creevey, Senior Media Adviser to Team Morrison, whether there’d been hint of allegations of bullying against Karen Andrews before the PM promoted her to Home Affairs, made vacant by Dutto’s demotion to Defence. The PM’s Media team does not respond.

Andrews is not alone. Cash is a controversial choice for Attorney General, given her role in the hounding of AWU and the leaking of a police raid to the press. Is Morrison’s reshuffle plus political CWA just another bum note from the tone deaf goanna strangler? Or is it more sinister, cynical skullduggery?

Scotty’s taskforce is a Jen’s party of all seven women in cabinet, co-chaired by himself and the invisible Minister for Women, our low-profile Trade Minister Marise Payne who’s been knocking herself out lately, not commenting, not visiting the women’s march; not calling out Andrew Laming. No. She has no comment on the government’s failure to read Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate JenkinsRespect at Work, a national sexual harassment inquiry report. It’s been on Porter’s desk over a year.

The Commission says fifty-four of the fifty-five recommendations still await a government response. Australia is also yet to take any action towards ratifying the 2019 ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment. Whilst it moots a women’s summit, the Morrison government has plenty to work on immediately. What it would like to label “women’s issues” – rather than matters of common humanity and justice are not a priority. This reality is revealed in its failure even to respond to Jenkins report.

“It may come as a surprise to some in the government, but women don’t exist in a vacuum, writes Crikey’s Amber Schultz. Childcare is an issue for parents, not women. Workplace sexual harassment is an issue for employees and companies, not women. Sexual violence is an issue for society, not women. As a new report shows, even women’s salaries are not only an issue for women: domestic violence risk increases by 35% when women start earning more than their partners.

Jenkins notes that Australia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in 1983 with accompanying domestic legislation. Yet “over 35 years on, the rate of change has been disappointingly slow. Australia now lags behind other countries in preventing and responding to sexual harassment.”

Despite calling herself a feminist, Payne acts the complete enabler, the Coalition’s iconic Stepford wife.

Women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and wellbeing are “on the agenda,” says the PM’s press drop. Or will be. How could they not? We all know they’ve gone MIA since 2012 when Abbott made himself the Minister for Women, a calculated gesture of contempt, that no-one could forget.

In 2014, the Commonwealth government suddenly abandons forty years of practice and fails fifty-one per cent of the population by ceasing to publish its Women’s Budget Statement, an integral part of its federal budget. No sources are tipping that anyone intends to restore it. Instead it’s all fluffy stuff.

Senior government sources add the rush of improv theatre to the TF concept by bullshitting The New Daily that “It’s about making sure the policies are aligned with where we want to go as a government.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Other seers of the bleeding obvious see a taskforce with “a major hand in federal budget preparation” putting a “gender lens” on (The Big Swinging Dicks’) major policy areas and government initiatives.

If that sounds a tad murky, what is crystal clear is that no thought at all has been given to what his taskforce will do. Or how. But that’s the nature of a political stunt. It’s not meant to work. This is for show. Worse. Just a glance at its composition suggests Morrison is making sure TF it won’t work.

Kaye Lee profiles the women in the taskforce in a compelling argument that whilst the ministers may be women, their record on women’s issues suggests that they will not be agents of change or real reform.

Michaelia Cash, a lip-readers’ dream, maintains the pernicious myth that feminism is so old hat that it’s irrelevant to today’s women. Like solidarity. In 2018 Cash, a former Minister for Women boasts that she has the dirt on Bill Shorten’s female staff. No-one had the foggiest idea what she was referring to but then, as our PM just showed, you don’t have to have any factual foundation for a smear to be effective.

She’d heard the “rumours.” For women, unspecified “rumours” are still career death. In fact, any whiff of sexual misbehaviour, even if not directly committed by them, sticks like glue,” writes Jane Caro who notes that Cash, along with many other conservative women MPs are content to ally themselves with men. Token blokes or worse – enablers of a sexist, misogynistic, patriarchal regime that gags on quotas.

Home Affairs is huge. So big in fact, that experts warned Malcolm Turnbull against creating it. The departing, demoted, Peter Dutton, a former Health Minister who was voted worst minister ever by a group of doctors has done nothing in the portfolio to suggest good management or even that the monster is, in fact manageable. Already, however, sleuths such as Mark Kenny are keen to know if Karen Andrews will bring more compassion. Forget it Kenny. Her reply is to make a threat about social media.

More compassion with our applications and ad hoc deportations? Wash your mouth out. The thing that sticks in Karen’s craw is anonymous online disrespect. Of course. Dutto had the same bugbear.

[I] will certainly be taking an active interest and engaging as much as I possibly can on that issue.

Look, social media has significant challenges, one of those issues is the level of anonymity. We need to make it very clear that people can’t hide or should not be allowed to hide on these social media platforms so absolutely I will be taking a very close look at that.

Assistant to Marise Payne is right-wing darling of the Christian lobby, Amanda Stoker. Observers note that she began her career being seen as some sort of libertarian by being parachuted into George Brandis’ Queensland senate seat with a couple of years left on the clock. Then she turned hard right.

Stoker gets a big rap on mensrights.com.au and she’s spoken up for the victims of false rape accusation. Tertiary institutions don’t do enough to protect the rights of students (overwhelmingly male) accused of sexual assault harassment and sexual assault. Accordingly, Bettina Arndt is a big fan.

The Catholic Leader dubs her “Queensland’s voice for life,” and she’s been an outspoken opponent of abortion, regularly starring at pro-life rallies around Brisbane. Naturally, she is convinced that something she calls “freedom of religion” to be under attack despite a lack of any empirical evidence. Morrison shares the same belief and it may help explain why Ms Stoker’s been so rapidly promoted.

He’s got that beaut bill which Phil Ruddock charged a fortune to shape up. Christian Porter’s polished it.

“If we fail to defend people’s right to believe, and to practise their faith, we deny our nation its moral bedrock. Tolerance must cut both ways. It is deeply troubling to have so many examples to point to that suggest this freedom is under attack in our culture,” she claims, declining to point to a single example. It’s the “everybody knows” or “folks tell me” fallacy integral to Trump’s populist rhetoric.

It’s dangerous. Luckily, Frydenberg and Birmingham are along for the ride; helping the ladies’ keep on track. Keeping the boys in line is Elvis impersonator Michael McCormack, who owes his job as The King of the Nats to not being Barnaby Joyce. Big Mac has yet to display any leadership ability whatsoever. He is, however, a National Party MP who owes his deputy PM badge to the Coalition’s quota system.

While Macca’s icon, Presley, liked to take a clutch of fourteen year old girls on tour, the titular Deputy is unlikely to emulate his hero’s pillow fights, tickling, kissing and cuddling. But he’s bound to be right on the button when it comes to helping the ladies come to a decision about gender equity.

If work permits. His “meetings all day” made it quite impossible for him to meet the March4Justice women or even organise his wife, Catherine Shaw, into whipping up a batch of lamingtons. Or a pav.

Morrison’s latest faux pas is greeted with derision, disbelief, anger and weary resignation by at least half the nation’s population who grit their teeth and just get on with their day to day oppression.

As second-class citizens, women know all about gaslighting and abusive relationships- even if the good news comes from Papa Morrison’s hand-picked, handmaid Marise Payne. Or will – if she gets to speak. She may leave that to her assistant, Amanda Stoker. Stokes and ScoMo could be quite a show.

Both would very much like you to believe there’s no such thing as objective truth, and that after a while, the audience will simply lack the energy to understand or argue with what they’re watching – as Marina Hyde observes of Boris and his Brexit clowns.

“Blokes don’t get it right all of the time,” Morrison opines to his oleaginous on-air masseur, Ray Hadley, on 2GB, Wednesday, using that cutesy Love-Rub man-child special pleading he tries on in emergencies.

On this occasion he’s got dirt all over his face after his mudslinging at Sky’s Clennell bombs because Sky and News Corp say there’s no mud to sling. Morrison is quick to invent a salacious slur about a woman being sexually assaulted in a women’s toilet. Only top-shelf stuff from our Prime Mud-slinger.

“Blokes don’t get it right all the time, we all know that, but what matters is that we’re desperately trying to, and that’s what I’m trying to do, and we will get this right – we all need to focus on that.”

Of course. It’s not the stuff-up that matters – it’s how hard you try that gets people vaccinated. Ray could be an honorary Stepford wife himself, the way he coos over the PM; soothes his fragile ego. The glass jaw is a bit more of a challenge. But just listen to Morrison begging to be given a koala stamp for trying his best. Telling us to focus on his rhetoric not the reality. Is this what national leadership has come to?

Come in spinner. A session with Jen the clarifier helps him to understand that rape is a criminal offence?

Women won’t forget. Men are not quite perfect? Incredible. This ploy is a tricked-up version of “boys will be boys.” But just lately, the PM’s been getting nothing right – least of all his call to cut Job-Keeper and raise job-seeker by a paltry fifty dollars. Women will be most affected as at least three million Australians will plunge below the poverty line – all in the interests of saving expenditure.

Yet, on the debit side of the ledger, there’s no compulsion for billionaires such as Gerry Harvey to pay back a profit-boosting Job-Keeper they simply didn’t need. Welfare beneficiaries who are overpaid get no such indulgence. The government’s double standard, here, does not augur well for its new taskforce.

But what Morrison’s up to is his old hand-ball trick. Rather than burden poor limited men with women’s issues, he’ll give them to the few women in his cabinet to sort out. ScoMo’s silo. In a flash, he elects the Minister for Women, Marise Payne, Prime Minister for Women, while Amanda Stoker, another senator, a pin up girl for men’s rights groups, who supported a fake rape crisis tour to be her deputy.

Grace Tame unerringly calls him out. Appointing Stoker to second in command of his faux-taskforce demonstrates he either is “ignorant of the cultural issues at hand, or he understands them completely, and is making calculated moves to perpetrate them.

“If the latter is true, then what we are seeing is further abuse of power, masterfully disguised as progress – the very same psychological manipulation at the heart of these recently exposed evils.”

All but forgotten, thanks to the PM’s orchestrated litany of false promises, dissimulation and paternalism is the story of Brittany Higgins, now pilloried by such crusty right wing henchmen of the government as Eric Abetz. Her story, as recounted recently on ABC Four Corners, must not be forgotten.

“As I opened the door, I noticed that the female was lying on her back, completely naked, on the lounge that was adjacent to the door … for which I’ve gone, ‘Oh’.”

A whole nation goes “Oh” with Nikola Anderson as the former security guard at Parliament House’s ministerial wing, who was on night shift at 2:35 am, 23 March 2019, tells ABC Four Corners her shock discovery of a nude Brittany Higgins on a sofa in Defence Minister, “Lying Cow” Linda Reynolds’, office, located only a drunken stumble away from Morrison’s office; aka Big Swinging Dick HQ.

Morrison claims that he didn’t hear about Miss Higgins for two years; a claim so improbable it would be laughable – were his abdication of responsibility – to say nothing of the suffering – his office’s leaks help heap up upon Brittany Higgins and her loved ones – a laughing matter. But he miscalculates. Badly.

“It’s incredible… Inconceivable” that Morrison’s own staff would keep him in the dark about such a serious matter, says former PM, “Fizza” Malcolm Turnbull, the man Morrison knifed to get the top job, a job proving way too big for the man. You know you’re in trouble when Fizza calls bullshit on you.

In a desperate reset of his story, Morrison: Model Boss 2.0, the man Michael Keenan describes as an absolute arsehole, now makes noises about having made offers to meet Ms Higgins – as if meeting her somehow atones for his abdication of duty of care, or his office’s subsequent cruelty. Or losing her job, her credibility, or, in the latest of an orchestrated campaign of attacks on her credibility and character, becoming the butt of gibes fired by Abetz, who, of course, denies he ever slut-shamed her.

Morrison’s new version of his own melodrama is crafted solely for the purpose of diminishing a young woman who alleges she is the victim of a rape; paint her as spurning his support. Once again, he displays a rare talent for breath-taking hypocrisy and brazen denial as he gas-lights her version of events.

M:MB 2.0 has a twist or two in the plot. “Just before she departed,” or resigned, the PM tells Channel Nine, Ms Higgins was “offered the opportunity” to meet with himself and Michaelia Cash. Yet Higgins left Cash’s office 5 February, ten days before the story broke. Ten days before he says he knew anything.

Belief will not be beggared, however, much Morrison has “steadfastly maintained that he knew nothing of the alleged rape until 15 February, 2019,” writes Dr Jennifer Wilson. And now he is undone.

Morrison’s bluster; and his big-noting, braggadocio on the run will prove the end of him. His posturing merely accentuates the vulnerability of his victim as she appeared to Nikola Anderson, two years ago. The encounter is richly resonant, confronting as it is instructive; a type of violation in itself.

It’s a nightmare for both women. You want Anderson to say she immediately covered up the young woman; put her clothes back on; took her to hospital. Comforted her. But Parliament house doesn’t work that way. Anderson loses a job she goes public to try to keep. Guards are low down parliament house’s food chain. Along with whistle-blowers, you get sacked, or worse, for speaking up.

Already, Anderson’s testimony contradicts Finance Department reports that Higgins was found half-dressed. Above all, the guard’s version negates the PM’s lie that Bruce Lehrmann’s employment was terminated because of a security breach. There was no security breach. Two guards let him in.

And they let in Ms Higgins, who was, clearly, unable to walk straight. Or put her own shoes on. Anderson’s narrative also hugely damages the myth of Parliament House – to say nothing of how it punctures the rhetoric of national security and the fantasy that we have vital defence secrets.

“Nobody really knows the truth but me,” Anderson tells Four Corners

There’s security and then there’s Parliament house’s travesty. It’s an indictment. If security guards are so subservient to their overlords, how do they challenge aberrant behaviour? Anderson’s story shows how. Badly. A young staffer, with neither pass nor key and an allegedly “falling down drunk” young woman in tow, is admitted into the office of the Defence Minister at 2:00 am Saturday, two years’ ago?

“Can’t it wait, guys?” Anderson asks.

“Not really,” replies the man.

It’d be a walking bust in most outfits. The male emerges around 2:35 am, alone and exits quickly. Says little. No-one on the security team puts two and two together? No. That’s beyond their pay-scale.

A wave of revelations of acts of depravity, debauchery and slut-shaming follow; including word that Tasmanian Senator and Christian-right Tsar, Abetz, is alleged to have said that on that night, Ms Brittany Higgins was “so disgustingly drunk [she] would sleep with anybody.”

Abetz is also reported to have said that Christian Porter is “safe because the woman’s dead” and the AG will be protected by the law. It’s classic victim-blaming which sides with both alleged perpetrators in a singularly prejudicial way. It’s almost as if such outbursts are orchestrated by a fixer somewhere.

But if the most dangerous place in the nation for a young woman to be is in a cabinet minister’s office, the Morrison government appear to be running a bawdy house elsewhere. A rising tide of licentiousness threatens to capsize Morrison, a leaky rudderless craft.

It’s clear that The Miller’s Tale has its counterpart in our parliament and doubtless there will be much clutching of pearls in the suburbs, but, for Morrison, the most damaging aspect of being publicly mugged by reality is that it reveals a PM who is a sham; a leader who is clearly neither in touch nor in control.

First, the PM’s security breach story is contradicted by Anderson’s candour. Security let in Ms Higgins and her companion, Bruce Lehrmann. There was no breach of security, she stresses, but this quandary is soon upstaged by Peter van Onselen. His timely account of lewd acts, dissipation and low pursuits atop the desktops of Canberra threatens the record of Calcutta (Kolkata) under the dissolute Wajid Ali Shah.

Hook-ups and blow jobs? A prayer room, where Stuart Robert knelt beside his pal Scott Morrison just before Morrison knifed Turnbull, appears to be a multi-function, pleasure centre. “Tom the Whistle-blower” provides confidential information to Senator Simon Birmingham, that would earn Parliament House an X-rating, were it a computer game. But he’s not talking about virtual reality. The testimony he supplies to Birmingham involves four current and former staffers; three non-staffers; one busy sex worker; a former minister and a sitting MP in a slew of sexual encounters from September 2015 to 2020.

Dangerous liaisons are taking place right under the PM’s nose. Or knees as the case may be.

Nothing to see here, of course. The Office of PM and Cabinet, (PM&C) positively reeks top-secrecy when not leaking against its enemies, such as Brittany Higgins’ loved ones. Ms Higgins lodges a formal complaint with John Kunkel, Morrison’s Chief of Staff with evidence that Morrison’s media team has been “backgrounding” or leaking, off the record, information to discredit, demean and disparage her partner, former Canberra lobbyist, David Sharaz, who has been forced to quit his Canberra job.

Nothing to see? Except when mud-slinging. The PM’s hack-counter-attack -Tuesday, a departure from his earlier set piece, a histrionic baring of his soul, climaxing in a tearing up scene as the ham actor soliloquises grandiloquently about how the women in his life mean everything to him. But then he loses the plot.

In a flash, the PM switches from treacle to brimstone. He rounds on Sky News’ political editor, Andrew Clennell. How dare he suggest that Morrison can’t control his motely crew! – Clennell had better wise up or he’ll tell what Clennell did to a woman in a ladies’ loo. The mind boggles. But it’s all a bluff

That’s his implication, a lie, for which the PM stages a faux apology later.

Will water-(closet)-gate, prove to be Scott Morrison’s Waterloo? A royal flush of pundits think so.

Is he threatening me or something? Clennell, later on his own show, reflects, in a rhetorical question. The Murdoch journo helpfully notes that Morrison can tell him to “Be careful” about a fake incident that he says took place in a Sky water closet – but, even after two years – he knows nothing about a rape which is allegedly occurred only fifty metres down the hall from his office.

“Captain Schultz” Morrison is infamous for running such a tight-lipped, ship of state that not even his AFP’s Reece Kershaw nor his chief dogsbody, political hack, Phil Gaetjens, know where it’s going. Just don’t ask. Especially when Phil tells a senate committee it’s been two weeks since he hit pause on his “inquiry” into who knew what, where, when and why about the body in the office.

Gaetjens’ drops Morrison right in it. The PM’s been telling the House that Phil’s got the inquiry steaming along. Ongoing. All shipshape and Bristol fashion, rather like his government. But it’s more like the Evergreen Marine, run aground; lodged sideways hard up against the banks of the Suez Canal.

True, former NT plod, now AFP Commissioner, a boyish, Reece Kershaw, tries a quick re-float and turn around. It’s a spectacular retreat. In record-breaking time, he executes a top copper reverse pike.

Commissioner Kershaw disavows all knowledge of ever phoning Gaetjens to stop him poking around, asking nosy questions, in case the AFP’s, much-vaunted but almost certainly apocryphal investigations into the alleged rape of Ms Higgins are compromised. It’s another cover up of a cover up.

Compromised? Least a wary nation take fright at the latest shenanigans, there’s a dead cat on every table or desk. There’s such frigging in the rigging that the air is blue with talk of it, be it a Portnoy on a desk or staffers at it like rabbits while the Dorothy Dixers drone on destroying Question Time.

It’s a remarkable tale in itself filled, as it is with date rape and the disappearing acts of the mysterious Lehrmann, an alleged rapist who has yet to be questioned by police. Once he was a rising star. His meteoric rise without trace included a spell under George “bookshelves” Brandis, the former Attorney-General whom the nation was given to make Christian Porter look good. Fat chance.

Last seen “checking himself” into a North Shore psychiatric ward in Sydney, Lehrmann has vanished off the face of the earth or at least that earthy Liberal dunghill that the PM loves to call his Canberra bubble.

Will Morrison survive? The Liberals and their corporate masters will. Think of the cockroach, a creature which can survive without its head. Or is the PM undone already by his ill-judged mudslinging and his naked desperation to destroy the reputation of Samantha Maiden, a woman journalist, whose only fault is to do her job investigating two notorious allegations of rape? Can a PM promise vaccination and fail so demonstrably, so lamentably to deliver? Now women have woken up to him is it all over for Morrison?

Let us not be distracted by speculation. What emerges most clearly from the latest reports of group madness, bonkers bonking, rent boys, Portnoys and sundry wankers on desks from our federal government in the midst of its women’s taskforce theatre is the textbook persecution of a young woman who came forward with an allegation of rape. The persecution of Brittany Higgins, directly and indirectly through the media and from the floor of the House of Representatives, the assassination of her character and the systematic, orchestrated attack on her credibility is a monstrous injustice that shames us all.

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Monty Python Life of Scotty: “But I’m the Prime Minister” from flying slime to the ridiculous

Warning – Truisms, delusions, flatulence and satire; not to be confused with news, fiction or entertainment, and this is not a joke.

“I’m the Prime Minister.”

… and I’m the President of Beeblebrox Prime – What a brainless Jurassic dodo Morrison is!

“Aged care is complex … Life is complex.”

“No I don’t agree with that, nor the premise of your question.”

“This is Australia.”

“If you have a go, you get a go.”

“If you want to do business here, you work according to our rules.” When in Rome huh

Whose rules? My aunt cockatoo – the ‘Rule of Law’ of course.

“Where the bloody hell are you?” – If only Morrison would make up his mind!

“I think I can speak for the people of Australia” – If you haven’t heard this one it is the arrogant pseudo-democratic subscript of rampant Ministerial Liberalism, the voice of entitlement and abuse of power.

“This is coal. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be scared! It won’t hurt you.”

Life isn’t as simple as Morrison makes out, but simplicity, ‘people-games’ and ridicule are his bread and butter, as obfuscation, deceit and lies his cue. Rule by lawfulness, statue, common law, case law, due process, natural justice, balance of probability, fair go where punishment or consequence fits the crime or is it much simpler than this – A Morrison interpretation and decree, absolute?

As the fossil record also tells us, survival isn’t always brighter – Here on earth in the Anthropocene it just gets dumber and dumber as we buckle down into the oblivion of banal arrogance, truisms, slogans, assumptions, generalisations, rationalisations and rebuffs; the gobsmacking repetition of Liberal media grabs, lies and dogma, when there is no substance left to spew from the Prime Minister’s heaving ‘mad cow’ disease gutless Mesozoic mouth, other than endless COVID-19 announcements and economy boasters for the light headed, those with short concentration spans, poor memories, recall, disbelief or general ignorance; before diversity of thought, living and human civilisation crashes (Take a breath).

Diversity and originality diminish and the toxic soup gets thicker and slimier as it engorges itself on the powerless overwhelmed suffocating discourse of public life. Opposition becomes futile and toothless, like a muffled voice in the wilderness as Morrison and News Corp press on with their rape, pillage and plunder of the moral, political, social, cultural, economic, and indeed personal landscape. Then we crash just like the Romans did, as have many others through history.

Here we are sitting on the great galactic rim of Morrison’s lips and cognitive insensibilities, where the next slogan pours out the vast desert of his backside like a dark solar prominence on (a)steroids in hyperspace, another magical leap of faith from a dying star in the Delta Quadrant. Like the endless self-righteous entitled groans, pestilence and murmurings of an entombed Egyptian mummy waiting to wow us with the natural wonders of revenge and the hidden talents of flea swarming goggle-eyed gumless beaming age cured cloak of the Scotty and Murdoch duo. Oh sorry, did I forget a few truculent cabinet ministers, sycophants and alleged sex abusers.

Betelgeuse is burning here on earth as Scotty plans his next holiday in downtown Hawaii Centauri sniffing in Trump’s lately dumped golden shit infested knickers. Yes, we have to put up with his daily poop and ‘tribal’ ramblings on the ABC who seem to think news, weather, business and ‘Rule of Law’ is about giving Morrison and his gutless wonders free to air publicity, broadcasting his mind-numbing truths and meaningless, thankless announcements ad nauseum. Nothing else to watch, the corporate channels, Seven, Nine and Ten (Christ, it’s all numeric labels and breakfast commandments) don’t make any sense in the real world as they prattle on from their virtual worlds and ivory towers, throwing out more slime and populist garbage than a Russian Mafia boss in between a mountain of dumb arse paid for advertising and programming, guaranteed to blow up your mind on knickerbocker glories, unreal life insurance and breathless testicle cupped macho underpants masquerading as boneless bras. Did anyone say KFC? That wasn’t me.

Back here on earth, in the land of Oz we once believed in something. It wasn’t a dream and there was no Dorothy or yellow brick road.

A democratic government in a civil society that would never say ‘never’ gag its press, when faced with mindless questions from a goggle-eyed bleeding press gallery. The reporter just doing her job called by the Immigration Minister a “mad fucking witch” as the microphone crackles to the background funnel-web cackle and natter of distant galaxies in ‘Question Time’ (okay that was an old one). A young woman who is allegedly raped in the Defence Minister’s office called a “lying cow” (note: fucking was dropped but not the gender) as ‘she and her partner are run out of town’ – that alien bitch of a parasitic institutional bubble we once called the Australian Parliament, walls riddled with vocational Liberal National slime and free speech dripping from the corridors and walls of ridicule, abuse and power. Morrison calls this democracy, which he seems to confuse also with free speech, representation, truth, facts, national security, law and leadership if not a host of other things which are belted like farts into a shitting bowl, a lethal and toxic mix, not to mention smelly!

The Prime Minister quick with faecal rhetoric calls the AFP and NSW police to order, like men in black neuralysing the minds of ABC viewers and the general public with nothing to see here, as if we weren’t already stupefied by the gormless babble and poisonous religious breath and sales pitch of the serpent’s tongue – Yes, you Morrison and, ‘we’ (where the shoe fits) your mummified tomb raiders, conspirators, dreamless pumpkin pen pushers and consumerised zombies of the Austral-American Liberal-Republican inter-continental clueless Kluxy clan.

Increasingly mesmerized, deluded and despotic just like Trump, the Prime Minister with his cabinet of knuckle-headed abusers and invocations of bogus conception have made us a laughing-stock ‘kiss and cuddle USA’ worldwide, not just in China. Whatever abuse of human rights overseas, we are called out as hypocrites and liars as we gringel and gobble at our own anal meanderings, gazing into our subcultural empty souls, indigenous and colonial toxic lethal rags or get caught with our pants down providing military arms and aide to criminal juntas, abusers and traffickers of human suffering. We find ourselves on the other side of everything we once stood for, or at least some of us did.

It runs deeper than the devil or a bag of serpents in Daniel’s den, and our Parliament is the devil’s den, where once the lion raged and feasted off the remains of elders, staffers, public servants, women, migrants, refugees, jobless, cashless, bludgers, pensioners, the old, the young, the toothless fairies, the unbelievers, convicts transported to the colony for stealing a loaf of bread (I’m sure I’ve missed a few). Did I say or imply ‘once did?’ Ah yes, little has changed in 250 years of colonisation, federation, ‘liberal democracy’ where the greedy club of present-day lions feed in fewer numbers on the unrecognisable culture and carcass of Australian life, but the economy is booming as we bleed profusely into the surrounding Great Barrier Reef, Pacific, Indian and Antarctic oceans – looking so pale and rickety.

“I’m the Prime Minister?” of this great vast land, this wilderness, this burning wasteland that Scotty is selling to the lowest bidders and gangs in town; our Public Service already thoroughly fucked over (so who are you going to call apart from some government funded help line, if you make it through the night on call waiting – That’s also what you get with Telstra and NBN, two other notable behemoths, legacy of our wacko Liberal-National zealot privatisation program).

… and we are the Borg, resistance is futile.

This Neolithic narcotic serpent Morrison leads us down the psychotic delusional path and Pythonesque parody ‘life of Brian’; not of fictional or divine comedy you’ll understand, but false prophet, myth and tragedy. Tragedy for Australia and all who sail in her bushfire, solar bleached, coal dusted, bronchitic, government raped womb of a giant burning wreck, half way between the starry flagged shores of the South China Sea and ravaged prehistoric Trump infested Mississippi swamps of Gondwanaland.

Australia is indeed a beautiful country, but Morrison’s gang from out of town are picking off all the flowers, raping and pillaging our country, laughing in our faces on national television and social media like big fat balls of slime. Rule of Law, democracy, fair go – long gone according to the book of revelation and the silent annals of our sublime constitution; all that’s left is the ridiculous.

The serpent has landed and he fully intends to stay unless another little spoilt and rotten spud, half as grotesque again, grows wings and repeatedly neuralyses us with national security legislation or we are serendipitously invaded by centaurean pigs from outer space. Whichever way these Liberals fall or land, they are sure to have inoculated themselves against this current self-inflicted bubonic plague and live off the fat of their ill-gotten wealth, investments, capital and government super they have bequeathed themselves in their promised land, behind giant walls of steel or somewhere far away, gloating, farting and salivating safe offshore. But it won’t be another planet, we only have this one.

Courtesy of President of Beeblebrox Prime, a Borg Cube somewhere in the Delta Quadrant sipping coal-digger pineapple Neros, donkey-faced cocktails; and all very ugly because there is nowhere else in the galaxy to go that we haven’t already fucked up and assimilated, 9 March 2021.

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Dob in a bludger

By John Haly

Morrison announcement ofpermanently increasing the rate of working-age payments by $50 a fortnight from 1 April 2021” received a lacklustre response. The Australian reporting about the lead-up to this said, “The base rate of JobSeeker is currently $570.80 a fortnight. But pressure has been mounting on the government to raise the rate with the $150 coronavirus supplement for welfare recipients ending in late March.”

Small bickies

The Australian Council of Social Service’s disappointed response reported that they would have preferred $25 extra a day rather than a week. The cheapest coffee I can buy around in my suburb is $4, an extra $3.57 a day is hardly enough. It has, although, lifted our unemployment allowance from 37.5% to 41.2% of the national minimum wage. That means we will no longer have the lowest level of unemployment benefits as a percentage of the average salary in the OECD. Fifty dollars lifts us above Greece to second-last place. Mind you, the original Covid Jobseeker supplement incrementally lifted the unemployed for the first time, above the Henderson Poverty Line.

Paying such low levels “under the false pretence of encouraging more unemployed Australians to look for jobs” has no evidentiary basis. The international market demonstrates it has the opposite effect. Higher unemployment payments internationally are more often correlated with lower unemployment rates. More money flowing into Jobseeker generates spending in the economy, and drives demand. The multiplier effect of which, our country in recession has shown it desperately needs to boost the economy.

 

Australian Welfare no longer in last place.

Training?

Despite the Coalition undercutting higher education, Michaelia Cash supported the idea that after six months on Job Seeker, recipients undergo training to help them get a job. Department of Employment figures show the smallest job market in January were the unskilled labourers (8.1%), Sales Workers (7.7%), Machinery Operators and Drivers (5.9%). This collection of low skilled jobs (37,975) are in rare supply in the Australian economy. Therefore, any Jobseeker training to elevate them to the skill level needed to widen their prospects would require extensive TAFE/University level education; well beyond “approved intensive short courses.

 

Job vacancy classification breakdown

Dob ’em in

These were not the only changes Morrison implemented to job welfare. That Australian article also reported, “Under a raft of welfare reforms, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said employers would be able to dob in unemployed Aussies who don’t take up jobs they are offered.” A move even Business groups denounced, let alone the welfare groups and unions. Social media references to “Dob a bludger!” accompanied curiosity as to the probability of emerging hotlines for “Dob in a wage thief” for businesses that were “accidentally underpaying workers“. Further suggestions provided ideas to establish hotlines for dob in a rorter, silencer of whistleblowers, white supremacist and sexual predators. It is tantamount to licensing abuse and employee exploitation which already occurs in industries like farming, retail and service.

 

 

Get off the couch!

The prevalent attitude towards the unemployed by politicians suggests that the unemployed are dominantly lazy, and distracted by Netflix as Nationals leader Michael McCormack claimed, or on drugs as our currently on leave, Attorney-General Christian Porter claimed when Social Services Minister. Several Federal ministers like David Littleproud MP, Senator Michaelia Cash, Senator Gerard Rennick, and Colin Boyce MP attacked the unemployed demanding they “get off the couch“, and get farmhand jobs that Australians discovered were not available. Others would suggest this patronising attack on people who, because of a recession and the pandemic, are without work, is merely targeting “low hanging fruit“. These Federal Ministers all would have us believe jobs are plentiful.

They are not alone in spouting propaganda that jobs are readily available. Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston, in a Triple J Hack interview with Avani Dias on the 23rd of February, repeated the fallacious claim. That there are “plenty of jobs” in her region. This was demonstrably wrong. Based in Renmark, her territory in the Murray had 8,364 people on Jobsearch in Jan 2021 but only 626 job vacancies (13 times less than the people looking for work). That ratio is better than the national average (approx 18x), so perhaps she might have had something to boast about if she had only bothered to tell the truth.

 

Job Vacancies in Murray District, SA

 

Unemployed in Murray District, SA

 

 

What jobs?

It isn’t easy to be finding a job in our economy, as reflected by any measure or methodology:

– jobs claimed by ABS (254,400 jobs), Dept of Employment (175,100 jobs), Seek (182793 jobs);

verses

– the unemployed registered by Jobseeker (1.236M people), ABS (877,600 people) or Roy Morgan (1.68M people). [All Stats currently published as of the end of Feb 2021 for January 2021]

These measures demonstrate that irrespective of what stats you accept, there are far more unemployed than available jobs. Beyond understanding the basics of how unemployment is measured, it is crucial to understand what some methodologies do not appraise.

The difference between ABS and Roy Morgan’s stats are considerable, and while the government and Main-Stream Media lean heavily on the ABS measure, we should appreciate what it represents. I have for a long time explained the ABS’s shortcomings from it’s

 

Statistical variations of Unemployment reported.

Subsets

These exclusions mean that what the ABS measures is not our internal domestic unemployment, but a subset of the numbers of unemployed for reasons of international comparison. A long time economic analyser of ABS statistics, Alan Austin, expressed similar conclusions, to that of my recent article on this subject.

To be clear, ABS measures a subset of our internal unemployment, as are JobSeeker numbers. The disparity between them illustrated in the variations graph depicts the entire period over which Job Seeker has existed. ABS’s subset, guided by the ILO methodology, facilitates international comparison, but does not measure any country’s national unemployment numbers. These stand in stark contrast to Murdoch and Nine Media’s claims that unemployment is a single whole digit percentage rate. Roy Morgan reveals unemployment hasn’t been under 10% since February 2020, and neither has under and unemployment been under 20%.

 

Under and Unemployment vs Job Vacancies

 

So ABS’s claimed 877,600 unemployment numbers are a subset of the domestic reality. Similarly ABS claimed a 2.08 million subset of under and unemployed. Alan Austin and I are in enthusiastic agreement that “It might be time for the unemployment rate published by Australia’s Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to be put out to pasture.” Alan continued affirming “the steam engine that is Roy Morgan’s real unemployment rate”. Roy Morgan shows in January 2021, unemployment is 1.68 million people, and adding underemployment reaches 3.118 million souls looking for a decent job. The Department of Employment’s IVI job vacancy report for January reveals that over three million people in Australia are competing for 175,100 jobs. Nearly 18 people for every job advertised, and we are not even beginning to deal with the logistic issues of job searching.

Location, location, location

Beyond Australia’s 19 cities, over 100K population, there are 1700 towns with populations between that and a thousand people. Spreading 175,100 jobs across a continent representing 5% of the earth’s landmass, when the towns are dominantly coastal, represents the first challenge to job seekers. An “off the back of an envelope” averaging for any given town/city would tell you that more than 100 jobs in a given population centre mean you are probably living in a city. Which might mean less than ten jobs advertised in that region will be for unskilled labour (8.1%). That’s not a nuanced presumption, as industry and commercial activity vary considerably from place to place, and I’ve given no consideration to rural areas. Still, one might understand that job locality has to be one of the most considerable obstacles for the unemployed.

The government’s expectation announced on the 23rd of February is “job seekers will be required to search for a minimum of 15 jobs a month from early April, increasing to 20 jobs per month from the 1st of July“. Purely considering the subset of the unemployed on Jobseeker (1.236M people) generating 15 applications per month creates 18 million letters and has the potential to cover every advertised job in Australia 105 times until July, when it will be 141 times. Given the likelihood of the number of jobs existing in your city or town as aforementioned, just how long will it take any given unemployed person to run out local employers?

Limitations to employment are locality and factors such as job requirements for education and/or skills, competition for work, financial limitations/burdens, physical/mental impediments, security clearances, pay awards not commensurate with needs and employment discrimination and/or exploitation.

Nobody in the coalition government is prepared to concede they are failing the unemployed. The party of “Jobs and Growth” has in reality been expanding “Unemployment and Recession” for years and no policy the government has implemented in Morrison’s $9B Social Security Safety Net seems capable of changing that path.

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

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Fight Club, Wolverines and Swinging Dicks – is this what we call “grown-up government”?

When Young Liberals in Chris Hartcher’s Terrigal electorate were inspired by Brad Pitt’s Fight Club to head out late at night on what they called “Black Ops” to tear down opposition election posters, one could perhaps, despite the illegality, dismiss this as kids going a bit too far. The fact that Liberal hopeful Aaron Henry signed his email call-to-action as ”Tyler Durden” (Brad Pitt’s character) shows just how juvenile this crowd were.

But when one of them then tried to destroy the career of Sydney Water chief Dr Kerry Schott via an anonymous email detailing a false complaint to the NSW ICAC, they moved from silly kids to dangerous.

Carrying on in the same vein, there is a parliamentary group who call themselves the “Wolverines”, a nod to the 1984 Hollywood film Red Dawn, about a team of high school football jocks thwarting a Soviet invasion of the United States.

The group, who boast about their preparedness to ‘speak out against China’s expanding power’, includes Andrew Hastie, backbench MPs Tim Wilson and Phillip Thompson, along with Senators James Paterson and Labor’s Kimberley Kitching, and they are identified by stickers featuring wolf claw marks on the entrances of their parliamentary suites.

The AFR’s James Curran put it well when he said “It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at this kind of juvenilia from some of the nation’s elected representatives. But we are where we are.”

Once again, we could dismiss this as silly kid stuff except Andrew Hastie has recently been promoted to Assistant Minister for Defence and, replacing him as chair of Federal Parliament’s powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security, is James Paterson.

As background, Hastie was the commander of an SAS troop in Afghanistan who cut off the hands of dead people. When he saw what was going on, he asked another SAS member to find out if the practice was permitted under Defence rules and regulations. In the subsequent inquiry, Cpt Hastie is quoted as saying, “My gut instinct was okay, that’s a strange practice.” Another SAS member said, “There’s no uncertainty. I wouldn’t cut f***ing people’s hands off, sir.

Paterson’s pre-parliament experience was as an unpaid political intern followed by a stint at the IPA where, at the ripe old age of 24, he co-authored the infamous 75 radical ideas to transform Australia, a document that was all about profit, privatisation and deregulation at the expense of society.

These two self-titled Wolverines were both denied visas to enter Beijing for a planned study tour in 2019 because of their ham-fisted outspoken attempts to bully China.

In a climate that requires nuanced diplomacy, who better to head our security committee than these two Liberal backbenchers who have already pissed China off, thinks Scott Morrison. Apparently.

Then we hear from former Liberal MP Sharman Stone that a group of men in parliament who called themselves the “swinging dicks” blocked Liberal MP Julie Bishop’s leadership aspirations.

Seriously. Dick-swingers is a disparaging term that women I know use to describe men who try to cover their inadequacy by bullying. The fact that this group called themselves that shows how entitled the Liberal boys club in Canberra believes themselves to be.

Fight Club, Wolverines, and Swinging Dicks? So this is their idea of “grown-up government“?

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Was COVID-19 born in the United States? (part 7)

Continued from: Was COVID-19 born in the United States? (part 6)

By Outsider

Two waves of outrage greeted the news on 9 September of Bob Woodward’s book: Rage.

The first was President Trump’s disclosure to Woodward that he knew as early as February – even as he was dismissing COVID-19 publicly – that the looming pandemic was far deadlier than the flu. And the second was that Woodward, long associated with The Washington Post, did not reveal this to the public sooner.

The fact that this second outrage mostly circulated among journalists talking to one another made it no less furious. If the famous Watergate reporter knew that President Trump was lying to the public about a matter of life and death, why did he not reveal it immediately?

Woodward is hardly the first journalist to save rare information for a book. But “is this traditional practice still ethical?” wondered David Boardman, dean of the Temple University school of journalism and a former long-time editor of The Seattle Times.

Other critics were less circumspect: “This is really troubling. As journalists we’re supposed to work in the public interest. I think there’s been a failure here,” wrote Scott Nover, a platforms reporter for the industry journal Adweek.

 

 

In fairness, it was not just journalists raising concerns. One could have argued that Woodward’s revelation could have been helpful in the spring, both explaining the seriousness of the disease to the public, showing the Trump Administration’s bungled and inept response, and pushing President Trump to do more. The point is valid – and far from new; it comes up almost every time a journalist writes a book which contains worthy information, especially about matters of national security or public well-being: So why was he public reading about this only now?

Not long before, The New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt was criticised for withholding some juicy revelations for his book about the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and the Robert S. Mueller III investigation. (Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President, Random House, New York, 2020).

“It is not immediately entirely clear why these reports, many dating back as far as three years, made it into the pages of Schmidt’s book rather than the subscription-based newspaper that employs him,” wrote Roger Sollenberger, a staff writer at Salon. (NYT reporter’s new book makes explosive Russia, Mueller claims – that Times didn’t report, 31.08.2020).

Woodward explained in his defence that he did not have any signed agreement or formal embargo arrangement with President Trump to hold back their conversations until the book published. “I told him it was for the book. And, as far as promising not to publish in real time, or signing such an agreement, he had no commitment of that kind. Woodward said that his aim was to provide a fuller context than could occur in a news story: “I knew I could tell the second draft of history, and I knew I could tell it before the election.” Further, Woodward thought that there were at least two problems with what he heard from President Trump in February which kept him from putting it in the newspaper at the time: 1) he did not know what the source of President Trump’s information was. It was not until months later, in May actually, that he learned it came from a high-level intelligence briefing in January. What President Trump had told Woodward in February seemed hard to make sense of. There was no panic over the virus; even toward the final days of January. In fact, Dr. Fauci was publicly assuring Americans that there was no need to change their daily habits; 2) Woodward said: “the biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn’t know if it was true.”

President Trump spoke with Woodward on more than a dozen occasions, and in some cases, “he started calling me at night,” said Woodward. It took months to do the reporting which put it all in context.

Still, why not then write such a story later in the spring, once it was clear that the virus was extraordinarily destructive and that President Trump’s early downplaying had almost certainly cost lives? To that Woodward would say that he believes his highest purpose was not to write daily stories but to give his readers ‘the big picture’, one which may have a greater effect, especially with a consequential election looming.

Woodward saw his effort as that of delivering in book form “the best obtainable version of the truth,” not to rush individual revelations into publication. He was working with a particular deadline in mind, so that people could read, absorb and make their judgments well before 3 November 2020: “election day.” (M. Sullivan, Should Bob Woodward have reported Trump’s virus revelations sooner? Here’s how he defends his decision, The Washington Post, 10.09.2020).

Like presidents before him, Donald Trump said: “My first duty as President is to protect the American people.”

Yet when he was called upon to answer a threat to Americans so severe that it would just in three months leave more dead than were killed in the first world war, President Trump lied – deliberately. (R. Bort, Listen: Trump Admits on Tape He Deliberately Downplayed Covid-19, Rolling Stone, 09.09.2020). He downplayed the danger in the critical early stages of the fight – that the president would eventually describe as “our big war”, and he continued to lie as the death toll grew.

Tens of thousands of those deaths were preventable. But President Trump’s incompetence and lies made them inevitable.

This is the stark fact of Donald J. Trump’s infamy – a deliberate dereliction of duty which, in a time of declared war, would be identified as ‘treasonous.’

President Trump’s deliberate dereliction of duty led thousands to their deaths. The toll rose with each passing day, while the president was saying: “Be calm, do not panic!” The president would continue to lie. Americans would continue to die. (R. Cristián, WEF Admits COVID Was Around In Mid-2019 & It’s Admitted The Vaccine Will NOT Return Us To Normal, 16.11.2020).

This is not partisan over-reach. President Trump lied about COVID-19 and now more than 250,000 of his fellow Americans have died.

Sure, there were a handful of deaths and cases by early February when Trump told Woodward: “This is deadly stuff,” and “You just breathe the air.” the president explained, “and that’s how it’s passed.”

This is not like the other 20,000 plus falsehoods that President Trump has uttered since taking up residence in the White House. These lies about the virus were fatal.

On 24 February, Trump tweeted to the world: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”

On 27 February, he said: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

On 10 March, he said: “And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

So, how did President Trump say all this? Why did he not fulfil his duty to protect American citizens?

On 19 March, President Trump told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Five days later, on 24 March, President Trump made the following statement on Fox News: “I brought some numbers here. We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off, I mean every year. Now when I heard the number – you know, we average 37,000 people a year. Can you believe that? And actually this year we’re having a bad flu season. But we lose thousands of people a year to the flu. We never turn the country off. We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn’t call up the automobile companies, say, “Stop making cars. We don’t want any cars anymore.” We have to get back to work.”

He played it down then in the early days when the nation had an opportunity to get its act together – and he continued to play it down. On 10 September, President Trump held a campaign rally in Michigan; again no masks, or hardly any – he certainly did not wear one, no social distancing; no warnings – nothing. (F. Gormlie, Trump Lied. 200,000 Americans Died,11.09.2020;Trump Lied. 200,000 Americans Died. – OB Rag, 11.09.2020).

And it is not that – since he acknowledged the severity of COVID-19 to Woodward – the president acted immediately and enacted national testing, national supplies, a national plan and response.

As John Nichols in The Nation summarised: a president who recognised his duty to protect the American people would have moved aggressively to address the threat, as leaders of other countries did. “Instead, Trump denied the danger, with his words and deeds, until the rates of infection and death surged to levels that Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged in early August had the United States experiencing the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world.”

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board had this view: “We suspect even his excuse for lying to the American people is less than truthful, and that it was the stock market he was really trying to keep calm. [Emphasis added] It’s been well-documented that in the early months of the pandemic, the president was frantic about how the disease would affect the economy. He raged about how the news media and the Democrats were exaggerating the dangers to scare the markets and make him look bad.” [Emphasis added]

A deliberate deception to enable his re-election – that’s what it was all about. He did not want to look bad. Trump was willing to have Americans die to help ensure he would be voted in again. His minions did not want the national security information about the threats to the 2020 election from the Kremlin; he did not want anyone to know about the threats from white supremacists; he did not want the COVID-19 numbers to go up.

And he felt untouchable. His enablers in the Senate would have assured that. Still, the irrefutable truth is, President Trump lied, and Americans died. (J. Nichols, Trump Lied, Americans Died, The Nation, 10.09.2020).

Details from Bob Woodward’s book on the president, including his intentional downplaying the risks of COVID-19 and lies about how it is transmitted, began to appear. Would any of such reports have long-term impact?

Woodward’s Rage was adding details and Trump’s own blithe recorded confirmation to a horrific story that Americans already knew: President Trump deliberately falsified and downplayed the epic severity of the pandemic. As Jennifer Szalai wrote in her Didion-worthy dissection of Rage in the Times, the book’s portrait of Trump would be “immediately recognizable to anyone paying even the minimal amount of attention.” (In Bob Woodward’s ‘Rage,’ a Reporter and a President From Different Universes, The New York Times, 09.09.2020).

In a blow-by-blow account (E. Lipton, D. E. Sanger, M. Haberman, M. D. Shear, M. Mazzetti and J. E. Barnes, He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus, The New York Times, 11.09.2020), for instance, the Times reported that “throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus,” both “top White House advisers” and experts in Cabinet departments and intelligence agencies were telling him the lethal facts and sounding constant alarms.

That is why by a later date President Trump’s indifference to matters of life and death had long since been baked into most voters’ verdicts on such a president, including his own voters. Even as the Woodward revelations started to pour out, President Trump was brazenly showcasing his immutable callousness and narcissism in public view, violating local mandates – as well as White House guidelines – on mask wearing and social distancing at a rally in North Carolina and conspicuously ignoring the devastation, pain, and suffering as fire tore through America’s most highly populated state.

National and battleground-state polling on the presidential election remained largely stable since before either party’s conventions. One wanted to believe that Woodward would have moved the needle, transforming a Biden lead which still left Democrats anxious into an unambiguous rout. In the immediate aftermath of Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic piece, (Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’, The Atlantic, 03.09.2020) the White House’s panicky, all-hands-on-deck pushback suggested that the Trump campaign was worried. Even Melania Trump’s Twitter account was immediately enlisted in an overnight effort to denounce the article as ‘fake news’. But again, one has to wonder if The Atlantic’s additional anecdotes could have moved voters who have long since absorbed Trump’s contempt for generals, for John McCain’s wartime heroism, and for the Gold Star parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain killed by a car bomb in Iraq.

What gave one a bit of hope about the Woodward book’s ability to sway some of the few still-persuadable voters was that President Trump just could not stop himself from performing for the most bold-faced name among reporters. While one could not have ruled out that he could yet claim that the recordings are a hoax, the sheer volume of his logorrhoea made it unlikely that anyone would fall for such patent lie.

Additionally, the Department of Justice’s unusual decision to intervene in Ms. E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against Donald J. Trump seemed like an attempt to delay the disclosure of potentially damaging evidence past Election Day – and put taxpayers on the hook for Trump’s legal defence. And there was a little question about it: had the department been overstepping backfire?

It was depressing enough that a man who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by over 20 women was voted into the White House. Now Americans were literally being asked to pay for his defence in a case which grew out of Ms. Carroll’s plausible accusation of rape. This is just another, if especially unsavoury, example of the Trump Justice Department’s pattern of overstepping under the auspices of Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr had transformed the United States’ highest law-enforcement agency into a mob kingpin’s personal legal defence squad.

This latest move might have run down the clock over the following two months, which was all which was needed to allow Donald J. Trump to achieve his goal of delaying discovery, not to mention the handover of a DNA sample, in the Carroll case until after the election. This strategy, of course, was in keeping with his strenuous and equally bogus legal effort to stall the handover of his tax records. It was also consistent with his administration’s illegal efforts to shut down and falsify ‘intelligence’ about Russian election interference for the remainder of the campaign.

But in the Carroll instance, the added outrage of Trump charging the taxpayers with his legal bill could not be underestimated as a secondary motive. There’s a true cash-flow crisis in Trumpland. According to The New York Times reporting on his re-election campaign’s squandering of its once formidable trove of cash, President Trump had saddled his own donors with $1.5 million in legal bills generated in part by accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination on the campaign, and another $3.5 million-plus to fight a lawsuit by a 2016 campaign aide who accused him of an inappropriate kiss. It is nothing if not impressive how Donald J. Trump’s penchant for stiffing vendors and piling up bankruptcies had remained consistent in every chapter of his career in both the private and public sectors for nearly fifty years.

Politicians, experts, and progressives were already warning of a constitutional crisis – and the threat of outright violence – if November resulted in a contested election or mail-in ballots draw out the results. How could they anticipate that, and should voters have prepared?

While this was going on in and around the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview with MSNBC confirmed that, as the number of known COVID-19 cases in the United States had, by then, surpassed 6.43 million and the nation’s death toll had topped 192,600, life would likely return to normal until sometime – but not before late – in 2021.

During a televised interview, MSNBC‘s Andrea Mitchell asked Dr. Fauci about his comments earlier in the week that it may not be safe to attend movie theatres or indoor events until a year after the United States had found and secured a safe, effective vaccine.

Dr. Fauci said that he remained confident that the United States could have a vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of 2020 or early next year, “but by the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccinations and you get the majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not gonna happen till the mid or end of 2021.”

He added: “If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to Covid, it’s gonna be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021.” Dr. Fauci made specific reference to the local and state level lockdowns and social distancing practices which had been implemented throughout the year.

A White House adviser, Dr. Fauci also disagreed with President Trump’s claim during a 10 September 2020 press briefing that the United States had “rounded the final turn” in the pandemic. Looking at the statistics, “they’re disturbing,” Dr. Fauci told the interviewer. “We’re plateauing at around 40,000 cases a day and the deaths are around 1,000.”

Dr. Fauci expressed hope that the United States would not see a post-Labor Day Weekend surge in cases like what occurred after July 4 and Memorial Day, and stressed the importance of driving down infection numbers heading into the fall and winter months.

“What we don’t want to see is going into the fall season, when people will be spending more time indoors – and that’s not good for a respiratory borne virus – you don’t want to start off already with a baseline that’s so high,” he said.

Dr. Fauci also denied that he had been influenced by the reported efforts of a Trump-allied official within the Department of Health and Human Services to muzzle him or otherwise guide what the expert says publicly about the pandemic.

Regarding an AstraZeneca’s decision earlier in the week to halt human trials for a potential vaccine after a participant in the United Kingdom showed signs of a suspected adverse reaction, Dr. Fauci said that the development was unfortunate but should also reassure the public that safety concerns were being taken seriously.

The trial delay came as AstraZeneca joined eight other pharmaceutical companies in pledging “to stand with science” amid alarm that President Trump might have pressured the industry and the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine ahead of the general election. (J. Corbett, Fauci Warns Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Not Likely Until ‘Well Into’ or ‘Towards the End of 2021’, Common Dreams,11.09.2020).

To be continued…

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A cancer on our democracy

“I know perfectly well that it can’t last. Whatever we think, we are courtiers in an oriental Sultanate, and there is a corps of janissaries, with bowstrings at the ready, at the palace door.” Hugh Trevor Roper

 

Imagine half a million Australians, a record 501,876 to be precise, petition for a royal commission into your patron, rabid reactionary, Rupert Murdoch, billionaire media monopolist and monster powerbroker. Does our PM, whose Liberal Party is effectively a wholly-owned subsidiary of News Corp, act democratically?

No. Head Office steps in. Sharri Markson and Richard Ferguson of Murdoch’s The Australian publish an article, Kevin Rudd’s Bangladeshi ‘bots’ in media royal commission petition, Thursday 11 February, quoting a “Nicholas Smith”, who claims to have paid an overseas freelancer to “sign” the petition “hundreds of times” in order to “demonstrate to you how easy it is to manipulate our own government’s website.”

Smear tactics. Neither mud-slinger Markson, nor feckless Ferguson take the next responsible step: concede that even without this stunt, there are more names on Rudd’s e-petition that any other. Ever.

And just who is this Smith and his podcast The Turncoat? The story is a fake. SBS notes that The Turncoat’s Facebook page is littered with posts that have been flagged as misinformation, baseless claims about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, and others, expressing support for President Trump.

Shades of Craig Kelly, MP for Hughes, who despite his dressing down from his PM, immediately returns to Facebook to promote more toxic nonsense about fake cures for Covid-19 and to sow doubt about vaccines. Former furniture rep Kelly appears regularly from his chair on Murdoch’s Sky News, beaming his dangerous disinformation around the country and – via the internet – around the globe – from whence it came.

There’s a restless, recycling in Kelly’s quest. As Crikey’s David Hardaker observes, “the outrageous nonsense spouted by the renegade Liberal MP is mostly spun from generic alt-right conspiracies and ideas.”

News Corp also loves nonsense. Dr Daniel Angus, Associate Professor of Digital Communication at the Queensland University of Technology says The Australian’s story is a “beat-up” and “bereft of any substance.” Dr Timothy Graham, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media at the Queensland University of Technology, who researches bots and misinformation, notes that there is no evidence that Kevin Rudd is linked to the bots.

“The headline of this article is misleading because it tries to weaponise the context of the fact that yes, it is possible to game these systems or any number of petitions,” he tells SBS. “The only influence is the unnamed individual, who paid someone overseas.”

The Ferguson – Markson abortive muck-raking comes on top of a slew of smears including alleged links between Rudd and Jeffrey Epstein. Almost every Murdoch paper runs a story about the International Peace Institute, chaired by Rudd, accepting US$650,000 from Epstein’s charities between 2011 and 2019.

Rudd says he convened a board meeting on December 4, 2019, to recommend an amount comparable to Epstein’s donations to the IPI be forwarded to charity. He said it was important to remember that Epstein’s foundations were donating millions of dollars to “dozens and dozens of charitable organisations” and he had never “to his knowledge” met him.

“I recommended to the board, and the board accepted my recommendation, that a donation of comparable amount be made to a charity, so that we would not in any way be a beneficiary of the cumulative donations from Epstein over a long period of time,” he tells ABC radio on Thursday, adding that he regarded Epstein as an “odious character in the extreme.”

Enter the Daily Telegraph, a Murdoch paper which defamed Michael Towke who was pre-selected hands down 82-8 for Cook, in July 2007. The Tele ran four articles, by four different journalists, two of them very senior. They defamed him, destroyed his political career, and caused untold stress to his family.

”These stories sent my mother to hospital. ‘They demonised me. I wanted to confront them in court.”

The false stories also caused the Liberal Party to rescind his nomination, allowing Scott Morrison to walk unelected into the seat. Never lacking in creativity, the Tele now tries a Hunter Biden yarn.

In this surreal spin, jailed business partner of presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter claims ex-PM Kevin Rudd was coming to one of their company’s banquets in order to celebrate a controversial Chinese takeover deal. But Rudd was in London and Abu Dhabi that week, as ABC’s Media Watch’s Paul Barry points out. But that doesn’t stop Murdoch hacks, from just making stuff up. Take a bow, Peta Credlin.

Sky hack Peta Credlin is forced to apologise for falsely calling Rudd’s petition just “a data-harvesting exercise,” part of a defamation settlement. “An egomaniacal fantasist, notes the AFR’s Joe Aston, Credlin is a flack who derided the jabbering nobodies and has-beens on Sky News while deciding which prestigious corporate role she would accept post-politics, only to become a jabbering has-been on Sky News.”

Murdoch allegedly colluded with miner, broadcaster and warmonger, Kerry Stokes, to help Morrison knife his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull. How dare Kevin Rudd get up an e-petition to call for a royal commission into the Murdoch empire’s ways and means? Of course, the empire strikes back. And misses. Spectacularly.

But there are more ways to kill a porcupine than smothering it with lotus petals. The PM steps up. Or does he? What would you do if you were Murdoch’s minion, Scott Morrison? Or Morrison’s catspaw? Organise an award, of course. Time it to coincide with Straya Day, a national holiday, 26 January, now colonised by its largely Liberal Party Committee to reward supporters and obscure the sordid reality of European invasion.

Thus “His Excellency”, Keith Rupert Murdoch is lauded for transforming the media landscape. The “how” is left unsaid. Buying competitors and selling controversy is key to his seamy business model. And sexploitation sells; look at his titillating page three girls. As does publishing lies about climate science, inventing a sinister agenda behind moves towards gender equality and defaming opponents, especially Labor and union figures.

Oddly, not everyone approves of Murdoch’s business model. Dacre deplores its vulgarity and vitriol.

I felt that whatever Murdoch touched went down-market, though it also moved from loss into profit. For the sake of sales, he aims to moronise and Americanise the population.

He also wants to destroy our institutions, to rot them with a daily corrosive acid… He certainly has a hatred of what he considers the stuffiness of the British establishment.

Being Morrison, someone else does the award. Of course. The PM’s Principal Private Secretary Yaron Finkelstein, spin doctor and former CEO of Crosby Textor knows whom to call. Of course, Scotty knows nothing. Chinese warlord, Feng Yü-hsiang, baptised his troops with a hose. Morrison is similarly doctrinaire and just as much of a control freak, whilst always disclaiming responsibility, I don’t hold the hose, mate.

Rupert’s rags attribute the Lifetime Achievement Award to The Australia Day Foundation UK a cabal of well-heeled, Tory corporate elitists, with rent-free offices in Australia House. The Foundation first gave out awards in 2003, the year of his illegal invasion of Iraq, under John Howard, who lied to parliament about it.

Some of these achievements are unique. Eight years ago, Murdoch’s News of the World, a now defunct UK Sunday tabloid, whose prurient interest in sex scandals earned it the soubriquet news of the screws, delighted readers by publishing pictures and video of Max Mosely, son of British fascist, Oswald Mosely.

The then UK Formula One Boss, indulged in a five-hour sadomasochistic session with prostitutes in a Chelsea apartment. News Group Newspapers, the tabloid’s publishers, had to pay £60,000 for grossly invading Mosely’s privacy. His sadomasochism he freely admits to. But much more damaging to Mosely is the News of the World’s false assertion that the motor-racing boss took part in a Hitler-themed orgy.

There was no Sick Nazi Orgy, as News maintains, he successfully argues in court – just a private “party” for himself and five like-minded, consenting women, and there was no public interest in reporting it.

Our government uses Australia House for the virtual ceremony. As taxpayers we pay (and pay) for a large part for Murdoch’s honour, while the pot is topped up by donations from Woodside Petroleum, in the news again for reaping a bonanza, after Alexander Downer helped bug East Timor’s cabinet in 2004 under cover of an aid project. Witness K, the ASIS agent involved in the bugging turned whistle-blower, is currently on secret trial in Canberra in a travesty of justice because he’s embarrassed the government in telling the truth.

Rio Tinto contributes, Anglo American, energy giant Worley resources and billionaire hedge fund manager Sir Michael Hintze’s own asset management fund CQS. In brief, a claque of Murdoch media icons.

News of the award is not just a rude shock. It’s a mystery. Who gonged the Doctor Evil of Global Media? Not that invisible hand of capitalism again? Each of us working for his or her own gain, benefiting us all? Scott Morrison just loves to keep us in the dark. Especially as the alternative could be as embarrassing as former half-term PM Tony Abbott discovered with his Sir Philip knighthood. But Murdoch won’t blab.

Rupert’s addicted to power. And he’s had a sniff. Eminence grise in Blair’s family affair, Trump’s enabler and dinner guest. And now, Muppet Morrison’s puppeteer. Or is it self-help? His devout faith in money and power, helped Rupie buy a papal knighthood in 1988, by donating to a Church education fund and chipping in $10 mill to help build LA’s Catholic cathedral, thus buying the right to be addressed as “His Excellency.”

Who’d honour an Establishment reject? Well, we did, in effect. And we paid for our part. Just as we stuff $40 million into the Murdoch family’s pockets for Foxtel, to do something with women’s sport. Michael West believes Murdoch may have recently, quietly sold Foxtel- but the Coalition is keen to see Google and Facebook pay the Murdoch empire (and the boutique Nine Newspapers, now under Chairman Costello, a Liberal rag appended to its real estate business) for bringing visitors to his dying pay-walled newspapers.

Google knows search engines are not killing mainstream media. Its advertising didn’t kill the classified ads that paid for newspapers. Specialised online sites did that. Above all, Canberra’s plan is an “unworkable” dud.

You wouldn’t read about it – at least not in mainstream media. But Rupie has the gall to play the victim. Claims he’s being muzzled. He’s clearly dog-whistling not only those who have no bullshit filter but those who fear wokeness, a state of being socially aware, especially of issues of justice, inequality and racism. He protests,

“For those of us in media, there’s a real challenge to confront a wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversations. To stifle debate and ultimately stop individuals and societies from realizing their potential.

This rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibilities. Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy.”

Murdoch’s hypocrisy does not go unnoticed by the lynx-eyed, Rudd who had the wit to observe in Copenhagen in Christmas 2009, that “those Chinese fuckers are trying to rat-fuck us.”

“Rank hypocrisy from Murdoch accepting an Australia Day award. He pretends to champion freedom of speech, but he’s spent decades abusing his monopoly to bully Australians he doesn’t like into silence. Murdoch invented “cancel culture” in Australia,” he tweets.

But an “achievement award”? True, His Excellency helps pick our PM; set his agenda. And granted, Rupert always does his level best to help capital protect itself from the curse of working voters. But achievement?

“If you’re just choosing from people in OECD countries, ostensible liberal democracies, Rupert Murdoch has to be up there as the most-single-handedly destructive person of the last three decades, right?” MSNBC anchor, Chris Hayes, is stung by the brazen duplicity in Fox’s peddling the Hunter Biden laptop canard. He may as well be talking about how Murdoch has stymied carbon abatement or backed the Iraq incursion. On a national level he could be talking of how the empire has destroyed progressive candidates’ lives.

Rudd, who unlike our current charlatan, was a real PM, sees Murdoch as “a cancer on our democracy.”

Worse, Rupert enables mob violence. For The Washington Post’s, Margaret Sullivan , the mob that stormed and desecrated the Capitol, 6 January, 2021, could only exist in a nation radicalized by the urging of Murdoch’s factoid Fox News. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham all helped incite that riot.

Perhaps, in a post-modern, post structuralist, post-truth, world, inciting destruction is a type of achievement. Yet given his history in the British newspaper business, few would mistake Murdoch’s award for anything but a set-up. Rupert’s gong is an award conferred on the other side of the world, aimed squarely at an Australian audience. Kevin Rudd – and the signatories to his e-petition – will have no difficulty recognising the target.

It’s unlikely Murdoch will feel the need to add the Lifetime Achievement award to his CV for his next big commercial adventure. The News Corp CEO and his right-hand woman, Rebekah Brooks have held a series of meetings with the orchestrated catastrophe that is Boris Johnson’s Conservative government. Sam Bright in Byline Times reports that the pair had seven meetings with five senior ministers last August-September.

It’s clear that the Murdoch empire proposes to open an “opinionated” news channel, News UK TV which some worry will turn out to be just another version of the highly profitable Fox. The banner headline in The Sunday Mail is a hint, Top Tory Launches Rival to Woke Wet BBC.

While the Murdoch channel may struggle to achieve a big audience, its influence may be much larger. Fox News, for example, one of the most popular US networks, reaches fewer than four million primetime viewers. But it’s a sterling example of how even a shameless train-wreck of opinionated hackery can have a significant intermedia effect, setting the agenda of mainstream network news as well as its cable TV rivals.

Similarly The Australian can set and frame the news agenda on any given day in Australia with even the ABC taking its lead from the stories that News Corp publishes. Murdoch pretends that he doesn’t tell his editors what to print. The truth is that each editor is left in no doubt. And Murdoch is in constant communication. His power over his papers and over many of the governments they are published in is enormous.

But power does not confer acceptance. His experience in the UK is instructive. To the establishment, Murdoch is the archetypical antipodean gold-digger, a crassly ambitious vulgarian for whom no gutter is too deep. This reputation was earned when his News of the World ran Christine Keeler’s memoirs in 1968. The Aussie nonentity morphed effortlessly into the Dirty Digger inside six months.

“It was his first very big story in his first very big British newspaper,” writes The Guardian’s Steve Hewlett. If it won few friends in high places, it got attention. It earned him a reputation for muck-raking for personal gain. Later, of course, Murdoch would ingratiate himself with the power elite only to ultimately alienate it.

Murdoch’s illegal Phone Hacking Scandal, nearly finished him in Britain. Only nine years ago, a cross-party UK parliamentary committee tells the News Corp chief he “lacks credibility,” his son, James, “appears incompetent” and the company is guilty of “wilful blindness” towards its staff at The News of the World.

Murdoch is not, they conclude, a fit and proper person to run any sort of rag. Luckily for “Pops” as he’s known to his kids, his pal David Cameron’s four Conservative MPs on the ten person committee loyally dissent.

Elisabeth Murdoch is ropeable. As Rupert’s only daughter and the child with the most business acumen, puts it with characteristic Murdoch delicacy, her brother, James and Rebekah have “fucked the company.”

And as the revelations reverberate, The Guardian’s John Harris fears, quite reasonably, the duo may have done the self-same thing to UK politics and public life. As in Australia.

It’s not just the mogul’s dominance, or his petty vendettas against progressives and his pleasure in ruining people’s lives, his prurient eagerness to drag us into the gutter, his brazen fabrication and his outright lies, there’s the damage Murdoch does as he debases public discourse.

Roger Ebert’s account of the uber-grub’s arrival at the Chicago Sun-Times, reveals something more than an assault on decorum and decency, a perverse, pernicious vulgarity.

“… first day of Murdoch’s ownership, he walks into the newsroom and we all gather around and he recites the usual blather and rolls up his shirtsleeves and started to lay out a new front page. Well, he was a real newspaperman, give him that. He throws out every meticulous detail of the beautiful design, orders up big, garish headlines, and gives big play to a story about a North Shore rabbi accused of holding a sex slave.”

Rudd protests the ways the Murdoch empire’s power is routinely used and wantonly abused, “to attack opponents in business and politics by blending editorial opinion with news reporting. Australians who hold contrary views have felt intimidated into silence. These facts chill free speech and undermine public debate.”

True. Our trust in institutions, including democracy itself, not to mention our sense of integrity, is polluted by Rupert’s alarmism, climate denialism, muckraking, titillation, innuendo and character assassination, although it’s not spelled out in Rudd’s petition. But schlock and horror is just the dirty digger’s house style.

For Murdoch and his family firm, media ownership is a means to power. He is the most powerful single force in Australian politics, “bigger than the major parties or the combined weight of the unions,” says veteran Labor politico, Bruce Hawker, in The Rudd Rebellion. Bigger than Big Gina and Twiggy combined.

Power confers contempt. He lets his useful idiot, Donald Trump call him “Rupie”. Rupie calls Trump a “fucking moron” behind his back.

And the Murdoch family business’ power is metastasising further, thanks to the Coalition gifting Foxtel $40 million to make three out of four Australians lose free access to sport. Not that Foxtel is making any money as far as anyone can tell – now that Murdoch has “disappeared” the company to the secret state of Delaware, the small Eastern U.S. State, which boasts more corporate entities—public and private—than people.

The ratio stands at 945,326 to 897,934, at last count.

Helping the dynasty increase its power, is the Morrison government with its Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code a form of extorting money from Google and Facebook on the lie that the social media giants profit unfairly from news. Or else Microsoft’s Bing gets it. Morrison licks his lips at the APC.

Bing is the winner in a 2019 Stamford study which shows the search engine is far more likely to return disinformation, misinformation conspiracy and white supremacist sites. Out of 600 results for 12 search queries, Bing returned 125 sources of disinformation while Google returned 13.

Microsoft is pleased, too, because whilst it commands 30 per cent of traffic in the US, Bing currently has only 3.6 per cent of traffic. In response to queries for vaccines autism, Bing returns six anti-vax sites in its top 50 results. Google, in contrast, shows none. In general, Bing directs users to conspiracy sites even if they are not looking for them. Our PM is either unaware of this research or it fits his friendship with QAnon follower, Tim Stewart whose wife Lynelle is paid $80K PA with a car allowance to be Jenny Morrison’s special companion .

The tech giants face payments which will flow to News Corp and Nine helping them increase their dominance at the expense of smaller, more independent publications and as Kevin Rudd puts it “media diversity.”

A code should not just profit two giant companies, Chair of Private Media and Solstice Eric Beecher argues,

“This ‘ground-breaking’ legislation, as the government and its big media supporters constantly describe it, should not just be a mechanism to ensure the bulk of Google and Facebook money lines the pockets of a couple of multibillion-dollar public companies for whom news journalism is a small part of their business.”

News journalism is not a big part of Murdoch’s business. News Corp is more a propaganda operation masquerading as a news service, argues academic Denis Muller, a role which Sally Young notes is how the business began its corporate life in 1922 as News Limited. Secretly established by a mining company owned by industrial titans of the day, it was created for the express purpose of disseminating “propaganda.”

Rupert did not invent the tabloid, although he’d love to take credit. Edward Lloyd (1815-1890), published the first newspaper to sell a million copies a hundred years earlier. And while Murdoch is always happy to take kudos for “writing what the public want to read”, a Lord Northcliffe motto, his papers and his TV shows are part of more complex and more pernicious transactions than simply pandering to base or popular appetites.

“Those who say they give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste, and end by debauching it,” quotes The Monthly’s Richard Cooke. The insight’s attributed to TS Eliot in The Pilkington Report on Broadcasting, 1962, which opposed commercial broadcasting in the UK.

Murdoch knows the tabloid’s days are numbered, like all print newspapers, along with the days of their most successful modern exponent. It’s not just the Internet. In Britain it’s the pandemic. Which is why it doesn’t hurt to get out the turd-polish. Murdoch has a big TV project in the wings and his lifetime achievement award is a kick in the teeth for Rudd and a timely bit of a back scratch from Morrison in advance of an early election.

News of the World was ultimately wound up after a notorious phone hacking scandal led to an eight month trial in which Murdoch did not appear. Instead his money did the talking. Editor Rebekah Brooks was his proxy, just as Andy Coulson was a de facto proxy for the PM at the time David Cameron and his political reputation.

It cost Murdoch over a billion dollars to engage top silks and assistants, a tour de force which overwhelmed the state’s prosecutor, one assistant and meagre resources.

Yet it was not the indictments in court that were at stake, less about journalists behaving badly so much as the power of money and the abuse of that power, an issue which is very much alive in the incorporation of a “charity” The Australia Day Institute, UK, so that members of the power elite can applaud each other

“… the perception that some news organisations were all too happy to invade privacy and ruin lives in order to sell more papers; that they regarded themselves as not only above the law but above the government, which would do their will or suffer for it; that they had poisoned the mainstream of public debate with a daily drip-feed of falsehood and distortion.”

Achievements? Inciting riotous insurrection via Fox in the US and colluding with the Morrison government in promoting climate science denial on Sky and in his News Corp papers in Australia – now quietly relocated to Delaware? As Michael West reports, Murdoch has already funnelled his Foxtel monopoly out of Australia into a new company, or “mysterious entity” as West puts it, set up in the secrecy jurisdiction of Delaware where shareholders, directors and other picayune details remain hidden from public scrutiny. A ScoMoesque move.

Delaware seems to be part of a radical restructure of News Corp’s Australian assets in preparation for sale. Yet Rupie even at 89 is his dynasty’s biggest asset.

Rupert poses; flash as a rat with a gold tooth in what seems to be a budget hotel bathroom. He’s spent his life crushing editors and standards even for hacks of the gutter press. Setting the bar lower than a snake’s belly.

”Silence. I am the billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch,” says Murdoch’s avatar on an episode of The Simpsons as he commands attention to open the Super Bowl. A man with a massive ego, writes Paul Barry, an elephant hide and an extraordinary sense of entitlement. A mammoth sense of his own self worth.

Fox sponsors Trump’s conspiracy theory of election theft and voter fraud just because it makes money. But the outlook is not rosy. As with News Corp, the rivers of gold are drying up and it’s time to move on and sell up.

Is the gong Morrison’s revenge on Rudd whose petition for a Royal Commission into News Corp gained over half a million signatures? Investigative journalist Ronni Salt traces our PM’s links with the mysterious Foundation, which include a one-time PR manager for our PM during his brief time at Tourism Australia.

Ronni generously calls the award “a fabricated piece of performance frippery” and an after-thought.

“It’s that long forgotten party hat left under the stairs given to that extra birthday party guest at the last minute.”

But even at 89 it would be dangerous to write Rupert off yet. His mother lived to 103. Surely he can live long enough to be arraigned before Rudd’s Royal Commission.

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The cost of ideology

By 2353NM

Given recent events in Australia, you could say the price of political ideology is $1.2 billion, as that is the settlement the Coalition government negotiated to make the ‘robodebt’ class action go away without a court case. Probably more telling is there appears to be nothing for the thousands that are suffering long term psychological effects as a result of being falsely accused of large debts or even more sadly, nothing for relatives of those who felt the only way out of the financial issues caused by the Coalition’s systemic use of the ‘income averaging’ process to calculate Centrelink debts was suicide. The Conversation provides a detailed timeline of what it calls the fiasco as well as a discussion on Centrelink’s apparent long standing policy of settling any legal disputes resulting from ‘robodebt’ letters before they reached a court determination.

Despite the evidence of the former head of the Department of Human Services at one Robodebt Senate Enquiry claiming the scheme wasn’t linked to anyone’s death it seems there are a number of people with first-hand experience that have a different recollection

Handwritten letters were submitted to a Senate inquiry this afternoon by Queensland mothers Kath Madgwick and Jennifer Miller.

The women were responding to a comment made by Department of Social Services secretary Kathryn Campbell at a previous senate hearing on July 31 that assertions people had died over robodebt were “not correct”.

In her statement, Ms Madgwick wrote of her “amazing, caring and intelligent boy” Jarrad, who died on May 30 last year.

Others have claimed the death toll from robodebt is 2030 people, a number far higher than the Australian death toll from COVID-19 (at the time of writing this article).

Robodebt is a process within Centrelink that matches income reported through various government computer systems over a financial year and compares the income with benefits paid by Centrelink throughout the year. The problem is where a recipient doesn’t receive the annual income on a consistent basis.

For example, a student earning the (apparently mythical) $3,000 a week picking fruit over the three month Christmas break will report no income to Centrelink for the period of the year they are studying full time. As the wages earned run out, the student honestly reports no or minimal income in a Centrelink income support application as they are a full-time student. Centrelink assesses the claim and pays the relevant payment according to its rules.

When the student completes their tax return sometime between July and October and submits it, the ATO computer reports to Centrelink that the student received $36,000 from an employer in the past financial year. The Centrelink payment received while the student is studying full time is (according to the ideology of the Coalition) undeserved as it will be frittered away on trivialities but in reality is spent on essentials such as rent, food, uni fees and so.

Centrelink’s robodebt system then comes into play, looks at the $3,000 a week income earned in 3 months picking mangoes in northern Australia in the height of summer, annualises the income and sends a letter out some time later to the student saying they were overpaid. The justification for the letter is the automated system believes our student ‘earned’ close to $700 a week for the entire year. By the time the robodebt letter is sent, the student has moved, uses a different email address and knows nothing until a debt collector (whose job it is to get the money as per the details provided, not re-assess the accuracy of the claim) comes knocking on their door, chasing the original but incorrectly calculated debt, plus debt collector fees plus interest.

If only there was a way for someone to look at the computer calculated claim and follow the trail before sending out the letter. Well there was; until the Coalition in their ongoing battle to victimise those that need assistance, tweaked the system

In the past a Centrelink officer would do a basic investigation before deciding whether to send out a letter. But since July 2016, the computer prints out and sends the letter on its own.

The letter asks people to log on to myGov and explain why the income they’ve reported to the welfare agency is different to what their employer has reported to the tax office.

Before the system was automated, only 20,000 interventions were made a year. Now the amped up system is running at 20,000 a week [in 2017]

The Government says it’s wrong to characterise these as “debt letters” — Centrelink is just trying to get more information about what’s behind the discrepancy.

‘Gaining more information’ is probably fair enough as Centrelink does have an obligation to recover benefits claimed incorrectly, but oversight by someone that can make a judgement call is far preferable to reliance on a machine that applies the logic it has been programmed to apply. If 20,000 ‘information’ letters are sent out in a week rather than the previous 20,000 a year, surely someone would have noticed (even when boasting they had exceeded their performance indicators if nothing else).

You would have also thought that if a considerable number of people are complaining about a process to their local MPs and the media, the responsible minister would have asked for some information on how the system was working and if it was legal. Apparently not. It took two Senate Enquiries and a class action to find out what was happening.

The Coalition Treasurer in 2016 was Scott Morrison. He announced the change from human oversight to reliance on data matching as a part of a plan to expand automation, implemented to save costs just prior to the 2016 budget. “Responsible” ministers for the operation of robodebt also include Alan Tudge and Stuart Robert, both of whom seem to have an interesting set of moral and ethical values.

Settling this class action has cost $1.2 billion, plus the fees and costs associated in the negotiation of the settlement. It took two Senate Enquiries to publicise the details of the people having long term financial or psychological problems because our government was effectively acting illegally. And most importantly, the Coalition’s settlement doesn’t help and support those who felt so alone and depressed they took their own or their families’ lives. The Coalition claims that the ALP used a similar system, and they did. But the ALP system had human oversight which implicitly understood the truism that not all income should be annualised.

In January 2020, Morrison only committed $2 billion to bushfire recovery across the nation. It cost $1.2 billion to buy their way out of the robodebt fiasco they created, and we don’t know the cost of the legal and administration fees on top of that. Shows where the Coalition’s priorities lie, doesn’t it?

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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“It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.”

Australians all let us rejoice. For we are done with thee. Vexatious litigant and wage-thief, Clive Palmer, fools no-one with his yellow billboards of lies; targeted Facebook ads, texts and social media trolling about a Labor death tax in his eight million dollar campaign to “Give Labor the boot”. The Trojan Horse of his UAP, an $80m fake political party, paid for by Clive’s businesses, set up solely to subvert democratic process, pulls up lame in Queensland’s state election, Saturday, as punters confound predictions and flock to re-elect Labor.

Mr Incredibility, Clive, did promise, last year, he’d pay 800 former workers at Queensland Nickel’s Townsville Refinery. Three years late. Yet it was the Commonwealth which had to stump up $66m in unpaid entitlements.

As Labor’s Chris Bowen points out in parliament, Queensland Nickel couldn’t afford to pay its workers’ wages, but it could afford to pay $135 million to a company owned by Mrs Anna Palmer, days before going into receivership. Give Labor the boot? Clive just wants a freer hand with his companies’ wage theft.

Back to the twerk-bench, Palmer. Bunnings influencer and puppet PM for mining, banking and gambling cartels, Scott Morrison, also cheers the nation by spending a long week in Queensland, campaigning with the Liberal candidate. Party sources claim LNP leader, Deb Frecklington would have done far worse without Scotty to hold her hand and help her with the obligatory yet hokey-blokey Hi-Viz vest and hard hat costume changes. But it’s hard to see how. The LNP vote has gone backwards. Deb will be lucky to remain leader

Frecklington did miss out on a ride at the ADFs Redbank facility in Ipswich when Scotty took off to do a few laps and burnouts in a tank. The PM did manage to fit in eleven others and two cabinet colleagues.

“There were only two spots at the top,” Morrison says. “I am sure there are safety issues around these things. ” Too dangerous for a woman? Scotty needn’t worry. Deb’s in enough danger as it is.

How good is paternalism? It’s touching to see the Morrison government maintain its policy towards empowering women by supplying a male minder. Just as joyous, is news that fellow saboteur, US citizen, “Big Rupe” Murdoch, whose News Corp -a political party cum media empire – enjoys federal government subsidies, while paying almost no tax in Australia, fails utterly in its desperate bid to nobble QLD Labor.

Queensland Labor may win up to fifty-two seats in a major victory for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who, along with Dan Andrews in Victoria has been pilloried mercilessly by a Morrison government and its Murdoch partner for putting public health before wealth; the profits of a business elite who campaign for “open borders” and the easing of restrictions which have saved us following the fate of the US and the UK.

Johns Hopkins University, reports 9,007,298 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus by Saturday. Forty-eight thousand people are currently hospitalised with Covid-19. Trump lies about turning a corner.

Britain enters a second lockdown as Covid-19 cases reach a million, whilst America sets a grim new daily record of 100,000. In the lucky country, Aussie exceptionalism thrives; we pretend that we are somehow immune to the pandemic’s global devastation. It will all be over by Christmas and other comforting myths, are cruel hoaxes spread eagerly by a mass media claque orchestrated by Big Rupe’s News Corp.

Richard Cooke writes in The Monthly that News Corp in Australia: “… isn’t a normal news organisation any longer. At News Corp – in an inversion of journalism’s ideal – the old-fashioned, straight-down-the-line reporting is expendable and surplus to requirements. It is the unhinged propaganda outfit that is central to the identity of the company. It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.”

News Corp gave Britain Boris and Brexit and the US, Trump, sustained by a constant diet of sycophantic lies from a fawning Fox News. Yet Trump’s unhappy with the network now running what he calls anti-Trump ads. Wouldn’t have happened in the old days. (Former CEO) “Roger Ailes was the greatest”, Trump says.

“Lying predator praises lying predator” tweets Californian Congressman, Democrat Eric Swalwell. Yet things need not be this way. News comes this week of Joe Hockey, now a member of Sky’s stable of hacks, use of a thought partner, a novel concept which Labor pursues with DFAT in a senate estimates committee.

Joe “Hello World” Hockey had a “thought partner”, Alex Tureman, to help him do his job as Ambassador to Trump’s Court. And what a job it is. Alex doubtless helps finesse Joe’s G’Day, 100 Years of Mateship suck up to Trump campaign. Just one fly in Hockey’s ointment – all fifteen patrons chosen are white and male. Glaring omissions include former PM, Julia Gillard, a distinguished fellow at The Brookings Institution.

It’s the concept that sucks says The Lowy Institute, which decries “once again the apparent triumph of stale thinking, and the lazy fusion of the Anzac legend with the US alliance.” The old John Howard playbook.

To be fair, Hockey does promise to fix his mistake and he does try to revive “Friends of Australia” caucus in Congress, a former lobbying group defunct for decades. Again, attention to detail brings him unstuck.

“I’m not so sure about this mateship campaign. Have you seen the logo? It looks like the eagle is buggering the kangaroo,” laughs Mike Green, a former senior official in the George W. Bush administration.

Defining relationships is a bit of a bugger in Macquarie Street. So NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, resorts to sophistry when ICAC enquires into the status of her close friendship with bosom buddy and confidante whom she says she hoped to marry of some eight years standing – at least – former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

Gladys Berejiklian explains Daz is – “not a boyfriend” – just a friend with benefits – such as her house-key. Access to her office. What was she thinking? Surely ICAC would relax if Maguire was just her thought partner.

Bravo Joe. Too bad, Glad. Don’t let anyone tell you that getting someone else to do your job is wrong because it’s “irregular”. Who cares if DFAT Secretary Frances Adamson says it’s not the ‘normal way’ in Thursday’s senate Estimates Committee hearing. Abnormal is the new normal all round the world. And look how Abbott got Credlin to do all the PM stuff he couldn’t understand. Cutting aid by $1.4bn a year from 2014? Perfect.

Thought partners have been a thing for a long time, helping you avoid your own dumb ideas, assumptions and actions and enabling you to innovate. They are not to be confused with thought leaders who are people clearly and widely recognized as leading experts and visionaries in their field.

Noam Chomsky interviewed in the New Yorker on how Donald Trump is the “worst criminal in human history” comes to mind.

Slum-lord millionaire Jared Kushner is a thought partner for father in law Donald Trump – as is Ivanka, prompting creative stuff like peace in the Middle East and The Don’s leaving hospital for a drive-by salute to his many QAnon fans cheering him on – as they see it – in his battle against his nemesis; a secret elite Democrat child-trafficking ring. Dominic Cummings is clearly vacuous Boris Johnson’s thought partner du jour.

Who can forget Cummings’ brilliant defence for breaking curfew because he needed to go for a twenty-five mile drive (40km) to test his eyesight? As you do. He’d temporarily lost his vision after a bout of coronavirus.

Kushner is far more dangerous. He proudly explains Trump’s disastrously politicised coronavirus strategy to Bob Woodward in a way that reveals an abdication of leadership chillingly familiar to Australians.

“The states have to own the testing,” Kushner says. Or as Morrison would put it, “I don’t hold the swab”.

“The federal government should not own the testing. And the federal government should not own kind of the rules. It’s got to be up to the governors, because that’s the way the federalist system works.”

“But the President also is very smart politically with the way he did that fight with the governors to basically say, no, no, no, no, I own the opening. Because again, the opening is going to be very popular. People want this country open. But if it opens in the wrong way, the question will be, did the governors follow the guidelines we set out or not?”

The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman notes how Trump “politicized every public health measure necessary to control the virus”, Fans now refuse to wear masks as a badge of loyalty to the president. Congregate to breathe the same air; complain about how their “freedom” was being attacked. Freedom?

In March, the Trump administration imports a million Chinese-made diagnostic tests. It’s Jared Kushner’s secret plan to bring in billionaire business types who knew nothing about medicine but who could “get shit done”. A bit like Twiggy Forrest and his useless PPE. The tests are found to be contaminated and unusable.

All is not well abroad, or “overseas” as we prefer down under, as a pandemic rages while California burns, exposing corrupt, inept, leadership and busting free market ideology. Much as our federal government loves doing nothing in the land of the laissez-faire-go – banking on “herd immunity” as it’s misnamed and wishing the market will sort out the coronavirus – is causing a public health catastrophe world-wide. Experts also worry, that unless we keep punters alive – with money in their pockets – they may be unable to buy products.

Or services. Whenever Federal Treasurers need to show the good side of an economy tanking badly, they blow hard about transitioning. We are getting out of making things or digging up rocks in favour of paying mates to thought-partner us, or nurse, or teach in a “service economy”. China’s helping wean us off our traditional exports by cutting back on Australian coal, barley, wine, beef, lobster and other imports. In brief, they’ve stopped buying our stuff – since we insulted them over COVID, following Trump’s lead.

Donald Trump lies to a Michigan rally that “our doctors get more money when someone dies from COVID” But Coronavirus is helping put the lie to neoliberalism itself and patently false beliefs that the market solves everything or that we need small government – although it has crippled health departments worldwide.

Less pillar of small government than tower of ineptitude, Boris Johnson is on the blower. Useless as a trapdoor on a submarine – or as evasive, reactive and inept as our own PM, the UK PM, who’s too busy playing to ever do any work, talks up a storm about how it’s time for bold action on climate change.

Our own bullshit artist, Scotty, is quick to strike his own ludicrous pose in return.

“We will not be dictated to by anyone”, he bullshits, channelling the best of John Winston “We Will Decide” Howard’s babies overboard oratory, based on a fiction equal to anything Scotty spins. Wee Johnny’s thought partner in 2001 was Jane Halton whose shocking memory fail currently prevents her shedding any light on Crown Casino’s doings.

Not be dictated to? Unless Donald Trump tells us to bag China. Or any US President needs a coalition of the willing to add bogus legitimacy to any illegal war on an oil-producer. Or anyone from gas, oil or coal.

Happily, the game of mates, or crony capitalism, the biggest game in town, is thriving and helps explain why Matthias Corman and family got free Helloworld flights in 2017, from a company run by Hockey’s mate, Andrew Burnes just before Cormann’s department awarded Helloworld a million dollar contract.

Joe was a big shareholder in Helloworld in 2017 with $1.3m in shares, but it didn’t stop him teeing up a meeting between Helloworld subsidiary Qantas business travel and the Embassy’s Head of Operations.

Not long after, cops were on the job looking for whistle-blowers. As you’d expect in an era of AFP raids on journos who risk national security to allege misconduct by one or two bad apple troops in Afghanistan. Hockey’s shares in Helloworld are down to about $1.72 from $5.00 four years ago.

If he still owns any. But who could have foreseen how COVID would cut global travel and tourism? It’s down to about fifty-six per cent of its 2019 levels, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation. Poor Joe.

Naturally, Matthias paid back the $2780.82, blaming “administrative oversight” – that old imp – as you would – if someone blew the whistle on you. The system is working perfectly. Just as Tony Abbott, and Scott Morrison’s prayer-mate Stewart Robert and Ian Macfarlane, the MP who got a job with mining lobbyist Queensland Resources Council, minutes after he left parliament, gave back the $250,000 worth of Rolex watches which they kept only because “administrative oversight” had led them to believe they were fake.

Chinese instant noodle billionaire, Li Ruipeng, would have loved the boys for handing the time-pieces back. Especially when they said they only kept his timeless gifts because they thought they were counterfeit. If only the four Cartier time-pieces awarded by watch-lover Christine Holgate could have suffered the same fate, Scott Morrison would not today be cruising for a bruising. But let’s not overwind the suspense. Just yet.

There’s still time for a big, fat Australian divorce and political payout. Taxpayers will foot the bill. Holgate’s on a pittance compared with her predecessor, former banker Ahmed Fahour, whose final pay day, three years ago netted him a cool $10.8bn. There’s a bit of a fuss over AusPost’s fat cat executive salaries while parcel contractors starve on sham contracting and must use and pay for their own vehicles.

Always in touch, Holgate suggests that to clear the backlog, caused in part by the Morrison government law cutting deliveries, that contractors use their own cars in their own time; treat work as charity. Or slavery.

Are the Cartier watches the last straw? It’s Holgate’s Marie Antoinette moment. Yet ticked-off Morrison’s attack on Holgate, AusPost CEO, for giving timepieces worth $20,000 to reward execs for getting banking into post offices – in 2018 – is about to bite him on the bum. Turns out Holgate’s husband, Mike Harding is a bigwig in Santos’ natural gas. Getting Mike offside could dim Scotty’s big fat gas-lit, gas-led recovery.

There’s report that Holgate’s been weeping for four days. Lawyer Bryan Belling says the PM’s performance in question time upset his client. Upset? PM Shouty McShoutface acts “appalled and shocked” that the CEO had awarded four executives $20,000 worth of watches for wooing three out of the big four banks, into the AusPost tabernacle. It is “humiliating” for Christine. No-one tells her she is to be stood down.

Holgate-gate may be the most expensive outrage Scotty has ever confected. Mr Belling is totting up the cost to his client. There’s reputational damage, pain and suffering, loss of future earnings. And his fees, of course.

No-one doubts CEO Holgate was doing the right thing – at least by our usury cartel, the banksters.

Banks will bring their greed, the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of honesty, Commissioner Hayne says in his interim report. When misconduct was discovered, it often went unpunished. Who’d not want to bring banks into the tent? It’s a win-win. Holgate is offering banks a chance to redeem themselves. Yet shocking as her treatment is, think of those thousands of workers now being sacked by text message.

“Is it a cheap shot to point out that as millionaires and political elites wrestle over the potential millions of dollars in payouts, there are people losing their jobs under a government which can’t even be bothered to measure what constitutes poverty?” asks Crikey’s David Hardaker.

Labor’s Communications spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, helps contextualise Holgate-gate.

The Australia Post board “is a dysfunctional swamp of former Liberal politicians, party hacks and mates of Scott Morrison”? Don’t hold back, Michelle. Tell it like it is. The board’s “incapable of executive oversight” and must be cleaned up? All appointments were made by Mitch Fifield. What could possibly go wrong?

But it is a Morrison government, Bernard Keane reminds us. “This is the most corrupt federal government since the 1970s, and possibly much longer – that has constantly indicated it will reward its friends and punish its enemies, and use taxpayer funding – or, more accurately now, borrowed money – to serve its partisan agenda. As the sports rorts affair demonstrated, it is also unashamed about it.”

Brazen. Luckily, we’re spoilt for choice with a range of distracting local scandals including the NSW inquiry being conducted into Crown Casino by former supreme court judge Patricia Bergin SC. Pats is miffed to discover that Crown plans to expand into its beaut new Barangaroo money laundry before her review of its suitability is due. Has Packer jumped the gun? Or is the rule of law in the Morrison government as increasingly irrelevant as it is in Gladys Berejiklian’s grubby state of close personal friends and their mates, NSW?

The Ballad of Gladys and Daz, a rehash of Frankie and Johnny is all over the nation’s airwaves as the NSW Premier, a “private person”, who “stuffed up her personal life”, Gladys Berejiklian, performs her victim shtick on Sydney Radio, post Alan Jones. Glad’s a consummate actor. She makes a desperate and cynical bid to rebrand her story from corruption to unlucky in love.

It works for about a week. Then her staff reveal that they’ve shredded evidence of how she may have rorted over $250 million in council grants to favour coalition electorates. Now, former NSW Attorney-General Tony Morris calls on her to resign.

The Premier’s office says Wednesday that Gladys “was not the decision-maker in the Stronger Communities Grant Fund”. Yet she gives email approval for 11 grants, including $90 million for Hornsby Council. Yet you can’t fault Berejiklian’s special pleading,

“I know the people of this state know I have done nothing wrong. I never have and I never will.”

The first leg of the Premier’s double is run well. Gladys’ melodramatic narrative of a woman wronged is eagerly sold by a NewsCorp that loves to help vested interests prevail. A cowed, gutted, ABC is on board instantly. Yet Glad’s story is a shrewd sidestepping of Icac law which obliges any premier to declare any relationship which is likely to detract from the Premier’s discharge of her elected duties and responsibilities.

Barrister and Labor MP, Adam Searle, Opposition leader in the NSW upper house, argues the Premier was legally obliged under s. 11 of the act to ­report what she knew about Mr Maguire’s activities to ICAC.

Yet, “she’s done nothing wrong” becomes a media mantra. Thanks, Rupe. And look how well she did with the bushfires. The sheer genius with which she tackled the pandemic. “Hardworking” is said to be her virtue. The Ruby Princess is not mentioned. Or Was Not Her Fault. But by the Tuesday after The Cox Plate, former auditor general Tony Harris explains patiently that destroying records is in itself an offence; a breach of the State Records Act.

“A pathetic, pigeon-livered apology” is how Alan Jones dismisses the NSW Premier earlier this year. Gladys’ explanation of the Ruby Princess fiasco, where 2,700 infected passengers were allowed off the cruise ship, is a disastrous, display of incompetence, cover-up and buck-passing, in which Federal government officials from Border Force play such a key role that Scott Morrison forbids them to answer any questions in Brett Walker’s inquiry. Jones would open all borders and go full Trump or Boris Johnson, if he had his way.

But how the mighty are fallen. Jones now talks to himself on Sky; tails Bolt, Credlin and Murray in ratings- after he killed off station advertising revenue and his career with his misogyny. Jacinda Ardern deserved “a few back-handers”, he said and “a sock down her throat”. It cost his station six million dollars. But clearly, there’s no penalty for inciting violence against women on Sydney radio if you are rich old white guy with mates.

Sloe-eyed, Glad “bares all” for Ben Fordham, Jones’ successor. Listeners learn that her close personal friend Daryl Maguire, former MP for Wagga just had one of those political careers that end when you deceive a lot of people. Such a relief to learn she’s not the only one with dud judgement in NSW government. She’s always tried to be as open as possible, she says, guardedly.

Rashly, she books a guest spot on high priest of sleaze Kyle Sandilands’ KIIS, Emerald City purveyors of prurience. Kyle invites Gladys to “get her freak on”.

“You’d think the premier and Kyle Sandilands couldn’t be two more polar opposites but then I was having sex with seven people at the radio station I worked at in Perth when I was living over there,” he brags.

“Well that’s a record I can’t break,” Gladys rejoins, unwittingly signing herself on to the hot to trot list.

Ever ready with the relevant political question, stud-muffin Kyle asks Gladys if she ever “dabbled in same sex relationships”, a follow-up to his earlier wondering aloud on microphone if she were “a mad lesbian”. Glad’s done nothing wrong; just been busted not declaring her relationship with an person of interest to Icac.

Two of the Premier’s staffers help shred Berejiklian’s credibility further in confessing to destroying documents. Destroy any paper trail to NSW’s Shred Prefect. Gladys approved projects which allocated $250m in council grants under the Stronger Communities Fund in ways which can be seen to favour Coalition electorates.

Sleaze and self-interest, if not outright corruption also define the Morrison government, Bernard Keane writes which may help explain why the part-time PM declares his “absolute support” for Gladys, as, indeed, he did for Turnbull just before knifing him to become PM. Things look crook, but Glad is not going anywhere.

Gladys spins her secret relationship with the former MP for Wagga, dazzling Daryl Maguire as a dud choice in boyfriends. Yet Daryl’s confessions to ICAC include taking developers up to the Premier’s office. He also admits to running a profitable visa scam, an alarming revelation to our PM who was Minister of Immigration at the time. Morrison whips himself into a lather of faux outrage, Thursday over Australia Post’s Christine Holgate.

“I was appalled, and it is disgraceful and not on,” Morrison says of Ms Holgate’s giving Cartier watches to four executives as a reward for a $66m deal to get three of the nation’s four big banks into post offices. The deal was announced two years ago. An “award”, she claims. For three quarters of success? Imagine if they’d cracked the whole cartel. If she doesn’t front the inquiry? “She can go,” Scotty fulminates.

Glad is yet to resign, however. Lame-duck Premier of NSW, a state run by “colourful identities”, a Melbourne Cup field of spivs, shonks, shock-jocks and brown paper bag-men? What’s changed? Alan the Parrot Jones bullied Berejiklian into allowing The Everest Cup to be projected on to the sails of The Sydney Opera House in 2018.

Glad’s backers include the Waterhouse clan, producers of Fine Cotton (1984) featuring Bold Personality, a ring-in over 1500 metres at Eagle Farm badly disguised with white paint, peroxide and brown hair dye.

Glad’s in strife over pulling the Icac wool over her relationship with “not really a boyfriend”, Daryl Maguire, former Harvey Norman franchise manager and sofa salesman who swept her off her feet with his pillow talk about himself and his finances. “Woo-hoo” she says to a boast he makes of a fat profit. Not – Whoa!

But it’s not just about aiding and abetting. Berejiklian was in trouble once she knew Daryl was in business, writes Jack Waterford – even if, as she claims, she was studiously uninterested in the details. She had no right to assume that he was following the rules – and every responsibility to challenge his bragging about making money; check his register of interests.

Bedazzled by Daz, the premier has ended a fine romance with the people of NSW by testifying that her eight-year fling was not an intimate relationship – although the ICAC Act doesn’t require any specialised definition. and that although she hoped to marry him, her dangerous liaison with the dodgy Maguire was not serious enough to warrant introducing him to her family or friends. She kisses goodbye forever to the last shreds of her political credibility.

“Given that Daryl Maguire had a key to the Premier’s north shore home for many years, and while cohabitating came and went as he liked as recently as last month, doesn’t this demonstrate an intimate personal relationship and the Premier’s failure under the ministerial code of conduct to declare all of Daryl Maguire’s business interests?” asks acting parliamentary ethics watchdog, One Nation’s Mark Latham.

Yet all is not doom and gloom. Matty Cormann will be a shoo-in as OECD secretary given our heroic carbon chicanery. No-one in Paris will notice how The Announcement Artist, as Nick Feik calls Scott Morrison, a PM who makes it up as he goes along, stacks his hand-picked National COVID-19 Coordination Commission with fossil fuel shills led by a former Fortescue exec with their gas-led recovery boondoggle. Meetings are secret. It’s a cabinet-in-confidence- committee, a brazen fiction disputed by constitutional scholars.

Luckily, we’ve now got Abbott on the BOT (UK Board of Trade), an atavism revived by Theresa May in the faint hope that another talking shop will solve the problem of what to do post-Brexit. Tone can talk up all the unsold cheap coal we have lying around now that China has cancelled its orders. Barley, beef and wine? It’s important, says our, PM not to get ahead of ourselves. Let’s just see what evolves. Look backwards a bit. Jog on the spot. Pop down to Bunnings.

But how good are those carryover Kyoto credits? Not only can the Cormannator speak French, he can turn himself Green as a frog; happy to lie that we are on track with our Paris emissions reductions targets – when blind Freddy can see we’re not. Robert Hill’s cynical sophistry in Kyoto in ’97 is neither forgiven nor forgotten.

Big investors fear a catastrophic market crash, triggered by the China Virus, (as Uber-Sinophobe, Donald Trump derides Coronavirus) collides – in bad Feng-Shui-with a US Presidential Election, a monster baby-contest between Trump family mafioso Psycho Don and Joe Neoliberal, whose supporters include Big Pharma’s bagmen, banksters, property speculators and private equity and hedge fund managers who have kicked in $21m. Not being Trump boosts Joe’s appeal although he loses points for sniffing women’s hair.

“I need you very badly,” Joe Biden Jnr begs a hundred fat cat donors at the Carlyle Hotel in New York’s Upper East Side last summer “[If I’m elected president] No one’s standard of living will change, nothing fundamentally would change.” All cats crave routine. Fat cats especially. Joe promises the rich will get to keep the biggest slice of the pie; keep milking the till, rip off the poor; still win every trick in the game of mates.

But if grovelling goes down a treat with the top end of town, (Joe has at least thirty-two billionaires backing him, backing them,) his campaign returns the donation of George Kaiser whose fortune stems from stakes in oil and gas. Biden is not accepting contributions from fossil fuel industry executives.

Sadly, at the arse end of the world, as Keating found us, Albo is sucking up to Joel Fitzgibbon instead of asking him to join the Liberals or the Nats. Thursday brings report that Labor will back Morrison’s gas-led recovery scam to enrich Santos and fellow fossil fuel corporations while boosting domestic gas bills beyond working families’ budgets – as fugitive methane, 84 times more potent than CO2 warms our atmosphere.

Labor is endorsing the government’s economically and scientifically illiterate embrace of gas at the behest of opponents of climate action in the CFMEU’s mining and energy division and the right-aligned AWU. Australia now has bipartisan stupidity for an energy policy, write Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer.

Could old Joe toad actually turn into liberal prince? His platform promises to boost unions, invest in green infrastructure and spend money on education. Biden also offers a public option for health insurance. Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan gets his blessing while he’s OK with partial forgiveness of student debt.

At least NASA astronaut Kate Rubins cast her vote for America’s next president, 408 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, from aboard the International Space Station.

A wag tweets “It’s easier for a white person to vote from space than for an African American or Latino to vote in their home zip code.”

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Trump is the architect of his own decline

Australia, Coca-colonial US satellite and missile guidance base is abruptly distracted from its Dear Leader’s sweet dream of a gas-led El Dorado; a nation great again with tax cuts and other handouts to the rich; a people soon to be joyously back at toil in workshop, sweatshop or even chook shed kit assembly- making things with our own hands again – manufacturing – when disaster befalls our great and powerful friend.

A dark angel hovers over Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. A Sikorsky VH-92 Marine One helicopter, a giant, sinister, olive, tin dragon fly with white-top toupee livery oddly evocative of Trump’s combover, buzzes The White House Lawn, Friday.

The whopper chopper’s rotor blades’ force shreds plants and mulches grasses; plays hell with the presidential pompadour but what’s a military rescue mission without collateral damage? Cue shock, awe and suspense. And horror. Is the invincible, priapic, Pussy-grabber in Chief so stricken with ‘Rona he needs a helicopter medivac? Or has the Biden debate TKO’d the obese, sclerotic, seventy-four year old with hypertension?

Worse. Is this the beginning of the end for reality TV President Donald and the fawning claque of loyalist incompetents who make up his blighted, backstabbing, maladministration? Or is this just the end of the beginning of another cunning stunt? A twist in the plot? Trump trumped cos Corona is all reality and no show?

It’s certainly right on script, notes Megan McCardle in The Washington Post.

“The past four years have proceeded eerily as if they were being scripted by an HBO showrunner, complete with an antihero protagonist, and a deus-ex-machina pandemic, and the obligatory Helicopter Flight over the darkening D.C. skyline, all seemingly designed to revive fan excitement after viewers became jaded by the vulgar antics of the first few seasons.

With Trump, what’s certain is uncertainty. Fellow-kleptocrat Vladimir Putin’s patsy, Trump sows confusion. He’s an open-cut mine of disinformation. His tsunami of untruths, numbers 20,000 lies by 9 July, reports The Post, which keeps count on a large database. Above all, he’s an uber-kleptomaniac. It’s part of his malignant narcissism, a pathological inability to differentiate between himself and the rest of the world.

“The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he claims. Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Saadoun sees the self-dealing Trump as a poster-boy for Kleptocracy International. (They have chapters everywhere – especially Canberra). Corruption cripples the state and reaches beyond achieving “transnational ripple effects”.

“Where there is impunity for official corruption,” writes Saadoun, “government itself becomes a means for the elite to enrich itself and silence its critics.” Morrison’s Covid Commission is a local example. Yet abusing your political office for personal profit is only part of the Trump strategy. Abusive relationships are key, also.

Late last year, as our own PM, Pauline Hanson, Hillsong Global Senior Pastor and founder, Brian Houston and other local Trump fanboys, who mentor Scott Morrison and who are under “ongoing” NSW police investigation will recall, the US Klepto-in-Chief was seeking to hold the G7 at his Miami resort. At business class rates. Currently, the Secret Service can pay up to $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s properties.

Trump’s outfit received $471,000 from the Secret Service between January 2017 and April 2018.

I thought I was doing something very good for our Country, Trump tweets, before upbraiding his critics for their Crazed and Irrational Hostility. Upholding the rule of law is irrational hostility? Trump is gas-lighting.

Gratuitous gas-lighting is a big hit with Trump fans. Two years ago, Jenna Price reports, Scott John Morrison told a range of people that bullying and harassment within the Liberal Party did not exist. Asked if he was 100 per cent confident bullying was not an issue in the federal parliamentary party, the PM replied: “I am.”

Clearly deluded, Julia Banks quit the party over it and Linda Reynolds, (a former defence industry lobbyist whose work for Raytheon in no way compromises her role as Defence Minister) was hallucinating when she thought she saw Liberal MPs bullying over the leadership spill orchestrated by Scott Morrison’s team but which Scott knew nothing about.

Gaslighting is an integral part of modern right wing politics, given the way the world stubbornly refuses to return to the 1950s and now neoliberalism’s absurdities are exposed, as state fiat conflicts with individual responsibility in our own local social distancing fiasco and our border wars.

Work experience Treasurer, Frydenberg, gaslights Andrew Probyn and ABC viewers Sunday. Hungarian Josh may change the subject but he never changes the lie that the high-taxing, high-spending Coalition is the party of lower taxes and spending. Or that tax cuts are a stimulus. Or that our economy was not tanking well before COVID-19. Or that a Morrison government is not just a junta of miners, banksters and business organisations.

But it takes stable genius, to blend useful idiocy and nepotism with tax fraud. The shit hits the fan for the Trump mafia with revelations that the Trump Organisation’s paid Trump’s daughter, Ivanka $747,622. There’s even talk of a criminal prosecution. Donald’s lily-white reputation is in peril. Conspiracy theorists go wild with the notion that Ole Bone Spurs’ fakes Covid to evade accountability. Not only is his hectoring of Joe Biden not even a debate, let alone presidential, he’s caught fiddling his tax return because Ivanka fudged the cover-up.

A consultancy fee for Ivanka pops up in The New York Times’ investigation of Trump’s tax returns. His daughter’s disclosure of receiving fees for consulting on hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia matches exactly the $747,622 which the Trump Organisation is claiming on its tax. By pretending that its employee, Ivanka Trump is, in fact, a consultancy firm. Not that the First Daughter received any money personally. Well, not technically. A company she co-owns banks the cheque.

Helping whittle down the family tax bill is only one of Ivanka Trump’s profitable roles in the Trump presidency of ever-declining vital signs. There’s the thirty-four lucrative Ivanka Trump “Yiwanka” trademark business deals in books, housewares, cushions and so much more in China way back when Xi Jinping and Trump were pals. The presidency is an Aladdin’s cave of business opportunities for godfather Trump and his family firm.

Ivanka is, moreover, senior adviser to her Daddy and architect of brilliant PR strategies such as his fabled St John’s Episcopal Church High Noon with Bible homage – after armed police clear the way by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors – “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”

A sitting president commits a blasphemous act of aggression against his own people for the sake of a tacky photo op? Clearly, Ivanka has inherited her father’s “good genes”, his stable genius. But she excels herself Sunday with a PR coup – a drive-by (in an armoured, black, Chevrolet Suburban) royal wave to QAnon conspiracy theorists, followers of falsehoods, misinformation super-spreaders and other “great patriots” who picket Walter Reed Military Hospital to tell the world the President is a hero who has “god-tier genetics”.

Our MSM refer to the crowds as Trump’s “base” but QAnon is more than a fan club. They’re a fight club, too. Besides helping to spread dangerous disinformation about COVID-19, there is the fantasy that defeating COVID-19 will become just the latest thing to add to Trump’s “list of legendary feats. They’re hanging out on Wisconsin Avenue to get a ring-side seat at the fight of the century. Trump doesn’t disappoint.

Not everyone is as impressed. “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” tweets James P. Phillips, a Walter Reed doctor who is also a professor at George Washington University.

“They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity.”

Insanity? Trump’s first pick for running mate in 2016, was Ivanka. As her father explained to bemused aides –

“She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!”’

That’s Rick Gates’ testimony. The former campaign deputy and first big fish indicted in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. It’s all in Gates’ Wicked Game which will also reveal,

“… how the current state of presidential politics is tearing apart the very fabric of our democracy.”

Ivanka talks her Dad out of making her his running mate. Republican Party cigar store Indian sans feather bonnet, Mike Pence, the Mick-Mack of US politics, gets the gig after his “vicious and extended monologue” bagging Hilary Clinton wins Trump over. A round of golf – in which Pence gushes that Trump, a notorious, blatant cheat, beat me “like a drum” – helps seal the deal. Trump treats Mike like a hick from the sticks.

A principle of perversity applies to Trump’s picks, a principle echoed by acolyte Scott Morrison in choosing for example, Angus Taylor, a climate denier, LNG advocate and carbon capture fantasist, for Energy and Emissions. Similarly, Sussan Ley is a Minister for an Environment who poses her own threat to biodiversity.

Let the UN warn that a million species across the world face extinction. Ms Ley says she is “concerned” about the problem, but doubts land clearing is to blame. Has she read her own government’s reports? Over 400 ecologists, including leading conservation scientists from Australia and around the world, issued a declaration in 2016 warning of the devastating impacts of land clearing on Australia’s biodiversity. The World Wildlife Fund says land clearing is the main cause of habitat loss in its Living Planet Report 2020.

But Ms Ley promises to cut green tape for big projects – just as Trump has done in the US. Despite opposition from environmental and indigenous groups, his administration exempts the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska from a 2001 prohibition on commercial logging and other development.

The Tongass is an enormous carbon sink. Its store of carbon is equivalent to taking 650,000 cars off the road each year, Andy Moderow, Alaska director of the Alaska Wilderness League, estimates.

A fossil fuel lobbyist heads up America’s EPA, assisted in its toxic chemicals programme by an industry insider. Ken McQueen, a former oil executive, who pooh-poohs manmade global heating, is top Environmental Protection Agency official in the South-Central US, a fossil fuel industry hub and site of recent climate-driven disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. Trump’s made it much easier to drill for oil in national parks.

Similarly, Pence is a perfect fit on public health. A Big Tobacco stooge, he says in an opinion piece, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” Yet, two out of three smokers die from a smoking-related illness, according to medical research. Smoking kills half a million Americans a year.

As Governor of Indiana, the “cross-roads of America”, where intersecting highways mean increased risk of infection, Pence cut funds, forcing HIV test stations to close, banned needle exchanges and helped create the largest outbreak of HIV in state history. Who better to lead Trump’s coronavirus task force?

The VP’s performance has not been without incident. Pence’s use of his personal AOL account for State of Indiana business is eerily similar to Clinton’s abuse of protocol for which she is still mercilessly pilloried.

Totally different, Pence defenders snort. Yet Mike’s account was hacked into. Pence’s contacts were startled to receive desperate emails claiming Mike and Mother (as the VP insists on calling his wife, Karen) were attacked on their way back to their hotel in The Philippines and needed money urgently. A scammer claimed the Pences had lost all their money, bank cards and mobile phone. Luckily they still had their faith.

“Startling” and “extraordinary”, The Washington Post calls the mixed messaging over Trump’s health. Oddly, there is nothing remotely approaching Vice Presidential leadership from Pence or any official statement from the leader of the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus SWAT team. Is Pence too busy getting himself tested?

We do know that he believes God has a plan for him and that entails “servant leadership”.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” Yet we also know that when The Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasts of grabbing women “by the pussy”, 7 October 2016, Pence was contemplating a coup.

Should Trump die or become incapable of serving as President, Pence will step into his shoes. But that does not mean that he will automatically become the Republican Party’s candidate in 3 November. The Republican National Committee makes that decision. There is no question that Pence has his eyes on 2024.

Is Trump still alive? Has he been saved by a cocktail of experimental drugs? By Saturday, peak uncertainty is reached. Exceeded. Yet later that day, his doctor “clarifies”. Trump will stay at Walter Reed Military Hospital “for an indefinite number of days.” He’s placed on a five-day antiviral drug regimen for COVID-19. Evidently, Trump’s condition may be more serious than official briefings suggest. He has only himself to blame.

Trump is the single largest driver of false and misleading information about the coronavirus, report Cornell University researchers who publish a study this week showing that Russia’s chump makes up nearly 38 per cent of what they coyly describe as the overall “misinformation conversation,” based on 38 million articles in English language media around the world. Trump’s toxic bullshit covers eleven main topics, but the most prevalent, ironically, is his promotion of untested miracle cures, including anti-malarial and disinfectants.

Currently, the president is reported to be taking not one but two experimental treatments; a hint of panic in medical ranks. Saturday, a swarm of white coats from central casting, appear; an homage to Big Tobacco’s classic advertisements where doctors swear that smoking is good for you. Trump’s in great shape, they lie. He continues to improve, they claim since Saturday and could be released as early as Monday.

The team confirms Trump had lowered oxygen levels at one point. They won’t answer questions about whether the president has suffered lung damage. If this is their damage control, it has the opposite effect. Again Trump and his team have seen to that personally.

“We’re in an environment where conspiracies are thriving, in part because the president encourages them,” says Melissa Ryan, CEO of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.

“And we have a White House comms operation that gives the press and public disinformation constantly.”

Yet, exercising reasonable scepticism is to miss the theatricality; the magical surrealism of Trump’s presidency. Above all, even down under, Trumpism entails the willing suspension of disbelief.

All eyes are on China Flu in The White House, a special effects episode of the epic TV soap that is the Trump Dynasty presidency – a perverse parody of Camelot, a festering wen of turpitude and lies in a dis-United States of degeneracy, deceit and greed presided over by huckster Donald Trump and his grasping, venal family.

“The president has never overnighted at a hospital before” squeaks an aide from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Overnighted? Trump’s boasts of invincibility already look sick. Delusional. Rapidly, the narrative becomes “a few days’ stay”. The hospital is named after the US Army doctor whose 1901 work on the role of mosquitoes in spreading yellow fever helped pioneer biomedicine and epidemiology.

Reed’s work also allowed the US to complete a Panama Canal which would make America a world economic powerhouse. Above all, by linking its growing Pacific power to its traditional Atlantic allies, the canal was a geopolitical strategy to make the United States the most powerful nation on earth. Now it’s a pariah nation, thanks in no small part to Trump’s foreign policy failures – and, of course, his administration’s coronavirus mismanagement.

Walter Reed is a thirteen minute drive away – the chopper on the White House lawn is overkill. Yet it adds some of the grand-standing, big-noting, big-hair, big-orange Bronx Colors brand face make up melodrama which fuels Trump’s tacky, stage-presidency.

Not to be overlooked, however, is Trump, the authoritarian’s fetish for all things military, currently echoed in our own PM’s incessant attacks on Dan Andrews who is constantly rebuked for failing to call in the ADF, thus causing Victoria’s corona-crisis.

In President Bone Spurs’ suite, reserved for high-ranking soldiers, distinguished draft-dodgers and other public heroes, the man who scorns the pandemic as a hoax and who mocks Joe Biden for wearing a face mask is lethargic. He has some trouble breathing and his blood oxygen levels have caused doctors some concern. Medical experts are divided. Some subscribe to the view that to be prescribed a cocktail of experimental drugs plus dexamethasone, means that Trump must be severely ill.

Dexamethasone is a steroid used to head off an immune system overreaction that kills many COVID-19 patients reports The New York Times. It is generally reserved for those with severe illness. Yet there is another equally plausible scenario. Trump himself is directing his own treatment. If he’s able to overrule doctors and visit fans in his SUV, he’s quite capable of ordering a hamburger with the lot.

Suddenly they’re throwing the kitchen sink at him, says Dr. Thomas McGinn, a top physician at Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in New York State.

“Is he sicker than we’re hearing, or are they being overly aggressive because he is the president, in a way that could be potentially harmful?” Or is Trump dictating his own medication regimen, oblivious to the risks of ingesting a cocktail of unproven drugs?

“Am I dying?” is one of the first questions Trump asks doctors at Walter Reed. The answer may be yes but it is just as likely at this stage, that the autocratic malignant narcissist is bossing the doctors around, demanding, as his right what he believes is the best of everything. He may have VIP Syndrome.

‘VIP syndrome,‘ describes a phenomenon in which medical treatment of a famous, powerful, or influential patient, even a celebrity president, is compromised precisely by the patient’s fame, power, or influence. Complications can arise when doctors are pressured into decisions which diverge from the normal routine of care into treatment which may ultimately turn out to be detrimental to the patient’s health.

Trump may, of course, already have compromised his health by choosing to leave the hospital in a drive-by flirtation with his deluded fans. The stunt has all the hallmarks of Ivanka’s direction but it may have been entirely his own idea. What we do know is those close to him would endorse if not applaud Trump’s latest act of genius. Such are the potentially deadly perils of surrounding yourself with yes-men – and women.

Whether Trump survives or not, there is the vexed question of his legacy. When he leaves the presidency it will be in far worse shape than he found it – but in the meantime – two hundred and ten thousand Americans have perished and 7.44 million are infected with the virus. This need not have been the case.

Had his administration shown leadership, or even competence, the tragedy of America’s coronavirus experience may have been averted or at least attenuated. Instead, like fellow narcissist and buffoon, Boris Johnson, Trump set a tone of hubristic denial and worse. He actively perpetrated disinformation, disparaged science, suppressed information, advocated bleach or hydroxychloroquine, sunlight and other quackery.

Of immediate concern are the lives of those workers in The White House and those members of the Republican Party who have been needlessly put at risk by a Presidency that is more than dysfunctional, more than corrupt and self-serving; a presidency that could not even acknowledge the need for basic precautions, such as the wearing of masks or social distancing let alone exercise its duty of protecting the American people.

Whether he recovers or not, Trump’s presidency is moribund; so utterly corrupted it is rotten to the core. Mendacity and recklessness are two of its worst traits, notes Frank Bruni. Add a third: Trump’s petty tyranny.

If you wanted the boss to be happy, you left your mask at home, report Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman of The White House’s top-down culture of fear. A staff too frightened to displease their boss cannot tell him the hard truths he needs to know. In the end, this is the illness that has undone Trump. He is the architect of his own decline.

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POTUS and FLOTUS getting it together

So, the man who has spread more misinformation about COVID-19 than any other individual on the planet has caught the coronavirus. The fact that he will now not be able to campaign personally will, ironically, perhaps save some lives.

On October 1 President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that:

Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!

What would his supporters be thinking? He told them it was all a joke and with the breeze it would wistfully flutter away. Even his tweet makes a nonsense of all his prophecies.

Only the like-minded would fall for his uneducated divinations and insights that have their genesis in an unsound mind.

Donald Trump may not have acted swiftly to contain the spread of the virus, but he hasn’t remained silent on the subject (most of which are bizarre and pushing crazy conspiracies). There are many to quote, but here are just a few of his thoughts on COVID-19.

On January 22, when the disease started to raise a few eyebrows he tried to put everybody’s mind at ease with this little lie:

“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

Then five weeks later on February 27 he brushed the virus aside:

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

And this gem on April 23 as a possible cure:

“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

On August 20 Trump publicly:

“… praised the supporters of QAnon, a convoluted, pro-Trump conspiracy theory, and suggested he appreciates their support of his candidacy.

At a news conference at the White House on Wednesday, Mr Trump courted the support of those who put stock in the conspiracy theory, saying, “I heard that these are people that love our country.” It was his first public comment on the subject.”

On September 9 the nation learned what Trump really thought:

“He (Trump) knew (about the dangers posed by COVID-19), and purposefully played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people… And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job – on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”

No doubt tying to come up with an election winner on September 16 he boasted that a COVID-19 vaccine could be ‘three weeks, four weeks’ away.

Democratic Party’s presidential nominee Joe Biden, somewhat more rationally pointed out the next day that:

“The idea that there’s going to be a vaccine and everything’s gonna be fine tomorrow – it’s just not rational.”

Joe you of all people should know the POTUS have never been and never will be rational.

He was quick to blame China for the virus (again) on September 22 in remarks delivered remotely to the U.N. General Assembly, he said that:

“We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world, China … The Chinese government, and the World Health

Organization – which is virtually controlled by China – falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Later on, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease … The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions.”

At the risk of sounding sarcastic, he has with his own words his own cure. By all means, check it out.

Will we ever grow intellectually to the point where we are able to discern, understand and act on those matters that seek the good within us?

Some countries make a habit of institutionalising mediocre minds.

Back on July 10 Dr. Andrew Pastewski, ICU medical director at Jackson South Medical Center in Miami, lamented that:

“It’s just disheartening because the selfishness of (not wearing a mask) versus the selflessness of my staff and the people in this hospital who are putting themselves at risk, and I got COVID from this.”

Dire warning, indeed. Did Trump listen? And how many have died? Well it’s fast approaching 210,000.

Universally this virus has proven to be a tragedy for the world. That it has been treated so flippantly by men such as the POTAS is further proof that the world needs men and women in leadership who speak words of truth, of love, of compassion, of equality. Not gutter language that maltreats the office of the President.

Not those of insanity as expressed by President Trump. It is a time in world history for those with calm thoughtful voices to overshadow those crass voices of hatred, the dictators think they know all, but in reality, know very little.

From our own SBS:

“US President Donald Trump has been the world’s biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation during the pandemic, a study from Cornell University said Thursday.”

Our initial response to any situation or question should be a consistently good and thoughtful one.

Yet Trump kept rolling along spreading misinformation, leading Twitter to temporarily block Trump’s campaign account for spreading this misinformation:

“The authors found that comments by Mr Trump drove major spikes in the “miracle cures” topic, led by his 24 April press briefing where he mused on the possibility of using disinfectants inside the body to cure the coronavirus.

Similar spikes were seen when he promoted unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine.

We conclude therefore that the president of the United States was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic’, the team wrote.

Attacks on US government scientist Dr Fauci, references to the debunked “Plandemic” video, and blaming the virus on Chinese people consuming bat soup rounded off the list.”

Now the President must face the reality of his own disbelief. He also needs to be upfront with the people of not only the United States but the entire world and say that he was wrong.

He must explain to us where he gets his information from and how he fact checks it.

Within his own body this virus dwells. Was he lying when he said he had taken a course of Hydroxychloroquine? He choose to play politics with this most deadly disease but it has caught up with him.

Just how seriously he has it is anyone’s guess. Whatever the case he will, I’m sure, twist it to his own advantage unless it is life threatening. If it is mild, he will make himself into the “it couldn’t defeat me” man and continue with his propaganda.

Most problems that society faces today arise from the fact that men have never really grown up.

If it is serious, he will suffer for his apathy. He will have on his conscience the words “If only I had taken it seriously and believed the scholarship. The science spoke but I knew better.”

My thought for the day

The dead are many. Only they have seen the end of it.

PS: There are those who wish to see Donald and Melania Trump succumb to the disease. I am not one of them.

 

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Stop the lies, Morrison. Your gas-led recovery is a toxic sham.

In any other universe, recovering from one public health crisis by worsening another would spark immediate backlash. An “asbestos led recovery” would be career-ending; as would a “tobacco led recovery” or a “AK-47 led recovery”. But fossil fuels have locked their harm so deeply into our lives that we have become desensitised to this incredible, radical significance of proposing to hurt humans as a pathway to helping them. What is happening here is simultaneously deadly and ludicrous. (Ketan Joshi Renew Economy).

In pristine white hard hat and air sea rescue orange Hi-Viz vest fluoro fancy dress, Scott Morrison is like some surreal, grotesquely upscaled, Lego minifigure in a budget horror movie as he bobs up like a turd in the surf off Nobby’s Beach to spruik his latest role as our national saviour in Santos and Origin’s Gas Chooses itself.

After spending a week singing an aria to himself and his government which gets things done – because “that’s what we do” as he tells Coalition toady, David Speers, on ABC Insiders, by Sunday, he’s changed his tune. His threat to build a massive new 1GW gas-fired power station to replace Liddell won’t be happening.

Yep. Scotty’s “can do” government can also undo. Why? Morrison bullshits about how private enterprise has saved us from yet another crisis. As if he’s talked them into it. Why, Energy Australia has a fabulous new gas-fired generator in the wings and – look over there – corporations have batteries and stuff just waiting to go.

No mention of Mike Cannon-Brookes who throws down the gauntlet, declaring he’ll bid for Liddell’s replacement if Scott Morrison can identify the rules of engagement. Calls Scotty’s bluff. Worse.

“Giant fossil fuel companies need subsidies to extract gas and export it? No they don’t, that is bullshit. So declare the rules of the game. That’s the way to get assets built.”

Bizarre? It’s what we’ve come to expect from a government which has no energy policy. Not a clue. But what a stunt! Trust Scotty to launch his gas-led recovery show in Tomago, home to another aluminium smelter, Coalition policy is helping to kill. It’s twenty-two minutes inland from coal terminal and post-industrial rust-bucket Newcastle. Described – along with winsome Wollongong – by John Quiggan as a “vibrant and diversified” regional centre, Newcastle has a ten per cent unemployment rate; a seventeen year low.

The Tomago smelter, one of the Hunter’s last big metal producers, is 51% owned by model corporate citizen, Rio Tinto. Drawing twelve per cent of NSW’s electricity, it’s the state’s biggest user. At mates’ rates, of course.

Our smelters typically rely on heavily subsidised coal-fired electricity with gas back-up plants. If they shut their doors, as Rio keeps threatening, power companies’ would have to shut a few generators down, too.

Tomago claims rising power prices will force it to close. But experts point to a glut of aluminium world-wide. China produces 62 per cent to our 3.3. In 2017, moreover, Tomago forged an eleven year baseload power supply contract deal with Macquarie Generation. AGL is plans to build a 250MW back up gas generator at Tomago but it costs three times as much to burn gas to make electricity than to burn coal.

Smelters account for sixteen per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector but there has been not a hint of any Coalition roadmap towards encouraging the industry to adopt renewables. Conspicuously lacking from Morrison’s roadmap is any acknowledgment that unless Australian industry invests in green energy then it will decline along with fossil fuels.

“Australia is one of the world’s most emissions-intensive aluminium producers. Deployment of renewable electricity is a path out of this quagmire, and the rapid fall in cost of renewables makes it more viable than ever before.” Clark Butler reports for The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)

Simon Holmes à Court argues, Tomago’s crippled by Coalition incompetence; politicised mismanagement.

Australia’s four aluminium smelters are salvageable. They also offer stability to our national grid. Above all, they provide employment and support whole communities. They will be scrapped because Morrison’s government won’t admit that renewable energy is the key to their future. Will it clean up its act? Phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible? Pigs might fly. Instead the PM has a surreal cop-out, “Gas Chooses Itself”.

Sure it does. Despite being flogged as a transition fuel, gas is not good for the environment. Morrison’s messaging on gas originates in US industry bodies and think tanks. The fantasy that gas is a “transition fuel” or a “bridge” to renewables stems from the 1990s. The spin was fabricated by the American Gas Association as more evidence emerged on global warming.

Crikey’s David Hardaker refers to Marian Wilkinson’s The Carbon Club which traces the influence of US fossil fuel lobbyists to 1997 when the Frontiers of Freedom Foundation fossil lobbyists arrived in Canberra to work us over before we sent our representatives to cheat at Kyoto – “It’s not global and it won’t work.”

Wilkinson’s book begins by noting that when Tony Abbott became PM, a raft of legislation was introduced to shut down everything from the emissions trading scheme, the CEFC and the Climate Change Authority. Tim Flannery recalls being sacked from the Climate Commission. It was the first act of the Abbott government and Flannery doubts that cabinet had even met. Morrison’s leadership is still appeasing the same push.

As for (mainly methane) natural gas being any type of bridge to renewables, the notion is risible. If fully unleashed, Australia’s gas resources could be responsible for up to three times the annual carbon emissions of the entire world, reports The Australia Institute in a landmark new report, Weapons of Gas Destruction.

“Gas is a high-pollution industry that won’t create jobs while unleashing triple the world’s annual emissions into the atmosphere. To say it is ‘lose-lose’ is an understatement,” concludes Climate and Energy Program director, Richie Merzian.

Of course Gas Chooses Itself is a winner for the gas industry which is a huge user of gas, burning twice as much gas as Australian households and nearly as much as our manufacturing sector. But ScoMo’s no fool.

The plot reworks an old routine. Santos and Origin make a mozza from rigging the already extortionate price of gas. Laugh all the way to the bank. Demand booms, thanks to the Coalition’s, Gas-led Recovery Plan. Santos and Origin also rake in millions in subsidies for their Pythonesque carbon capture and storage (CCS) scam.

CCS is ludicrous. Capture, transport and bury millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from coal power plants? How good is Peabody Coal’s propaganda unit? US Coal baron Robert Murray freely admits that CCS is baloney. A fantasy. Murray says CCS is a con. It ‘does not work’ and ‘is just cover for the politicians.’

Trust Scotty to promise a con that the UN Development program says would “arrive on the battlefield far too late to help the world avoid dangerous climate change”. Bush fire victims know all about his late arrivals.

CCS is expensive and impracticable. Not only is energy wasted burying carbon, retrofitting a 2100-megawatt brown coal-fired power station in Victoria would “conservatively” cost a whopping $2.45 billion per boiler.

Governments showered $1.3 billion on CCS from 2007-13 with not one commercial working model to show for the money, but “simp” Scotty from marketing believes in it; he’ll surely find a bit extra in the kitty for his mining pals. Cut back on social services, hospitals and widows’ pensions. Incentivise self-reliance.

Scotty’s chosen the right setting to announce his gas-fired delusion. Newcastle is spiritual godfather to our state of the art asylum-seeker gulags and our perverse delight in punishing the elderly, infirm and those out of work. Debit where debit is due, our PM himself, was quick to back our Robodebt extortion scam which led some pensioners to take their own lives. Over 2000 people died after receiving Centrelink debt notices.

Yet their debts outlived them. Anastasia McCardel received a call from a Centrelink in May. Told her son Bruce owed $6,744.52. When would she repay his debt? Bruce had died six months earlier, in November 2018, aged 49. He was born with Noonan syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the heart and other vital organs.

You can’t just blame Scott Morrison. Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan. As treasurer in 2016, former social services supremo, Morrison was supported by Christian Porter, Alan Tudge and Stuart Robert, who were high-fiving and jiving at the promise of automated welfare debt recovery. But not this week.

The Federal Court learns at a pre-trial hearing on Monday that Gordon Legal plans to argue that Big Al Tudge, who was Human Services minister in 2016-17, either knew or was “recklessly indifferent” to the fact the botched program was unlawful. Luckily Tudge, is tied up at the moment explaining how he had nothing at all to do with the taxpayer paying $30 million for a $3 million parcel land for a Sydney airport.

The Australian National Audit Office finds that the federal government bought land from dairy farmer and Liberal Party donor, Leppington Pastoral Company, at 10 times its market value while developing Western Sydney Airport. Urban Infrastructure Minister, Tudge has a stunning reverse Nuremberg alibi.

There “is no question of ministerial involvement”, he swears. The matter “goes to the administrative actions of the department, more than two years ago”. Doubtless Big Al will quickly get Robodebt to retrieve the overpayment from Leppington Pastoral. The letter threatening debt collection’s already in the mail.

Beyond the joy it gives our MPs to further impoverish men and women struggling to exist on forty dollars a day by imposing debt repayments, while fat cats in our gas industry cartel get massive handouts, double punishment is a tradition: like double standards, it is rooted deeply in our convict colony origins.

Newcastle, like Norfolk Island, was a penal settlement inside a penal colony – or a place of secondary punishment for convict re-offenders until 1813. For nearly 20 years, wayward convicts were flogged amidst idyllic natural beauty, a place where summers are warm and humid and winters are short and cool. Plants flourished in fertile, soft, absorbent carbon rich soils until cloven-hoofed sheep and cattle ruined them.

Punishment, however, is perennially problematic. Although it was easy to dispense, flogging was not foolproof. It often killed the convict or reduced his capacity to work. Furthermore, when convicts were unable to work because they had been flogged, they needed to be flogged again for not working.

Similarly, job-seekers cut off from all extra support on New Year’s Day 2021 will need to present themselves at job interviews they can’t afford to attend – having frittered away their recklessly generous work incentive-sapping allowances on op-shop clothing, fares, haircuts and the chore of having to feed themselves.

Or pay the gas bill.

Unemployed or underemployed workers are already punished by the humiliation of having to apply for jobs under the Job Active scam, a privatised “job-provider” service they may not be able to get to and double punished should they not attend. Their meagre payments can be suspended. Meanwhile, Rick Morton estimates that job-providers have banked $500 million of taxpayers money during the pandemic.

But Morrison’s got that covered. As he explains, gas will bring back jobs. At least for a few mates. Scotty’s role has a touch of the post-apocalyptic zombie as he helps the Liberal Party’s craven mining oligarchy mates prop up dying coal and gas industries as they collude to cook the planet and snuff out life as we know it.

Left-leaning, (as our national media love to dub any outfit not funded by our barons of industry) Grattan Institute calculates that ScoMo’s gas led recovery” would benefit fewer than 1% of Australian manufacturing jobs currently in gas-intensive industries. The report is leaked to the left-leaning The Guardian Australia.

15 facilities that together employ just 10,000 people consume two-thirds of gas used in manufacturing.

“There are almost no jobs in [gas] … If we were going to see a massive boom in gas-based manufacturing, we should be seeing it right now. And we’re not seeing it,” says The Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood.

Gas Chooses Itself features our elected representatives tipping buckets of public money into a failing private cartel. Origin and Santos. Scotty promises subsidies of $52.9m, support to “open up” five new gas basins and a beaut new National Gas infrastructure plan.

His announcement sounds eerily similar to a leaked paper from a working party of his gas-industry dominated cabal, the National Covid Coordination Commission (NCCC) which meets in secret under the stewardship of nifty Nev Power to further its own interests under the guise and confidentiality of a cabinet committee.

But there’s more. Santos and Origin will be subsidised under the carbon capture and storage boondoggle. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will be tweaked so it can fund CCS, a scam which has already cost us a fortune. He’ll also kill off innovation, undermine renewable energy and prop up costly failing fossil fuels, warns Christine Milne, global Greens ambassador and former leader of the Australian Greens.

The world’s largest coal port, Newcastle’s is also NSW’s post-industrial rust belt: 4000 manufacturing jobs vanished since 2015. Green steel made with hydrogen is the answer says The Grattan Institute. Not coal. Nor gas. Hydrogen is also proposed for aluminium smelting. But you can’t tell the PM anything. He’s out overacting again; hamming it up in his blokey construction costume; lying about gas and coal.

Talk about miracle Morrison. Gas will bring back Australian manufacturing (like Lazarus from the dead).

He’ll say anything. On ABC Insiders, he tells David Speers that “Gas has chosen itself” just in case you think his decision has anything to with his secret cabal of gas industry barons cunningly dubbed his Covid Commission. Coal is the key way to keep electricity prices cheap he bullshits.

“In Australia, you cannot talk about electricity generation and ignore coal,” he rants in his pants on fire plan.

Coal, Morrison says, will not only “continue to play an important role in our economy for decades to come”, but “with new technologies such as carbon capture and storage continuing to improve, it will have an even longer life”. New? Continue to improve? CCS has never worked. KFC employs more of us than thermal coal.

The proportion of the total workforce employed in thermal coal is one quarter of one per cent of our total workforce of twelve million – or around 20-25,000. The ABS calculates, on the other hand, that 20,000 of us work in renewable energy activities.

Oddly Scotty doesn’t mention steel. While one in five local youngsters are seeking work, the steel town is in the Hunter whose iconic thermal-coal-mines employ at best five per cent of NSW’s workforce, whatever its MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources, Joel Fitzgibbon wants us to believe. Or Morrison or Matthew Canavan whose brother is big in coal mining for that matter. And thermal coal is plunging to an average price of $60-70 a metric tonne from $100 in January.

Peabody plans to sack half its workforce at Wambo, blaming Coronavirus but demand for coal is dropping in Europe and the US while China is using more domestic coal and less of the more expensive imported black rock, especially from Australia. Aping Trump’s poke a panda policy is costing us dearly.

Even so, why does, our Trumpista PM head to coal central to promise his preposterous gas-led recovery?

Could it be just bastardry? Fitzgibbon is Labor’s shadow minister for resources. So entrenched is Labor bashing that already 9 News is crowing about a Labor split over gas. This is part of Morrison’s crafty plan.

So, too is the nobbling of any emissions target. The government’s position is not to have a position.

“The renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020, it reaches its peak in 2020, and we won’t be replacing that with anything,” climate denialist Energy Minister Angus Taylor boasts.

But what’s this? Not even Simon Benson is in attendance, Tuesday – Scotty from marketing heroically risks anti-climax or exposing his signature, saponaceous, insincerity. Of course, his list of talking point slogans, boasts and empty promises is dropped to every media outlet in the land – and beyond – his government is gunner,

“… reset the east coast gas market … create a more competitive and transparent Australian Gas Hub by unlocking gas supply, deliver an efficient pipeline and transportation market, and empower gas customers.”

Perhaps it’s prudent that, he holds no “How good is gas?” presser afterwards. Embracing Big Gas as our saviour, creating jobs and driving down prices, may trigger a repeat of his Cobargo bushfire reception where he was run out of town.

Of course, crocodile teary Scotty could still be smarting from his rebuke over bullying Annastacia Palaszczuk to secure a quarantine exemption for Sarah Caisip to attend her stepfather’s funeral in Queensland. Palaszczuk’s office reports Morrison shouting down the phone, “You will do this.” Then there’s his politicising private grief.

In an open letter to the PM, Caisip’s stepsister Alexandra Prendergast excoriates Morrison for using her grieving family “to try and advance your political agenda”. But Morrison will stop at nothing.

As Christine Milne opines in The Guardian Australia, as she calls out the government’s wilful sabotage of its renewable energy agency, there is one certainty you can rely on in Australia. “Namely the Morrison government’s championing of fossil fuels, relentless attacks on renewable energy, lies about its commitment to emission reductions, openness to fossil fuel donations and sabotaging any institutional framework that works in driving investment in the technologies desperately needed to get us to a zero emissions future.”

It’s a calculated snub. If Morrison intended to do anything about emissions or energy he would not have Angus Taylor as Energy and Emissions Minister. But how good is Gus at browning off greenies?

Whether it’s poisoning endangered grasses or trashing Clover Moore’s environmentalism by falsely accusing her of jet-setting based on a web document no-one’s been able to find, go-getter Gus is always on the go. Like his PM, he’s all for “moving on – I’ve dealt with that.”

Don’t even try to bring up the $79 million, Eastern Australia Irrigation, his Cayman Island registered company made in 2017 from selling overland flow water licences, on its Clyde and Kia Ora farms after the same sort of water at two southern Queensland cotton farms, nearby, was valued at zero.

OK, Barnaby Joyce signed off on the record closed tender deal. But he was only the Water Minister at the time. And, as he tells ABC’s Pats Karvelas, any claims of any wrongdoing are “an absolute load of horse poo.” Curiously, his puerile protest is repeated in every major daily and every online regional newspaper in the land.

This week, Taylor and Morrison send the whole country back to the future with a gas-led recovery plan boondoggle: a plan to have a plan to sell us methane – always spun as “natural gas” king – along with a vision of a West-East trans Australia pipeline. But, wait, there’s more. Before, seven days’ later, it’s revoked.

A state-run, gas-fired power plant will replace Liddell in Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon’s electorate. If need be. Only a week later, it’s not. Morrison’s “major speech” on energy policy is a tour de force of absurdist theatre. If it ain’t broke, don’t mean we won’t bullshit about fixing it. And if it’s broke, don’t mean we can’t make it worse. Gas powered electricity will only serve to push up prices and help cook an overheated globe.

“We are in the ludicrous situation of having a gas policy we don’t need, and none of the climate policy that we actually do,” warns The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe.

Yet Taylor’s on thin ice. Only two years ago, Gufee Pty Ltd (as Angus James Taylor calls himself in his personal private company) was colluding over sushi, tempura washed down with a frosty XXXX Gold at Kagawa in Dickson, to install Spud Dutton and topple Kermit Turnbull, the PM his deluded opponents see as a Green-Left Galaxy mole, according to Morrison stenographer at The Australian, Simon Benson.

Liberal renegade Mal’s NEG emissions target is the last straw. Benson claims a senior cabinet minister blabs,

“I have been wrong all along. I thought he should have joined the Labor Party. Turns out he should have joined the Greens.” Yet not one Liberal opposed Turnbull’s $1.75m donation to help buy it the 2016 election.

But the coup proves a fiasco. Numbers man, Matthias Cormann can’t add up. Dutton’s cabal is stooged by another player. Spud’s weights are put up by party race fixer, soapy ScoMo, whose followers first fake a plunge on Dutton, to force a spill only to change their votes to Morrison in a second ballot.

Disraeli called soapy Sam Wilberforce, unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous, in the 1860 Oxford evolution debate. He could have been describing our current PM. But only if he overlooked the killer instinct.

No good deed goes unpunished in Scotty’s playbook. Duttonista Gus finds his mind greatly exercised now that Scotty’s just slipped Spud a political Novichok cocktail. Dutton will find his new dog’s breakfast of Defence and Border Force just as unworkable as Turnbull’s Home Affairs of federal police, ASIO, Australian Border Force, immigration, counterterrorism and emergency management.

Samuel Johnson knew a thing or two about Taylor’s likely frame of mind, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Morrison’s not going to push Gus under a bus tomorrow but pushing him out on stage and praising him as a deep thinker; the intellectual heavyweight of the Coalition energy team cannot bode well. The PM’s hyperbole is damning.

“He brings an enormous amount of intellect and experience to these tasks.”

“What we are speaking of today really is the extraordinary work that Angus has done in this portfolio as energy and emissions reduction.”

Some accuse Gus of being a lightweight. Or dilatory. But that would be to wilfully misread our political class. True, seven years down the track, the Coalition has no energy policy. But that’s its policy. Just as Morrison’s way of dealing with the pandemic and a collapsing economy is business as usual.

So calamity Taylor takes a gas axe to renewables this week. Bugger the planet. Gunner Morrison’s fossil fuel energy and noxious emissions minister can’t say when or how but he’s in the job to profit the Liberal Party’s mining industry mega-donors. Crony capitalism. Scott’s been promising we’re gunner have a gas-led recovery. Or snap-back as our ruling elastic band of Liberal toadies and big business and banking sycophants has it.

But Gus is not all gaseous catastrophe, however much the assonance appeals to Katharine Murphy. To Murpharoo, Scott Morrison’s power plan is nothing but a gas-fuelled calamity. A rump in the government even protests Morrison’s prioritising of gas over coal, as David Crowe reminds the rapidly declining readers of Nine newspapers Friday. Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon is cheering them on. Yet things could turn bad in November.

Perhaps Morrison’s been tipped off that Russian interference in the US Presidential election, will confer victory upon Trump, the useful idiot who has been putty in the hands of American fossil fuel barons.

The alternative is sobering. “The Biden administration will impose carbon adjustment fees or quotas on carbon-intensive goods from countries that are failing to meet their climate and environmental obligations.”

Or as Peter Brent writes, “Australian global warming politics is broken. If we’re too hopeless to price our carbon, someone else should price it for us.”

Pulling the pin on wind and solar? News this week confirms hard-nosed investors have taken flight; fled the electricity generating field by the gigajoule, which is how you measure the energy content in natural gas if you can afford any. Utility scale generation of green energy dropped by half during 2019 thanks to “Herbicide” Taylor’s climate-denialist sabotage of our children’s futures. But you can’t blame him for our gas cartel which fixes prices to suit itself and which is not even obliged to let the government know its reserves.

If you want affordable Australian gas, best emigrate to Japan. Customers in Japan buy Australian gas more cheaply than we can, reports Michael West. Some of this gas is drilled in the Bass Strait, piped to Queensland, turned into liquid and shipped 6,700 kilometres to Japan … but the Japanese still pay less than Victorians. It’s enough to drive a family back to burning dung. Two billion people worldwide swear by it.

But you’d be hard pressed to pick our venture capitalists’ mass stampede. All round business investment is plummeting. Bernard Keane reckons it’s at 2010 levels – propped up only because China is smiling on our mining exports. For the time being. Poking the Panda may look cute to our US overlords but China is poking back. Private investment in infrastructure has dipped to 2006 levels. Blind panic seizes our intrepid profiteers. After seven years of obstruction, obfuscation and chicanery – and Abbottising of our energy policy

It’s no mean feat. Renewables are hugely profitable compared to fossil. Yet ensuring the bottom falls out of investment in safe, clean power generation in the land at the arse-end of the world, as Keating fondly called his home, is the one enduring achievement of Scotty’s kakistocracy. Gus Taylor, take a bow.

True, Snowy 2.0 is still in the frame, despite a $10bn cost blowout, experts warn, but like Fizza Turnbull’s other dud, his high speed fibre to the node NBN, now fourth slowest in the OECD and one of the most expensive in the world, Snowy 2.0 is shaping to be another gigantic white elephant.

A Dear John letter from a group of no fewer than thirty-seven eminent Australian energy, engineering, economic and environmental experts, reaches Teddy Kunkel former Rio Tinto lobbyist and other former mining industry executives and coal lobbyists who dominate Scott John Morrison’s office Friday.

“It is now even more clear that there are numerous alternatives that are lower cost, more efficient, quicker to construct, and incur less emissions and environmental impacts,” the letter warns. AEMO forecasts that “inefficient, unnecessary and damaging Snowy 2.0” will never pay for itself; nor be needed until the 2030s, when emerging technologies like battery storage and demand response will have come into their own.

Unless you are a gas or coal baron, that is. Then you can count on gorgeous Gus, the Morrison government’s high-maintenance Energy and Emissions Minister to bring home the bacon; put a bit of pork on your fork.

Luckily, pumping water uphill will still require a shitload of fossil fuel so mining companies will still do well out of the twelve billion dollar pipe dream – especially big donors Santos, Origin and Woodside who funnel money into Liberal Party coffers. So what if Snowy 2.0’s pumped hydro will hike power prices and diminish supply?

Has Gus pulled the plug? Star of byzantine epic “Watergate”, featuring fellow silvertail and veteran game of mates grifter and Nats’ sideshow carnival barker, Barnaby Joyce, “Grassgate” a Tarantino homage to herbicide as an obliging Environment Minister, played by Josh Frydenberg helps Gus farewell some of the last remnants of all-but extinguished temperate grasslands and the whodunnit “Clovergate” fake document download scandal knows how to power down. In renewables, that is.

Less than two years after his PM set him up as muppet for our mining barons, aka Energy and Emissions Minister, silvertail Gussie’s buggered new wind and solar farm start-ups from near-record highs to near-record lows. Only three new projects reached completion in the last quarter – and 90 per cent of that capacity came from a single solar farm courtesy of the Queensland Labor government.

Morrison’s theatre of the absurd energy policy show is no roadmap to lower emissions, cheaper power or more jobs. It is just another calculated insult to those who have worked to honour our Paris agreement; to those who have worked tirelessly to decarbonise our economy. The rug has been pulled out unceremoniously because that’s what Scotty does best. And he’s been watching his mentor and enfant terrible Trump.

Scotty’s right wing coal warriors such as Matt Canavan may be appeased – for five minutes – Nats with interests or mates with interests in the gas industry may tolerate the sociopath and bully in him a little better, while his embrace of gas will appease key Liberal Party donors. Above all, Morrison will shrewdly have done the bidding of his cabal of mining industry executives under the guise of a coronavirus recovery plan while setting up Angus Taylor to take the blame when the inevitable repercussions are felt.

Best of all he will wedge Labor over their policy on gas.

Where it will all go pear-shaped is when gas becomes even less affordable and fails to provide jobs, let alone fulfil his rash and glib promise of bringing back a manufacturing sector – now around ten per cent of the economy – that neoliberal ideology is helping to banish forever. Emissions will continue to climb. The need for “new technology” he preaches will be exposed as a sound-bite sham. There are no new technologies that need to be developed to be decarbonised. There are, however, sports rorts yet to be accounted for.

Worse, Morrison may be exposed as a bare-faced liar as CCS is seen to be a coal industry fiction and an expensive indulgence of powerful party mates as the economy further contracts in 2021 with his ill-advised and inhumane cutting back on pensions for those out of work and those unable to work given their disabilities. The Panda factor can only exacerbate a downturn in our trade in a Coronavirus recession world

Trade with China is suffering because of Morrison’s witless desire not only to align with Trump’s trade war with Beijing but to enlist as an active belligerent. China will do us slowly write Crikey’s Michael Sainsbury. Unemployment and underemployment will soar in the New Year. Morrison has already alienated thousands of university teachers. His promised IR reforms threaten to make a bad system worse. As Dennis Atkins warns,

The all too apparent human toll of this insecurity is not enough to deter the Morrison Government from its determination to further deregulate the labour market.

The “energy roadmap” in all its intellectual and moral poverty is studded with disinformation. Despite what he claims, for example, renewables can’t “stand on their own two feet”. The Prime Minister’s gaslighting merely underlines his abdication of responsibility; his failure to provide real leadership when it was most needed.

Morrison may already have neutralised rivals, Dutton and Taylor but he will rapidly lose the confidence of MPs in marginal seats and despite his daggy dad routines; his carefully orchestrated relentless curry and cubby home-loving hubby PR campaign, voters are not mugs. They know when they’re being taken for a ride.

It may take a while given our Murdoch orchestrated cheer squad that is the mainstream media but truth will out. Especially when you can’t get work or the hours you need to put food on the table and pay the rapidly rising power bills the Prime Minister falsely promised his gas-led recovery would reduce.

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Just who are the losers and suckers, Mr Trump?

“Trump puts his stamp on the politics of other countries … both overtly and subtly. Populists, nationalists and authoritarians look to Trump and know that they may proceed unchecked. Countries more committed to the decades-long liberal international order scramble to respond to scrapped cultural, institutional, diplomatic and policy norms.” (Mary Jo Murphy The Washington Post).

Donald Trump, a silver-spoon buffoon who got away with the biggest con job in modern history, a type of Gordon Gekko, the character who had a moral bypass at birth, was set to play himself in the 2010 sequel to Oliver Stone’s Wall St: Money Never Sleeps but his outrageous demands – most of which were to do with his hair – were so over the top that his scene – in which Trump bumps into Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in a barber shop – ended up on the cutting room floor.

Mega-diva Donald’s bizarre list of demands include forcing a contract upon everyone in the scene not to touch his topknot. Hair today, gone tomorrow, Donald, just read Samson and Delilah, Judges 16.

Today, Trump’s hair is causing more grief. Again, it may cause him to fail to make the final cut; cost him re-election in November. His fear that his combover would come unstuck in the rain caused him to abort his 2018 chopper ride to honour American soldiers slain in battle. Now it threatens his re-election.

Trump pulled the pin on a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018. Rain forced his last-minute cancellation, he lies “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Another lie. The truth is more prosaic. Trump feared that rain would mess with his hair and makeup; undermine the pompadour he teases over his bald pate, to say nothing of his waterproof foundation which Washington Post pundits believe to be Bronx Color – a fourteen euro Swiss cosmetic.

Fear of cosmetic or wardrobe malfunction can paralyse public figures. Doubtless, after his “I shall return”, uttered not in The Philippines but in fact back at Terowie Train Station Alice Springs, Douglas McArthur added “but only if it’s not raining and I still look good in a bomber jacket with slacks”.

Trump’s re-wind is contradicted by four first-hand witnesses’ evidence, painstakingly recorded by Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, who pursues the president’s total incomprehension of patriotism, service and sacrifice since Trump attacked the late senator John McCain’s war record.

“We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” Trump rages, despite being not invited, report witnesses. Washington’s navel-orange-in-chief, President Trump sees White House flags at half-mast.

“What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” Trump tells his claque; the bitching, backstabbing, festering, toadying grovel of sycophants, formerly White House aides who him prop up. The White House flag is back at full mast Monday morning – before being lowered again Monday afternoon – up and down like the zipper on JFK’s chinos; or a media whore’s drawers.

Time wounds all heels, however. In an age of pivot and spin, what’s certain is that by 20 January 2025, Trump’s enablers will be exposed. And even his most powerful collaborators have bound their fate to his.

As to the lies Trump told when cancelling his visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day, they won’t fly.

First, Marine One, the Presidential helicopter can’t fly in the rain? It’s almost plausible. Yet the weather has to be extremely cold, with risk of icing up or risk of thunderstorms. Neither was the case. Moreover, former aides confirm there’s always a back-up plan. Luckily The Secret Service won’t blab. For now.

Crippling vanity aside, Trump’s larger concern is his own toxic turpitude. Let his deluded following ignore the Coronavirus pandemic, there is no escape from the pox of Trumpism itself, now endemic in so many bodies politic including our own federal government – brought into being by the same forces which helped to take us from greed is good to greed is God, the Hillsong heresy. Trump is an enabler.

For Hungary’s neo-fascist PM, Viktor Orban who, like his US mentor, favours rule by decree, Donald Trump represents “permission” from “the highest position in the worldTyrants all over the globe from Brazil’s “strongman”, Jair Bolsonaro, to Cambodia’s fascist Hun Sen, or Scott Morrison, Trump’s mini-me down under, are vastly encouraged by the US President’s increasing disdain for the rule of law.

“I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead … and if anyone is strong enough to try to hold a demonstration, I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.” Hun Sen boasts 2011 on suggestion he should be worried about the overthrow of a Tunisian dictator in the “Arab Spring”.

Whilst his captain’s-picked cabal of gas company executives and mining industry shills, the oxymoronic Covid-19 Co-ordination Commission, led by former Fortescue top dog, deputy chair of Strike Energy, nifty Nev Power meets in secret to plot pipe-dreams in pursuit of the chimera of a gas-led recovery and the stranded assets of new, uneconomic pipelines, Morrison steps on the gas.

Oxymoronic? There is no federal co-ordination. Morrison’s tactic is to politicise the pandemic. Relentlessly he bags Daniel Andrews for ruining the national economy with his frivolous lockdowns.

MSM continues the assault, taking its lead as always from Liberal propaganda organ The Australian. Show us your road map, he chants. Shrewdly he writes a threatening letter to the Victorian Premier attaching Frydenberg and Hunt’s names to his own. It will help him with a talking point evading responsibility; shifting the blame. Scotty, you are a born leader. Not only that you are our nation’s saviour, reminding us that we are all in this together.

In fact, Morrison is using the pandemic to divide and conquer. He ridicules Victoria’s effort because Dan’s health workers are just crap at contact tracing. Just look at Australia’s gold standard, New South Wales.

Overlooking the federal government’s Ruby Princes debacle is not easy but Morrison is brazen. It will be his undoing. Cases may well rise in NSW. The state’s contact tracing may be more thorough because it has fewer cases. If the number spikes it could all change. The Kirby Institute’s Infectious diseases expert, Raina McIntyre, points out that Victoria’s health system has been cut to the bone.

“When it comes to public health infrastructure and resources per head of population, Victoria is much worse off than any other state in Australia,” she says.

“Victoria is just a shell of a system, it’s just been decimated, and that’s fine in the good times, you can get by on a minimal model, but when there’s a pandemic all those weaknesses are exposed.”

McIntyre stops short of tracing the neoliberal origins of the state’s poor health system. “Economic rationalisation” under Jeff Kennett’s Liberal Coalition government during the 1990s devastated the Victoria’s health care system. Of course, Kennett claimed it was all Labor’s fault.

In microcosm, Kennett’s attack parallels the Morrison government’s upcoming austerity budgeting federal solution. Labor governments plunge the state into deficit, therefore “reforms” must be made. Kennett pursued a radical privatisation. Public services were contracted out to private operators, an approach which has helped cripple the state’s health care system, today.

Labor is to blame? Scapegoating is in full swing. Ben Fordham appears on ABC The Drum to spread the rumour that Andrews will resign. “People are saying that Dan Andrews is contemplating his future.”

The PM presses the pedal to the metal. It’s total war on every front – Labor, international student farming, The Arts, arts and humanities, which the federal government sees as hotbeds of sedition, Super, especially industry super. But as Crikey’s Guy Rundle observes, nothing it does leads “to any conclusion other than that everything can be trashed to get a political edge.” Pure Trumpism in other words.

Trump’s war on Democrats and the media gives dictators like Hun Sun an alibi for their own attacks on the opposition, protest and freedom of the press. When, in 2014, Morrison devised his Cambodian solution, to handball 1000 refugees from our care, blithely outsourcing our obligation to provide asylum under international law, Australia told the south-east Asian nation it needed to stop its military from killing street protesters, violently crushing political opposition and detaining people without trial.

But it didn’t stop the deal – one of Morrison’s follies, abandoned, out of sight and out of mind. Another thing “we are not here today to talk about” if reporters dare raise the issue at a presser. After Australia’s caution, Cambodia’s government has continued to crush dissent. And the Opposition.

“Videos of police dragging peaceful protesters on the street and forcibly jamming them into vehicles should raise global concern for police abuse in Cambodia,” says Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director. “The authorities should immediately end violent tactics against peaceful protesters and respect the rights to free expression and assembly.” Yet Trump undermines all that.

When the US embassy in Phnom Penh joins condemnation, Hun Sen calls on Trump to overrule his staff, “Your policy has been changed, but the embassy in Phnom Penh has not changed it yet,” he says.

Dictators feel affirmed by Trump’s trashing of the media; his fake news. His contempt for such basic democratic principles as the right of US Democrats to vote. Or how he urges supporters to vote twice. Or how he’s preparing to demand that all postal votes be scrapped because they shouldn’t count.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland notes, Trump’s seen data that predicts postal voters are more likely to support Biden. On 4 November, he’ll demand that tens of millions of postal votes be disallowed – leaving only votes cast on election day, from which Trump reckons he could achieve a narrow victory.

Poster-boy for petty despots and crazed crackpots world-wide, a monster man-baby whose name now surfaces as a rallying cry or potential “liberator” to Germany’s neo-Nazis and other far right extremists, America’s paranoid conspiracy theorist in chief; malignant narcissist and pathological liar, Trump is not, of course, responsible for the decline in freedom around the world. Yet he is an accelerant.

Now he “pivots” into damage control. Despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, he denies he ever called US troops who died in war “losers and suckers”. But will denial work? And what does his insult reveal about Trump and his many fans including our own Trumpista Scott Morrison?

First, denigrating the military could prove a fatal error in Trump’s campaign for re-election. With fewer than two months until America votes, his minders fear he may have alienated a key component of his base at a critical time. Support amongst active service men and women is now down from 46 per cent at his inauguration to 38 per cent approval in a recent Military Times poll.

Trump’s supporters comprise a disproportionately high percentage of veterans. Aides panic. SBS reports a video is concocted in which four veteran stooges testify to their undying love of all things Trump.

In the meantime, Australia, which fancies itself as a US deputy sheriff, but which is closer to a servile lackey or “US imperialist running dog” is up shit creek without a paddle. In a barbed wire canoe.

We poked the Panda, as The Donald wanted but the Panda poked us back threatening our trade, expelling our journalists and detaining our citizens. Team Trump won’t help. They’re too busy in damage control – dispute, deny and discredit.

“It’s a fake story and it’s a disgrace that they’re allowed to do it,” Trump tells reporters in the Oval Office. Why, he respects all troops. “To me, they’re heroes,” he says. “It’s even hard to believe how they could do it. And I say that, the level of bravery, and to me, they’re absolute heroes.”

Deny, dispute and discredit. It’s Trump’s signature strategy, aped by admirers world-wide including Scott Morrison, who continues to deny his key role in defrauding amateur clubs to help Clive Palmer business buy the election victory his business needed – a steal at only $67 million, in Scotty’s sports rorts scandal.

Yet much as Trump may protest, “I never called John a loser”, his bluster is also contradicted by video and Twitter which both show him doing just that in 2015.

 

 

Fifteen hours later, his aides are in full flight and panic mode. VoteVets, a progressive veterans’ organization and never a fan of Trump, releases an online ad featuring the parents of troops slain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each parent declares that their son or stepson was neither a “loser” nor a “sucker.”

Why such contempt? Why does it appeal? Papa Trump is popular in “the shit-hole countries” as he fondly refers to sub-Saharan African nations such as Nigeria and Kenya, who rank number one on the US Security and Assistance Monitor; continue to thrive on US economic aid.

Why does it appeal to our local faux-populists such Morrison and Pauline Hanson? Trump and his acolytes in our pick-a-winner wide brown land cannot see the point of doing anything without monetary reward. Sacrifice? Dying for a cause? None of this makes any sense when your one true love is yourself; your only cause is your own self-promotion.

Lying’s hard work but The Donald’s protestations don’t deter him from his mission: beating Biden in November. Trump’s gone postal. Mega donor Louis DeJoy, whose name makes him sound as if he belongs in a fly-spray commercial, is President’s pick for PMG. Louie is joyfully ripping out mail boxes and scrapping sorting machines in any electorate where a hapless Democrat might try to cast a postal vote.

Since May, DeJoy has brought in reforms, which he claims cut costs. These reduced overtime and limited deliveries that postal carriers say created backlogs across the country.

Trump’s 2020 appointee, Post Master General DeJoy (the cheque’s in the mail) is now accused of paying former workers bonuses to reimburse them for donating to the Republican Party. The Washington Post speaks to seven former employees of his former business New Breed Logistics whom DeJoy forced to donate to GOP candidates. An unconcerned Trump says he’ll act if DeJoy has done anything bad.

Such a practice violates both North Carolina state and federal law. Yet it’s an insight into how the party enabled the rise of a Donald Trump. DeJoy’s rapid rise in Republican politics was helped greatly by his ability to multiply his fundraising through his company; increasing his influence in the GOP.

“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party. He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses,” says David Young, DeJoy’s veteran director of human resources, with access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013 and is now retired. “When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else.”

The Washington Post reports that between 2000 and 2014, 124 workers together gave more than $1 million to federal and state GOP candidates. Many had not previously made political donations, and have not made any since leaving the company, public records show. During the same period, nine employees gave a combined $700 to Democrats.

While Mail voting sabotage is an irresistibly “authoritarian power grab”, team Trump, is supported by states’ refining ID requirements while it rigs every other aspect of the US vote it can get away with. This includes gerrymandering of electorates and removal of places of voting.

Since 2010, twenty-five states have enacted new voting restrictions, such as strict photo ID requirements, early voting cutbacks, and registration restrictions. The land of the free is busy making it even harder to vote. Especially if you are poor, a person of colour or you live in a remote area.

Our own father of lies, Donald’s disciple the besotted Scott Morrison is on the tools again. Mugging for the Scott Cam camera he reprises his role as daggy Dad with Ryobi saw. Perhaps Cam does the building off-camera. It would be a fair return for his $300,000 salary. Achieve more than his former role as Careers Ambassador, another Morrison debacle.

But why is Scotty building the same Bunnings kit cubby house, his press agents gushed about in June? So high is staff turnover everywhere in our commonwealth public service, so savage are the cuts, there’s barely anyone around to turn the lights off. It’s systemic dementia, a loss of institutional memory.

Collective amnesia may create stuff-ups – promote the discovery learning that hapless Tassie battler Dick Colbeck whimpers about. Aged care is not perfect but that’s OK because it’s learning to be better.

Yet it’s also perfect for the evading of responsibility and accountability which fuels the duck and weave of our modern political Quotidien. Senators at estimates hearings have been told that there is no-one left at the department to answer questions about all sorts of rorts and activities that have occurred within even the previous few years.

Churn and the rise of the PA mean an even chance we’ll see the same promo with bells on at Christmas.

But we may have to be careful with our Christmas carols. As Crikey’s Charlie Lewis notes after years of allowing neo-Nazis, various terrorist groups, conspiracy theorists and democracy warping fake news to flourish, Facebook has finally cut down on the scourge of blog posts featuring Spotify playlists.

Will Trump’s “losers and suckers” undo him? Lose him votes among the veterans he counts on to vote for him? It certainly will do him some damage. Add in the cost of his coronavirus debacle and its economic consequences. But it must not be forgotten that the Republican Party that stands behind Trump, the party apparatus and the massive network of donors which enables him is hopelessly corrupted as the curious case of Trump’s Postmaster General, DeJoy suggests.

Whatever happens, the end of Trump will not be the end of Trumpism. Nine out of ten Republicans are fans of the job he is doing as president, David Smith notes in The Guardian. And who would replace him?

Smith points to an alarming paucity of alternatives: in SurveyMonkey poll for Axios last December, Republican voters’ favourites for 2024 were Mike Pence, with Donald Trump Jr in second place, followed by Nikki Haley, Ivanka Trump, Marco Rubio and Mike Pompeo.

If “losers and suckers” does help Trump lose, however, the gaffe illustrates a mentality which Trumpism has nurtured – a complete incomprehension of service, sacrifice or dedication to principle. It’s a perspective which Gordon Gekko, a fictional caricature, would instantly recognise – as would anyone attending a recent Senate Estimates committee. Or who follows the current attack on Dan Andrews.

“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” The embodiment of the false creed of neoliberalism, Trump cannot fathom any human action that cannot be reduced to a transaction. He cannot comprehend volunteers because that involves altruism and empathy.

The narcissistic materialist is equally confounded; discomfited to discover that over 1,800 US Marines lost their lives at Belleau Wood. He sees them as “suckers” for getting killed.

In brief, as Goldberg sees, Donald Trump suffers the delusion that “nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.”

It’s not hard to hear the same delusion at work in the News Corp journalists who endlessly, every day twit Dan Andrews with the same questions. Why should the state pursue public health and safety instead of profits for business at any costs?

Similarly, in his tedious repetition of his vacuous slogan “open the nation for business”, Trumpista Scott Morrison exhibits the same pathological indifference to others; the same failure to imagine another’s pain, along with an alarming poverty of mind and spirit which simply make him unfit to lead. He should resign over the sports rorts alone.

In their own ways, the rise of Trumpism and the coronavirus pandemic have helped create an environment where Morrison and Murdoch’s minions’ claims that we must endlessly pursue selfish competition – that greed is good and might is right – are so vividly exposed as toxic aberrations and hopelessly, grotesquely inadequate to the times’ need for compassion, co-operation, community and humanity.

We must expose their lies; continue to hold them to account.

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COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United States or Ukania? (At the school of Doctor Rasputin: part 4)

Continued from: COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United States or Ukania? (At the school of Doctor Rasputin: part 3)

By Outsider

On 30 March 2020 The Nation published a study of Gates’ modus operandi and concluded that Bill Gates gives to the rich (including himself).

In the fall of 2019 Netflix premiered a three-part documentary which promises viewers a rare look at the inner life of one of history’s most controversial businessmen. Over three hours, Inside Bill’s brain showed the viewers a rare emotional side to Bill Gates as he processed the loss of his mother and the death of his estranged best friend and Microsoft cofounder, Paul Allen.

Mostly, though, the film reinforced the image many of the viewers already had of the ambitious technologist, insatiable brainiac, and heroic philanthropist.

While the efforts of fellow billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg to use his wealth to win the presidency foundered amid intense media criticism, Gates has proved that there is a far easier path to political power, one which allows unelected billionaires to shape public policy in ways that almost always generate favorable headlines: charity.

When Gates announced in 2008 that he would step away from Microsoft to focus his efforts on philanthropy, he described his intention to work with and through the private sector to deliver public-goods products and technologies, in the same way that Microsoft’s computer software expanded horizons and created economic opportunities. Describing his approach by turns as “creative capitalism” and “catalytic philanthropy,” Gates oversaw a shift at his foundation to leverage “all the tools of capitalism” to “connect the promise of philanthropy with the power of private enterprise.”

The result has been a new model of charity in which the most direct beneficiaries are sometimes not the world’s poor but the world’s wealthiest, in which the goal is not to help the needy but to help the rich help the needy.

Through an investigation of more than 19,000 charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made over the last two decades, The Nation uncovered close to $2 billion in tax-deductible charitable donations to private companies – including some of the largest businesses in the world, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, I.B.M., and N.B.C. Universal Media – which are engaged in developing new drugs, improving sanitation in the developing world, developing financial products for Muslim consumers, and spreading the good news about this work.

“It’s been a quite unprecedented development, the amount that the Gates Foundation is gifting to corporations. … I find that flabbergasting, frankly,” says Linsey McGoey, a professor of sociology at the University of Essex and author of the book No Such Thing as a Free Gift. (L. McGoey, No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, Verso, London, 2016). “They’ve created one of the most problematic precedents in the history of foundation giving by essentially opening the door for corporations to see themselves as deserving charity claimants at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high.”

McGoey’s research anecdotally highlighted charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made to private companies, such as a $19 million donation to a Mastercard affiliate in 2014 to “increase usage of digital financial products by poor adults” in Kenya. The credit card giant had already articulated its keen business interest in cultivating new clients from the developing world’s 2.5 billion unbanked people, McGoey said, so why did it need a wealthy philanthropist to subsidize its work? And why are Bill and Melinda Gates getting a tax break for this donation?

The Nation found close to $250 million in charitable grants from the Gates Foundation to companies in which the foundation holds corporate stocks and bonds: Merck, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Vodafone, Sanofi, Ericsson, LG, Medtronic, Teva, and numerous start-ups – with the grants directed at projects like developing new drugs and health monitoring systems and creating mobile banking services.

Here are some data concerning such generosity.

The Nation commented: “A foundation giving a charitable grant to a company that it partly owns – and stands to benefit from financially – would seem like an obvious conflict of interest, but judging from the sparse rules that [the United States] Congress has written governing private foundations and the Internal Revenue Service’s light enforcement of them, many in the federal government do not appear to see it that way.

The Gates Foundation did not respond to specific questions about its work with the private sector, nor would it provide its own accounting of how much money it has given to for-profit companies, saying that “many grants are implemented through a mixture of non-profit and for-profit partners, making it difficult to evaluate exact spending.”

At business-friendly events, however, Bill Gates openly promotes his foundation’s work with companies. In speeches delivered at the American Enterprise Institute and Microsoft in 2013 and 2014, he trumpeted the lives his foundation was saving – in one speech he said 10 million, in another 6 million – through “partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.”

Yet the Foundation is doing more than simply partnering with companies: It is subsidising their research costs, opening up markets for their products, and bankrolling their bottom lines in ways which, by and large, have never been publicly examined – even as the taxpayer is subsidising this work.

Bill Gates frequently boasts about having paid more taxes – $10 billion – than anyone else. That may or may not be true; the Gates Foundation would not release his tax forms or provide any substantiating information. But he may also end up avoiding more taxes than anyone else, through charitable giving.

Ray Madoff, a law professor at Boston College, indicated that multibillionaires see ‘tax savings’ of at least 40 per cent – which, for Bill Gates, would amount to $14 billion – when one factors in the tax benefits that charity offers to the superrich: avoidance of capital gains taxes – normally 15 per cent – and estate taxes – 40 per cent on everything over $11.58 million, which in Gates’ case is a lot.

Madoff, like many tax experts, stresses that these billions of dollars in tax savings have to be seen as a public subsidy – money that otherwise would have gone to the U.S. Treasury to help build bridges, do medical research, or close the funding gap at the I.R.S. – which has resulted in fewer audits of billionaires. If Bill and Melinda Gates do not pay their full freight in taxes, the public has to make up the difference or simply live in a world where governments do less and less: educating, vaccinating, and researching and super-rich philanthropists do more and more.

“I think people often confuse what wealthy people are doing on their own dime and what [they’re] doing on our dime, and that’s one of the big problems about this debate,” professor Madoff noted. “People say, ‘It’s the rich person’s money [to spend as they wish].’ But when they get significant tax benefits, it’s also our money. And so that’s why we need to have rules about how they spend our money.”

Naturally, Big Philanthropy has special interest groups pushing back on the creation of such rules. The Philanthropy Roundtable defends the wealthiest Americans’ “freedom to give,” describing itself as fighting the “increasing pressures from some public officials and advocacy groups to subject private philanthropies to more uniform standards and stricter government regulation.”

At a certain point, however, the Philanthropy Roundtable seems primarily to serve the private interests of billionaires like the Gates and Charles Koch who use charity to influence public policy, with limited oversight and substantial public subsidies. It is unclear how the Philanthropy Roundtable’s work contributes to the Gates Foundation’s charitable missions “to help all people live healthy, productive lives” and “to empower the poorest in society so they can transform their lives.”

While there is no credible argument that Bill and Melinda Gates use charity primarily as a vehicle to enrich themselves or their foundation, it is difficult to ignore the occasions where their charitable activities seem to serve mainly private interests, including theirs – supporting the schools their children attend, the companies their Foundation partly controls, and the special interest groups which defend wealthy Americans, while generating billions of dollars in tax savings.

Gates was already one of the richest humans on earth in 2008, but he was also an embattled billionaire, still licking his wounds from a series of legal battles around the monopolistic business practices that made him so extravagantly wealthy – and that compelled Microsoft to pay billions of dollars in fines and settlements.

Gates is notoriously secretive about his personal investments, however, making it difficult to understand if he stands to gain financially from his foundation’s activities or the extent to which he does if this happens.

“It’s hard to draw the line between a) Microsoft; b) his own personal wealth and investment; and c) the foundation,” says consumer advocate Ralph Nader, one of Microsoft’s fiercest critics in the 1990s. “There’s been very inadequate media scrutiny of all that.”

Gates’ “strategic investment fund,” which the foundation says is designed to advance its philanthropic goals, not to generate investment income, includes a $7 million equity stake in the start-up company AgBiome, whose other investors include the agrochemical companies Monsanto and Syngenta. The Foundation also gave the company $20 million in charitable grants to develop pesticides for African farmers. Similarly, the foundation has a $50 million stake in Intarcia and an $8 million investment in Just Biotherapeutics, to which it gave $25 million and $32 million in charitable grants, respectively, for work related to H.I.V. and malaria. At one point, the foundation held a 48 percent stake in an H.I.V. diagnostic company called Zyomyx, to which it previously awarded millions of dollars in charitable grants.

Asked about these apparent conflicts of interest, a spokesperson for the Foundation said that grants and investments “are simply two tools the foundation uses as appropriate to further its charitable objectives.”

When Gates began his Foundation in 1994, he put his father, Bill Gates Sr., in charge. A prominent lawyer in Seattle, Gates Sr. was also a civic leader and, later, a public advocate on issues related to income inequality.

Working with Chuck Collins, an heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune who gave away much of his inheritance during his 20s, Gates Sr. helped organise a successful national campaign in the late 1990s and early 2000s to build political power around preserving the estate tax, the taxes levied against the assets of the wealthy after they die.

In interviews Gates Sr. gave at the time, his advocacy work seemed designed not to generate tax revenues but to inspire philanthropy.

“A wealthy person has an absolute choice as to whether they pay the [estate] tax or whether they give their wealth to their university or their church or their foundation,” he told journalist Bill Moyers.

That is because when the rich give away their wealth, they reduce the assets that the estate tax targets. But such an arrangement, whereby the wealthiest Americans get to decide for themselves whether they want to pay taxes or donate their money to charity – including two groups which influence government policy – sounds like a peak example of tone-deaf privilege. In many respects, that is how the tax system works for the super-rich. So, the richer you are, the more choice you have between those two groups.

Around the time that Gates Sr. was putting pressure on Congress to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, the younger Gates was running a multinational company aggressively looking for tax breaks. According to the assessor’s office for King County, which includes Seattle, Microsoft has filed 402 appeals on its property taxes. Similarly, a 2012 Senate investigation examined Microsoft’s aggressive use of offshore subsidiaries to save the company billions of dollars in taxes. And The Seattle Times reported that Microsoft spent decades creating lucrative, tax-reducing barriers around corporate profits.

When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has faced criticism in regard to its endowment – including investments in prisons, fast food, the arms industry, pharmaceutical companies, and fossil fuels – conflicting with its charitable mission to improve health and well-being, Gates has pushed back in black-and-white terms, calling divestment a “false solution” that will have “zero” impact. A Foundation spokesperson said it “does not comment on specific investment decisions or holdings,” but did note that the “sole purpose” of its endowment is “to provide income to support the Foundation’s mission and to be capable to do so over the long term.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s endowment currently has an $11.5 billion stake in Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn has $32 million invested in the chocolate company Mondelez, which has been criticised in relation to the use of child labour. The Foundation made $32.5 million in charitable donations to the World Cocoa Foundation, an industry group the members of which include Mondelez, for a project to improve farmer livelihoods. The project does not appear to address child labour.

Because the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation views market-based solutions and private-sector innovation as public goods, the line between charity and business can be indistinguishable. Sociologist Linsey McGoey says: “They’ve defined their charitable mission so broadly and loosely that literally any for-profit company could be said to be meeting the Gates Foundation’s general goal of improving social and global well-being.”

According to I.R.S. statistics, there are around 100,000 private foundations in the United States, housing close to $1 trillion in assets. However, foundations generally pay a tax rate of only 1 or 2 per cent, and the I.R.S. reports auditing, at most, 263 foundations in 2018.

In the absence of outside scrutiny, the Gates Foundation has had far-reaching effects on public policy, pushing privately run charter schools into states where courts and voters have rejected them, using earmarked funds to direct the World Health Organization to work on the Foundation’s global health agenda, and subsidising Merck’s and Bayer’s entry into developing countries. Gates, who routinely appears on the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people, has proved that philanthropy can buy political influence.

Gates’ personal wealth is greater today than ever before, around $100 billion, and at only 65 years of age, he may have decades left to donate this money, picking up a Nobel Prize along the way or – who knows? – a presidential nomination. The same could be said of Melinda Gates, who, at 55, not long ago took a big step into public life with a highly publicised book tour.

But it is also possible that a day of reckoning is coming for Big Philanthropy, Bill Gates, and the growing number of billionaires following his footsteps into charity.

Economists, politicians, and journalists continue to put a spotlight on billionaires who are not paying their fair share of taxes but who shape politics through campaign contributions and lobbying. Charity is seldom regarded as a tax-avoiding tool of influence, but if income inequality continues to gain attention, there is simply no way to avoid asking tough questions of Big Philanthropy. Do billionaire philanthropists have too much power, with too little public accountability or transparency? Should the wealthiest Americans have carte blanche to spend their wealth any way they want?

It may seem like a radical proposition to challenge the ability or desire of multibillionaires to give away their fortunes, but such scrutiny has a historical precedent in mainstream politics. One hundred years ago, when oil baron John D. Rockefeller asked Congress to provide him with a charter to start a private foundation, his ambitions were soundly rejected as an anti-democratic power grab. As Theodore Roosevelt said at the time: “No amount of charities in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.” (T. Schwab, Bill Gates Gives to the Rich (Including Himself), Bill Gates charity paradox, The Nation, 30.03.2020).

Gates does not respond to multiple requests for interviews, but in a rather recent Q&A with The Wall Street Journal, he revisited his legal face-off with antitrust regulators, saying, “I can still explain to you why the government was completely wrong, but that’s really old news at this point. For me personally, it did accelerate my move into that next phase, two to five years sooner, of shifting my focus over to the foundation.” In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gates reflected on his shifting public image (J. Jurgensen, In Bill Gates’s Mind, a Life of Processing – A new documentary profiles the tech-titan-turned-philanthropist, WSJ, 10.09.2019).

Gates’ view of Microsoft as the victim of overzealous antitrust regulations may help explain the laissez-faire ethos driving his charitable giving. His Foundation has given money to groups which push for industry-friendly government policies and regulation, including the Drug Information Association – directed by Big Pharma – and the International Life Sciences Institute – funded by Big Ag. He has also funded nonprofit think tanks and advocacy groups which want to limit the role of government or direct its resources toward helping business interests, like the American Enterprise Institute: $6.8 million, the American Farm Bureau Foundation: $300,000, the American Legislative Exchange Council: $220,000, and organisations associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $15.5 million.

Between 2011 and 2014 the Gates Foundation gave roughly $100 million to InBloom, an educational technology initiative which dissolved in controversy around privacy issues and its collection of personal data and information about students. To Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University, InBloom illustrates the way Gates is “working to push technology in classrooms, to replace teachers with computers.” “That affects Microsoft’s bottom line,” Ravitch observed. “However, I’ve never made that argument. … [The Foundation] is not looking to make money from this business. They have an ideological interest in free markets.”

Education is not the only area where Gates’ ideological interests overlap with his financial interests. Microsoft’s bottom line is heavily dependent on patent protections for its software, and the Gates Foundation has been a strong and consistent supporter of intellectual property rights, including for the pharmaceutical companies with which it works closely. These patent protections are widely criticised for making lifesaving drugs prohibitively expensive, particularly in the developing world.

“He uses his philanthropy to advance a pro-patent agenda on pharmaceutical drugs, even in countries that are really poor,” says longtime Gates critic James Packard ‘Jamie’ Love, the director of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International. “Gates is sort of the right wing of the public-health movement. He’s always trying to push things in a pro-​corporate direction. He’s a big defender of the big drug companies. He’s undermining a lot of things that are really necessary to make drugs affordable to people that are really poor. It’s weird because he gives so much money to [fight] poverty, and yet he’s the biggest obstacle on a lot of reforms.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s sprawling work with for-profit companies has created a welter of conflicts of interest, in which the Foundation, its three trustees: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Edward Buffett or their companies could be seen as financially benefiting from the group’s charitable activities.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has billions of dollars in investments in companies that the Foundation has helped over the years, including Mastercard and Coca-Cola. Bill Gates long sat on the board of directors at Berkshire Hathaway, announcing his departure just recently, and he and his Foundation together hold billions of dollars of equity stake in the investment firm.

The Foundation’s work also appears to overlap with Microsoft’s, to which Gates, in recent years, has devoted one-third of his workweek. Gates announced recently that he would be stepping down from the company’s board, but remain involved with the company as a technology advisor. The Gates Foundation’s $200 million programme to improve public libraries partnered with Microsoft to donate the company’s software, prompting criticism that the donations were aimed at “seeding the market” for Microsoft products and “lubricating future sales.” Elsewhere, Microsoft is investing money studying mosquitoes to help predict disease outbreaks, working with the same researchers as the Foundation. Both projects involve creating sophisticated robots and traps to collect and analyse mosquitoes.

“The Foundation and Microsoft are separate entities, and our work is wholly unrelated to Microsoft,” a Gates Foundation spokesperson said.

In 2002 The Wall Street Journal reported that Gates and the Gates Foundation’s endowment made new investments in Cox Communications at the same time that Microsoft was in discussion with Cox about a variety of business deals. Tax experts raised questions about self-dealing, noting that foundations can lose their tax-exempt status if they are found to be using charity for personal gain. The I.R.S. would not comment on whether it investigated, saying, “Federal law prohibits us from discussing specific taxpayers or organizations.”

The Foundation’s clearest conflicts of interest may be the grants it gives to for-profit companies in which it holds investments – large corporations like Merck and Unilever. A Foundation spokesperson said that it tries to avoid this kind of financial conflict but that doing so is difficult because its investment and charitable arms are firewalled from one another to keep their activities strictly separate. Bill and Melinda Gates are trustees of both entities, however, making it difficult to draw a sharp line between the two.

And in some places, the Gates Foundation explicitly marries its investing and charitable activities.

For some billionaire philanthropists, it may be less of a choice than an entitlement. Buffett and Gates have recruited hundreds of millionaires and billionaires to sign the Giving pledge, a promise to donate most of their wealth to charity, that some signatories explicitly cite as an alternative to paying taxes.

Bill Gates Sr. had a nuanced view which included limiting billionaires’ tax benefits. Gates Sr. said to a journalist: “It is a problem that my son is going to give – at the time, it was like $80 billion – to the Foundation and never have to pay taxes on any of that wealth.” His view was that there should be a cap on the lifetime amount of wealth which could be given to charity where one would get a deduction.

Bill Gates, nevertheless, has managed to become a leading – and seemingly progressive – public voice on tax policy. Every year around tax time, he and Buffett make media appearances decrying how little they pay in taxes, calling on Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy. At times, however, they advocate policies which may not actually touch their wealth, such as promoting the estate tax, that they will likely avoid through charitable donations.

Gates, along with a growing chorus of billionaires, has also used his public platform to push back on a proposed wealth tax. A wealth tax would take a percentage of a billionaire’s assets every year, limiting the accumulation of wealth – and possibly the amount of money spent on philanthropy. Gates counters that charity work reduces income inequality. “Philanthropy done well not only produces direct benefits for society, it also reduces dynastic wealth,” he wrote on his blog, GatesNotes.

Continued Saturday …

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