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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Watching Richard Di Natale posit the Greens political philosophy on Insiders with Barrie Cassidy (ABCTV 19/08/2017) reminded me of Kermit the Frog’s cutesy tune, It’s Not Easy Being Green.

On the eve of another round of political destabilisation, Di Natale had an opportunity to make a case for Greens’ values. Instead the interview ended with the leader defending an increasingly irrelevant so-called leftist party.

Di Natale and thousands of Greens supporters refer to mainstream political groupings as ‘the old parties’. This despite the fact a majority of the Greens faithful — at least in the electorate where I live — are white-haired baby boomers or greying Gen Xers. These well-educated trend makers have gentrified popular inner-city electorates to such an extent they are now no-go zones for up and coming millennials. The 20 somethings, who prowl the charming inner-city streets, cannot and will not own local real estate, yet Di Natale’s rank and file don’t see the inherent contradiction with this new-fangled colonisation.

Parsing Di Natale’s political rhetoric exposed the hypocrisy of the Greens under his leadership. Instead of calculating his responses he made his political tactics crystal clear to an incoming Labor Government should the electorate choose to kick Turnbull out at the next election.

Di Natale said the Greens would oppose a revamped energy policy.

But apart from trotting out the usual tropes of more renewables and attacking Labor’s base in coal mining electorates, such as the Hunter region, Di Natale failed to articulate his own party’s energy policy. Cassidy gave him the opportunity, and Di Natale fluffed it, choosing instead to speak to his uncritical supporters. Rather than answer the obvious follow-up question Di Natale avoided his party’s greatest environmental failure.

Cassidy recalled August 2009 when Greens elder statesperson Bob Brown voted down Kevin Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme. During this ignoble Greens train-crash, Brown rationalised the target of five per cent reduction, too small. In a subsequent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Brown said the Greens target of 25 to 40 per cent reduction meant “the foundation is there to get it right”.

In fact, had the Greens supported the legislation, the energy debacle which continues to roil Australian politics, would likely have disappeared.

Brown’s catastrophic political misjudgement is now Di Natale’s legacy, and his utterances on Insiders make it almost impossible to imagine a well-disciplined incoming Labor Cabinet countenancing any deal with the Greens over energy.

The Australian electorate want the energy wars to end and Labor is aware of this self-evident truth.

As the producer gave the wind-up, Cassidy asked Di Natale about allegations of sexual abuse in the Greens Party, aired on a recent edition of the ABC’s 7.30 Report.

At least three young Greens women stared down the camera and recounted their graphic and grievous experiences. The women are part of an inner-city cohort which sit on milk crate stools, sip coffee and dream about a world without coal mines. Perfect cannon fodder for the Greens who are expert at exploiting idealism. But their day-to-day reality is badly paid work in the gig-economy as baristas or waiters, and being groped by political hipster yobs. Unfortunately, this behaviour is not confined to the Greens Party, but on Insiders Di Natale squibbed the matter by saying he could not comment because of an on-going investigation.

Ask one of these women, or their millennial friends, to list the number of inner city music venues closed down by Greens ‘community action,’ because the noise of people enjoying themselves distract Dakota and Jemima from their Pilates exercises. Or speak to one of my neighbours who still shudder when recalling a Greens pincer hijack of a Westconnex meeting at the nearby Jimmy Little Centre.

A quick trawl of social media reveals a party waging an internal stoush every bit as fierce as the Second Battle of Kharkov. Stalinists take note. But Richard Di Natale is no Nikita Khrushchev. He is a well-heeled Melbournian Senator representing a constituency identical to my local NSW State seat of Balmain

Before his election four years ago, the successful Greens aspirant for Balmain Jamie Parker, letter boxed the electorate with a stark, blue flier. On it were printed these words: “If you’re voting Liberal 1, give Jamie Parker your number 2. The Greens.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney based author. His book, Best and Fairest is available at Valentine Press.

The war at home

TONY ABBOTT: If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband. Not withstanding all his or her faults, you find that he tends to do more good than harm.

While Tony Abbott spends billions on his war on terror, he has slashed funding to the real terror that so many Australian households face on a daily basis.

In Victoria alone, police were called out to 65,393 domestic violence incidents in 2013–14 – twice as many as in 2009–10. Of those, almost 30,000 were serious enough for police to press charges. Last year, 66,326 domestic violence incidents were reported in Queensland – a 13% increase since 2012.

Despite this growing epidemic of domestic violence, this government wants to make it more expensive to leave an abusive partner.

Yesterday, it was reported in the SMH that the Abbott government will try to raise divorce fees for the third time in an attempt to help restore the Family Courts’ finances.

With their usual negotiating finesse, the government has previously threatened to cut frontline services, close registries and not to replace retiring judges if higher fees were not maintained, saying they were necessary to keep the Family and Federal Circuit Courts financially sustainable.

They now need to convince six crossbench Senators to change their minds to get the fees passed in the next sitting period in September. With their recent success in stopping wind turbines, I wonder what the crossbench may have promised in return.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that this government is only paying lip service to addressing domestic violence.

In the last federal budget, the only new funding was $16.7 million over three years for a National Awareness Campaign to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

Community pressure forced a temporary reprieve from the previous budget cuts with funding to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and to community and Indigenous legal services extended for two years. Their future beyond 2017 remains uncertain.

Many of these legal services are already stretched to their limits. A&TSI incarceration rates continue to be a national shame and with the government maintaining their restrictions on legal advocacy, the capacity for legal services to work with communities to decrease legal problems is diminished.

In 2014, 1800RESPECT – the national 24/7 crisis line for sexual assault, domestic and family violence – responded to 54,853 contacts but left 18,631 unanswered. This means that one-quarter of contacts made to that service were not responded to when someone called for help. If the awareness campaign increases the volume of calls, who will answer them?

Thousands of NSW school children will lose access to a vital domestic violence education program and support service after the federal government axed its funding. The award-winning REALskills program, which has run successfully for 12 years teaching more than 7000 high school students about healthy relationships and domestic abuse, was axed by Scott Morrison.

Colleen Dowd, manager of community projects at the Family Centre at Tweed Heads, said it was difficult to understand the logic behind the decision to axe the REALskills, when no other service had received a grant locally, to replace it.

“The thrust of our program centres around arming young people with relationship-related skills as well as building up their resilience, ability and knowledge to connect with support services when they need them,” she said.

She said the service also featured early intervention work with students, identified by the schools, as needing support. “Through face to face interaction with service providers in schools, the youngsters are realising it’s not so bad to reach out and talk…whether that be about family violence, their own mental health problems or issues of engagement at school. But it is all about to go.”

Morrison also cut $2.4 million from specialised family violence programs that work with men to end their violent behaviour towards family members.

Last year, the government unveiled its Indigenous Advancement Strategy to streamline Indigenous funding into five categories: jobs and economy, children and schooling, safety and wellbeing, culture and capability and remote Australia strategies.

Of the successful applications in the last round of funding of the Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy, over half were granted to large non-Indigenous organisations before the funding round had actually opened.

Funding applications for programmes such as the Thumbs Up program, run by the Jimmy Little Foundation and geared around nutrition for young Aboriginal people, and the Djarindjin Safe House, a women’s shelter servicing 50 communities in Northern WA, were rejected despite the vital work they do.

The safe house was built at the Djarindjin community, 200 kilometres north of Broome, in 2014. The project was driven by local women, who had themselves been the victims of domestic violence and wanted to find a way to protect the younger generations.

The Federal Government contributed $500,000 towards setting it up and provided $180,000 for running costs.

Manager Dawn Thompson said lives would be put at risk by the funding cut.

“To be honest, we were shocked, because this is an essential service,” she said. “Since we opened, we’ve provided a safe place for 60 women and children, so it’s something that’s badly needed.”

Djarindjin Community Council chairman Brian Lee is furious.

He said the safe house project aligns perfectly with the Federal Government’s stated aims of promoting community safety and local employment, and they have been given no explanation of why their funding application was unsuccessful.

“We’re in the situation of telling four or five women that after a month, they don’t have a job,” Mr Lee said.

“And if it’s not funded, we have to tell the women who come here to be safe that we can’t help them anymore, that we cannot keep them safe, all because there is no funding to the safe house running.

These are just a few examples of successful programs that have had their funding cut.

There has also been alleged coercion in making some funding applications for Aboriginal Health Organisations contingent on that organisation being able to show support for the Government campaign to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution.

It is a very worrying trend that this government silences advocacy, makes funding dependent on compliance, and takes no advice about where funds would be best invested. There is no recognition of prevention measures or the necessity to change the culture starting with our kids. It appears they are not interested in the continuation of programs geared around self-determination.

Instead of more bombs for Syria, how about some funding for the frontline services dealing with the war at home.


This is Australia – um … isn’t it?

Australia – the land of a fair go, of mate-ship and of lending a hand. I’ve always believed that. But under Abbott, is this changing? When I hear the line “This is Australia” from the well known GANGgajang song, Sounds of Then (This is Australia) this is how I feel.  

This song resonates with me. When I hear this song, I feel the sounds, smells, the beauty of our country and our mateship are unique to Australia. They are ours and it is something to be proud of. It makes me feel grounded. Something I heard on the radio on Wednesday night made me think; “This is Australia … um … isn’t it?”

On Wednesday night, one of the members of GANGgajang, Graham “Buzz” Bistrup (ex-Angels, GANGgajang and one of the masterminds behind the best ABC show ever “Sweet and Sour“) was a guest on radio show The Musical Chair.  He was discussing GANGgajang, his work on the ABC’s 80’s iconic Sweet and Sour and the good work of the Jimmy Little Foundation. Buzz is the CEO of the Jimmy Little Foundation.

The Jimmy Little Foundation is a not for profit organisation who aim to improve the quality of life for Indigenous Australians and to provide health and nutrition education and to strive for excellence in health care for Indigenous Australians.  They do this through music and video. Jimmy Little was a celebrated and beloved Australian Aboriginal musician, actor and advocate whose career spanned six decades. A Yorta Yorta man, he was raised on the Cummerangunja Mission in New South Wales.

The Jimmy Little Foundation runs a great program called the “Thumbs Up – Healthy Tucker for Life” program. The program advice on the website states that this is a “Schools Program aimed at Indigenous children aged 5-16. A creative environment using music and new media workshops in schools and community concerts is employed to promote healthy eating education and information in partnership with local stores and local health services.” 

It was on this radio segment I found out that the Abbott Government has cut funding to the Jimmy Little Foundation’s Programs. Once again the Abbott Government reinforces that they are not serious about funding Indigenous programs or services in Australia.

The Jimmy Little Foundation has released this statement:

Our organisation was previously funded by the Federal Department of Health but the current Government has ceased funding our programs. Our venture is to raise enough money to keep our office open with a skeleton staff for 12 months so we can “stay in the game”.

Through this blog post, I encourage everyone who reads this to donate whatever they can. Even if it is a small amount. Every bit helps. So please donate to “Start Some Good” Crowd-funding to keep these wonderful programs going. Please Tweet, Share, Re-Blog so people are aware that another savage cut by Abbott affects the people who need it most and money can be raised for this very worthy cause.

Please…Start some good and donate now

Originally Published on Polyfeministix


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One step away from total fascism (part 1)

Q: What is more threatening to a democracy than a fascist?

A: A stupid one.

The Republicans have them in abundance.

My piece of a couple of weeks ago; One step away from total fascism singled out a few of them. I did not expect that in the short number of days since then that they would reach an even higher level of fascism and/or stupidity.

But here we are.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

1 What every good fascist needs is a little bit of Hitler in their daily lives.

“Neo-Nazi Homeschoolers Could Be Paid $22,000 to Teach Their Kids About Hitler.

Ohio’s “Backpack Bill” would funnel over a billion dollars of taxpayer money into homeschooling and private schools, including the neo-Nazi “Dissident Homeschool Network.”

The neo-Nazi homeschooling couple [Katja Lawrence] was unmasked earlier this week along with her husband Logan Lawrence from Upper Sandusky, Ohio could receive a huge taxpayer-funded windfall of up to $22,000 per year if Republican-backed legislation known as the “Backpack Bill” is passed by state lawmakers.”

2 They are obsessed with drag queens. Keep them away from hotels or they could become the pubs with no beer.

“DeSantis Admin Seeks to Revoke Miami Hotel’s Liquor License Over ‘Drag Queen Christmas’

Officials from the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis want to revoke the alcohol license for the Hyatt Regency Miami after one of its facilities hosted a Christmas-themed drag show opponents called a “sexually explicit performance marketed to children.”

Ron DeSantis certainly ticks all the boxes for being a dangerous fascist.



3 Guns are OK, but every Republican knows that drag queens are far more dangerous to a child’s well-being. Scarred for life, they will be, should a drag queen roll up to little Jimmy’s 5th birthday party. Send in the bounty hunters! (Yes, you read that right: bounty hunters.)

“Texas Republican Introduces Bounty Hunting Bill Targeting Drag Queens.

A Texas lawmaker proposed a bill allowing everyday people to sue anybody who hosts or performs in drag where any child is in attendance.”

But it’s OK about the guns. Especially for bounty hunters, perhaps.

It’ll be like the wild, wild west again, but 21st Century style.

4 This is too disgusting to be true, but true it is. Make sure you’re sitting down when you read it.

Lawmaker Cites the Bible in Defending Use of Corporal Punishment Against Children with Disabilities.

State Rep. Jim Olsen argued against a bill that would prohibit school employees from using corporal punishment on children with disabilities, citing Proverbs to argue, “The rod and reproof give wisdom … arguing that the Bible “would seem to endorse the use of corporal punishment.”

Speaking on the Oklahoma state floor during debate this week, Olsen argued, “God’s word is higher than all the so-called experts.”

“Several scriptures could be read here,” Olsen added, The Washington Post reports. “Let me read just one, Proverbs 29: ‘The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.’ So that would seem to endorse the use of corporal punishment.”

 DeSantis again. He’s certainly getting in a lot of fascism practice.



From the article:

“Ron DeSantis Wants to Make It a Felony to Have an Undocumented Person in Your Home or Car.

A new Florida bill criminalizes not just undocumented Floridians but anyone who associates with them.”

I wonder if he’ll also get some bounty hunters after them. It seems to be the done thing.

Friends in America tell me that DeSantis is worse than Trump. It’s hard to imagine, but I trust their word.

I hope they never find out how bad he can really be.


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Republicans Revive #Forcethevote

Background: Slim Majorities and Factional Power

One of the more interesting aspects of the recent midterm elections has come from the race for control of the House. Per the most recent results (which are constantly changing), it seems as though Republicans will take back control of the House. The wrinkle comes when we consider the majority they are likely to have: a single seat (+/- 4). When it comes to electing a Speaker, a majority is required. Current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is slated to become Speaker if the GOP takes over. Since the vote is likely to be partisan, a slim majority gives factions within the GOP majority great power. Where have we seen this before?

A Quick History of the Original #Forcethevote

You may recall a few years back that the Democrats had a slim majority in the House. This gave their factional groups, for instance the Squad, the chance to demand something for their vote. Specifically, activists for #medicareforall demanded that these Congresspeople withhold their vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker until she brought M4A to a vote on the floor. Whether due to pressure from colleagues, not wanting to rock the boat, or whatever BS reason they came up with, the Squad caved and Pelosi became Speaker. You had the chance to expose the corrupt duopoly for what it was and you blew it.

Not only did they not demand anything for their vote, but they also smeared those who then tried to hold them to account for their inaction (Jimmy Dore is a noted example). This showed their political ineptitude, yes, but I am more inclined to use the political science term Institutional Capture. This is where a new member of an institution starts out eager for reform, but is taken in and broken down by the institution. The Squad started out as quite ideological (AOC protested outside Nany Pelosi’s office) but the institution ultimately broke them down. If the recent example of the letter dealing with diplomacy in Ukraine is any example, the Squad has lost any political courage they ever had.

Old Band, New Members: The Freedom Caucus and #Forcethevote, Part One

A useful article from Fox News informs what follows. The article outlines the demands of the Freedom Caucus in this way

The Freedom Caucus is angling to include a provision within the House Rules package allowing for any member to offer at any time motion to vacate the speaker’s chair – a change it will push for assuming Republicans take control of the House.

A curious setup. Essentially, the Freedom Caucus is demanding that McCarthy, as the price for being made Speaker, ascent to a rule that could remove him from that position at any time. Talk about a crown of thorns. It is interesting that ‘any member’ [of the House] can originate such a motion. The question is how badly does McCarthy want to be Speaker? This brings to mind what happened during former Speaker John Boehner’s tenure: a similar group of hardliners held the Speaker’s position in their hands. They were ‘the power behind the throne’ and took full advantage. Boehner would eventually resign because he could not control his troops.

The Fox News article referenced above actually uses the magic phrase ‘force a vote’ in the next sentence

The parliamentary gambit would let hardline members force a vote on retaining the speaker

Interesting, is it not? The hardline members of the GOP potential majority are actually willing to force a vote on McCarthy as Speaker. Force a vote: where have I heard that before? Where have I heard the idea of withholding votes from a candidate for Speaker in exchange for policy/procedural concessions? I cannot place it.

Old Band, New Members; The Freedom Caucus and #Forcethevote, Part Two

There is a saying that power concedes nothing without a demand. These hardliners are likely to get what they want (at least in part), since career politicians obsessed with power will sell their souls to get it. The Freedom Caucus is many things, but politically unintelligent is not one of them. They know McCarthy values power over principles and are exploiting that. Why will the Squad not do the same?

Conclusion: The Lessons for The Squad

The concept that a subgroup of the GOP majority would essentially hold the would-be Speaker of the House hostage is hardly new. Hardline Republican Congresspeople have done this before. The Squad could learn a great deal from this: if you actually show the political spine to stick to your convictions, you can achieve great things. The so-called Progressives of the Democratic Party clearly lack the political spine to, as GOP Representative Andy Biggs called it ‘hold their own leadership accountable’.

In times of slim majorities, small subgroups within political parties can extract considerable concessions. The Freedom Caucus sees this. The so-called Progressives inside the Democratic Party are evidently too scared of getting offside with leadership (who already hold them in complete contempt anyway). Newsflash, you naive numpties: no amount of ‘playing ball’ is going to get you onside with the leadership. Giving them your vote does not earn you ‘brownie points’. They are, in their own minds, very much entitled to your vote. Your job, as far as they are concerned, is to fall in line and vote as Pelosi tells you. No independent thought, no protest, and certainly no colouring outside the lines. Get it through your thick skulls that they are never going to let you ‘in the club’.

Epilogue: Wearing the Inside Out

A question for the Squad: you are outsiders (indeed, you ran as outsiders) so why would you seek to get in the club? You were elected to be the brick through the establishment window, yet we find you doing little aside from useless showmanship (consider the recent letter around diplomacy in Ukraine). To be generous, I suppose it is not entirely your fault: Institutional Capture is a very real issue. But if the Republicans can, in Biggs’ words, hold their leadership to account (or at least threaten to do so – which is more than you did), I see no reason why you cannot do the same thing, Unless, of course, you are afraid.

This piece has probably come across as quite critical of the Squad, and there is some truth to this. The Republicans have set the example (here and in the past) of how to extract concessions from your leadership. The Progressives are either too politically cowardly, or they value their careers too much to rock the boat. It is fitting, I think, to end with a quote from AOC

The Republicans galvanize their base by inciting a lot of fear; they operate on a lot of mythmaking. So we have to have something compelling. We shouldn’t be afraid to be bold.

Indeed is all I have to say to that.

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Farhad Bandesh gets the letter

By Jane Salmon  

This sadistic letter (see letter at the bottom of this article) is doing the rounds of Medevac survivors on Bridging Visas. It shows that Labor have yet to end the abuse meted out to those held offshore since 2013. This outrageous immigration stance reduces Labor to the low moral level of Dutton, Morrison and Abbott who used refugees as mere deterrents. Labor’s position is an electoral bonus for the Greens and Teal Independents.

My response:

Going to NZ is brutal for people such as Farhad Bandesh who has long standing friendships, business partnerships and started to build a life here. His cohort has already been bullied with iron bars on Manus at Australia’s behest, made sick, been held in hotel detention and pushed from pillar to post by Australia. We have yet to heal or compensate them adequately. Enough is enough. Farhad has a business here. NZ is splendid, though smaller and less diverse.

It is legal under the Geneva Convention to seek asylum by any means.

The so called “Sovereign Borders” doctrine is rubbish. “Push” factors outweigh any “pull” factors. People only resort to boats if there are no other options. Naval interception happens.

If the Labor Federal Government can create an orderly and efficient visa process and boats will be less attractive. They have so far baulked at this challenge.

Australia has yet to sort out regional processing pathways and processes. Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan remain unstable and unsafe as do Myanmar, Uyghur China and Sri Lanka, parts of Africa. The fact that Bangladesh, Turkey and Pakistan are drawing the majority of refugees speaks for itself.

Why is it that Shorten can start overhauling the NDIS in days … but Giles and O’Neill are still listening to and being stymied by the old guard?

We have a workforce shortage exacerbated by short-sighted racist policies.

Farhad is contributing to industry, commerce, tax and culture. What’s not to love? Ditto Moz, Thanush and their friends.

Labor will be judged by their deeds, not their rhetoric. Their actions have not significantly separated them from racist bigoted (thug) leaders like Dutton, Abbott, Morrison or Molan to date.

The culture of Home Affairs, ABF, Immigration and their contractors is unacceptable. There seems to be no capacity for change. Pezullo should not be retained.

Ongoing displacement and abuse of this cohort is intolerable. They need to heal. Healing from trauma takes peace, consistency and security.

People like Farhad, Moz and Thanush are contributors not takers. They are forgiving, resilient and capable. Their departure to the NZ or US would be our loss. That they can tolerate Australians after the abuse they have suffered at our hands is remarkable.

As an Australian citizen of 66 years, I (like others) are being denied the opportunity to maintain and develop established friendships with them.

I can promise Albo that if he behaves like Morrison he will be treated like Morrison.

Refugee advocates don’t discriminate.

Albanese needs to show moral courage.

Ending the abuse of the Bilo family was great.

But it is now overdue for Labor to prove it wasn’t a shallow gesture. End all the ongoing abuse and repair the damage.

The refugee sector will judge Labor by its acts. They end the suffering or we will help turn every marginal Teal and Green.

They get on with it or can expect a world of pain.

On the other hand, we will be very grateful for acts that substantively differentiate the current Immigration regime from that administered by Dutton, Tudge, Andrews, Morrison.

Albo, O’Neill, Giles may expect the political fate of Keneally if they further harm our refugee friends. These people are as much victims of Labor’s moral cowardice as of (bogan racist security nuts on the conservative side of politics) LNP.

Talk is cheap. Action is what matters.

As someone who has spent years trying to provide 24/7 mental health support to traumatised victims of sovereign borders policy these letters seems incredibly destructive of any hard won equanimity. It is violent to maintain this abuse. I resent the vicarious distress.

We have not yet offered reparation or fully addressed the mental and physical harm of offshore.

Pamela Curr can describe the birth trauma of women on Nauru in great detail.

These men deserve our love and care. They deserve a fair go within Australia.

Anything less is intolerable.

Jimmy Barnes, Jim Moginie of Midnight Oil, Miss Higgins, Mark Seymour, Simon Holmes a Court, artists, Angus McDonald, Craig Foster and the independent political bloc or Teals, the Bilo campaign, Gillian Triggs AND many rural Australians have demonstrated their care. Many want to share Australia with Farhad, Thanush, Moz and their cohort.

Finally the signatories to these letters are shameless and obsessively vindictive. They have already abused these men in detention using Australian taxpayer money for 9 years, opposed them in court and then demanded costs.

On the other hand, we’ll celebrate every good thing Labor does. It’s up to them. We are a very cohesive community, either way.

*(Some lawyers, Human Rights Watch and others like RCOA might have suggested that these letters carry very little legal weight but that the government will ramp up the harassment.)


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The Maybe Mob and the Rushdie Attack

He has survived death threats and attempts on his life since February 1989. But Salman Rushdie’s luck just about ran out at the Chautauqua Institution, southwest of Buffalo in New York State. On August 12, at a venue historically celebrated for bringing education to all, the writer was stabbed incessantly by a fanatic who felt little sense of guilt or remorse. Hadi Matar only had eyes for Rushdie’s neck and abdomen. As a result of the attack, the author is likely to lose sight of one eye and possibly the use of an arm.

It was a chilling reminder that the fatwa condemning him to death never risked going stale, even if it might have been put into a form of archived cold storage. Declared by the Iran’s sickly spiritual ruler, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Rushdie’s remarkable crime was to have blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad in the novel The Satanic Verses. The supreme leader, having hardly distinguished himself in a bloody war against Iraq, needed a supreme distraction.

The entire exercise was an example of how irony and humour have no place for dour, dogmatic priestliness. How dare an author, in a work of fiction, playfully and plausibly claim that the Prophet was not the sole editor of the message to Angel Gibreel (Gabriel), and that Satan had cheekily inserted his role into it? And that this was done using the medium of Gibreel Farishta’s hallucinations?

Dare Rushdie did, and this exhortation to state-sanctioned killing of an author and all those associated with translating and disseminating the book exposed the underbelly of cowardice that often accompanies attempts to defend literary freedoms. Rushdie’s translator Hitoshi Igarashi was, in fact, murdered, while his Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, was gravely wounded. The Turkish translator, Aziz Nesin, escaped a mob assault that led to 37 deaths in Silvas, Turkey.

It was one thing to find fanatics who had never read the book and wished to do away with the author in a fit of state subsidised zealotry. But then there was that camp: those who, in principle, opposed the fatwa but still wished to attack Rushdie as an act of cultural understanding and solidarity with his enemies. (Grahame Wood of The Atlantic calls them the “Team To Be Sure”, who rubbished the West’s free speech defence of Rushdie, claiming that mischief might have been averted if only he hadn’t been so inclined to offend.)

The events of 1989 cast a long shadow. There were those in holy orders, who thought that the Ayatollah had a point. There was Dr. Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, who called for a strengthening of blasphemy laws to cover religions other than Christianity, though he was also careful to “condemn incitement to murder or any other violence from any source whatever.” Very Church of England.

And there was former US President Jimmy Carter, who seemed to take issue that an author’s rights were considered fundamental even in the face of insulting religions. What, came the insinuation, about the insulted?  Where would their anger go? Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms might be “important”, but there had been “little acknowledgment that this is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated and are suffering in restrained silence.” Contemplated homicide against an author, in other words, was being excused, even if the “death sentence” was an “abhorrent response.”

It was even more galling to see fellow novelists mauling the underdog, showing how solidarity among scribes is rarer than you think. The Marxist author John Berger did not think much of Rushdie’s case, hiding behind a sham argument that producing threatening literature might well endanger “the lives of those who are innocent of either writing or reading the book.” Berger’s ingratiating note was an attempt to convince other Islamic leaders and statesmen to avoid “a unique 20th-century holy war, with its terrifying righteousness on both sides.”

Roald Dahl, man of dysfunctional virtue and author of disturbed children’s tales, decided in a letter to The Times that Rushdie was a “dangerous opportunist,” as if engaging in irony in such matters is to be avoided.  He had to have been “aware of the deep and violent feelings his book would stir up among devout Muslims.” His suggestion: a modest dose of self-censorship. “In a civilized world we have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work to reinforce this principle of free speech.” Censors from Moscow to Tehran would have approved.

Nor did John le Carré, consummate writer of espionage novels, disagree. “I don’t think it is given to any of us to be impertinent to great religions with impunity,” he told The New York Times in May 1989.

In November 1997, with le Carré complaining of being unfairly branded an anti-Semite, Rushdie wrote a pointed reminder it would have been easier “to sympathize with him had he not been so ready to join in an earlier campaign of vilification against a fellow writer.” It would have been gracious were “he to admit that he understands the nature of the Thought Police a little better now that, at last in his own opinion, he’s the one in the line of fire.”

Le Carré sniped back accordingly, taking the position he claimed to have had in 1989: “that there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity.” Little time was spent then, and now, on the malicious, sinister nature of religious totalitarianism that has been a monstrous burden on expression, critique and sober thought.  Instead, the creator of Smiley and the Circus wished to strike a “less arrogant, less colonialist, and less self-righteous note than we were hearing from the safety of his admirers’ camp.”

As Wood writes, the honourable response to the attack on Rushdie would have been to admit a failure to protect a brave author and declare “that we are all Rushdie now.” Read his work; throw his name in the faces of the regime’s apologists and their homicidal dolts. After all, while the Republic of Iran has claimed to have lost active interest in killing the author, it will not object to an independent enthusiast doing the same. The decision encouraging Rushdie’s murder, stated Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “is a bullet for which there is a target. It has been shot. It will one day sooner or later hit the target.”

This crippling germ of authorial assassination is incarnated in more current forms, without the lethal element: cancel culture, the desire to actively enact one’s offended disposition to liquidate, banish and extirpate the views of your opponent. They offend you because you, somehow, have answers beyond question. Assassination is simply one of the most extreme forms of censorship, an attempt to silence and kill off the vibrant chatter that makes an intellectual world live. Sadly, as Rushdie recovers, the maybe mob and their complicity should be noted, their names marked on walls high. The inner censoring assassin is everywhere.


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Dear Scotty (an email from his God)

To: Scooter

From: The Heavenly Father

Cc: the Son, the Holy Ghost, the Eagle painting

Hi Scoot,

Apologies for the delay in responding to your prayers, it’s been a bit frantic what with My latest round of global misanthropy and Beelzebub’s interference wrt Ukraine; not to mention the two new galaxies I have on the drawing board. I did leave a couple of messages as per the Lad’s face in your cheese toasties – whilst I am infallible that was a tad ambiguous I must confess, so thank Heavens (LOL) for modern technology where we can avoid any confusion.

You want Me to save your arse, yeah? There has been a bit of a misunderstanding, My son. Drought, fires, floods, pestilence, the mouse plague, the Canberra convoy – do you see the theme? I gave you the top job as a warning to humanity for what I had planned and as a do-nothing PM that job was also to not interfere in My malevolence. You’re familiar with My genocidal track record so I was expecting you’d readily pick up on this and the early signs were promising (kudos for Hawaii, quarantine and the old folks homes) but you then fucked up everything you touched and then hinted at My involvement … you’ve taken things too far. While blaming everyone else is a nice touch, putting Me in the frame with all of your public announcements of our supposed collaboration is not on. I’m good with the angry God routine (obvs) but you’re on your own with the constant fails – after all, My brand is ‘all powerful deity’, dude. When the time comes for Me to claim credit for something I’ll distribute a weeping statue or two and chuck in another miracle (note though that not even My omnipotence could get persona au gratin Gorgeous George laid; I tried as per your request but he has to negotiate that for himself. Please note that Brother Stuie has dibs on the stigmata – did he let you know? Sobering Barnaby up is a future option perhaps. (Thoughts?).

Regardless, there’s bad news: It’s over

I like to throw positive stuff into the mix – you know, carrot and stick, loaves and fishes, water into wine (or as I now call it, the reverse Barnaby. ROFL). Junior claims credit for those but they’re mine. Old school sure, but I don’t want a despondent, fuck-up weary flock pulling a Jim Jones – I weep on mass murder and suicide’s a no-no. My people are My greatest creation (blackholes aside – I’m pretty chuffed with those) and they need an occasional upside and I am not seeing any from you. To be frank, you’ve become an embarrassment to yourself and to Me.

I could overlook the rather tragic self-applied nickname, the risible curry cooking and the wholly invented daggy DIY dad routine, after all, the exploitation of a gullible public is the business model for My franchisees but the panicked, shrill tantrums, throwing Jen under the bus, the ukelele, the washing of a stranger’s head (I noted the baptismal undertones on that one so thank fuck you didn’t do her feet) and now the facile “reds under the beds” faux outrage – I don’t want people thinking I am advising you on this shit.

If it’s any consolation it’s not just you; it’s your entire cabal of incompetence, sleaze, grift, cruelty and planetary destruction. I’ve borrowed the résumés of the entire LNP gene puddle from Old Nick and what a disheartening read!

I once had some hope for Joshy, a nice Jewish boy, but in digging down he’s a nasty little shit, isn’t he? And innumerate to boot. Spud, as is obvious, is the anti-Christ in a human skin suit. And what’s with Fingers Taylor? I created this fucking planet and I’ll be the one to destroy it – so tell that pyromaniacal eco-maniac to back the fuck off. Spotty dick Jimmy Paterson’s Hitler Youth of the Month persona makes Me uncomfortable. I looked away first time round but questions were asked. Jimmy should focus on completing his Hitch-hikers Guide To State Forests.

The lady folk™ are no better. Michaelia (Blah Stupenda) has a future as a roof-top, active shooter alarm, Mandy Stoker gives off a Nazi doctor vibe, while Holly Hughes and Anne Ruston belong in a home for foundlings confiscating the orphans’ Christmas presents.

As for the Rustic Party, that souser BJ has the bladder control of a Wiggles concert mosh pit and an entirely misunderstood interpretation of the comfort to be derived from “thy rod and thy staff”. Sweaty Betty McKenzie, Miss Appropriation 2019 and the fastest drawers in the west would re-gift her nastiness yet she’s the best the rubes have to offer? FMD!

While it’s a good idea to assemble the worst possible people imaginable in one place that one place is not something I want My name associated with. That’s B.Bub’s domain.

You’re desperate and looking ridiculous so I say this more in sorrow than in anger. It’s time for you to get up off your knees and fuck off. If you could leave My name out of future stunts that will be most appreciated.

(Please acknowledge receipt via return email).


The G Dog


PS: Please ask Brian to forward the details of the tithe account so I can draw down on some of that lovely stash. My new Jag is a gas-guzzler and with the price of petrol lately my weekends are being ruined.


This article was originally published on Grumpy Geezer.

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Ineffectual Boycotts: The Beijing Winter Olympics

Making moral statements in the blood and gristle of international relations can often come across as feeble. In doing so, the maker serves the worst of all worlds: to reveal a false sense of assurance that something was done while serving no actual purpose other than to provoke. Anger, and impotence, follow.

The Biden administration is proving to be particularly good on that score. Since taking office US President Joe Biden has nipped at the heels of China’s Xi Jinping with moral urgency. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has lectured Beijing on human rights abuses with mistaken clarity. The Pentagon has been firming up plans for militarising the Indo-Pacific and expanding its military footprint, notably in Australia.

Now comes a sporting boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. On December 6, the White announced that US officials would not be attending the games. In the words of White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the administration would “not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.”

During the briefing, Psaki told the press about Biden’s remarks to President Xi: that “standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans.” Sporting personnel, however, would still be competing, suggesting that the spirals of such DNA might be wonky.

Washington’s additional aircraft carriers – the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada – proved to be three appendages in chiming imitation. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while stating to MPs that he did not generally support such measures, thought this exceptional. “I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the government.”

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, claimed that Beijing could hardly be surprised by his country’s stance. “We have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human rights violations.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in justifying not sending diplomats and politicians, suggested that it was “in Australia’s national interest” and “the right thing to do.”

Such moves strike a farcical note. For one, boycotts of the Olympics in the name of human rights abuses have generally been ineffectual. The International Olympic Committee has been a consistent and firm opponent of the formula, insisting that sporting endeavours are politically neutral matters. They have been aided by the fact that such boycotts are rarely uniform or evenly applied.

In 1956, Spain and Switzerland refused to send contingents to the Olympic Summer Games in Melbourne in protest against the Soviet invasion of Hungary. (Neither country could hardly claim to have squeaky clean human rights records, least of all Spain’s bloodstained fascist General Francisco Franco.) The Netherlands recalled their sporting team after they arrived in Melbourne for the same reason, though Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon did so for a rather different grievance: the Suez Crisis. “The little-noted absence of these athletes from competition,” writes Heather Dichter, “had no effect on global politics.”

The hollowness of these recent gestures against China is also evident by the fact that the ones who matter at such fixtures – the athletes – will be free to participate. Superficially, they have been treated as politically childish, even insentient. The competing athlete should have little time to ruminate over the plight of oppressed minorities or the conduct of a brutal regime.

This is the attractive, if fashionable nonsense of the IOC and, it should be said, many sporting bodies. It denies the reality that athletes are very much walking and participating statements of their country, whatever their personal beliefs. They often receive State funding and are implicated in their programs. Along with participation comes patriotism.

Sporting contingents have also expressed frustration at being used as examples of political furniture. The effects of US President Jimmy Carter’s decision to boycott the 22nd Olympiad in Moscow in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union did not go down well on the performers’ circuit. Swimmer Brian Goodell, who won the 400m and 1500m freestyle events in world-record time as a stripling of 17 at the Montreal Olympics, was crushed by Carter’s decision. “In Moscow, I would have been 21 and in the prime of my career. And zippo. (Carter) screwed with everybody’s lives. I could have made some pretty good coin.” Hardly an enlightened view, but then again, athletes are rarely selected for their capacious intellects and firm moral compasses.

When whole blocs of states have pursued sporting boycotts, some measure of difference has been achieved. The New Zealand Rugby tour of apartheid South Africa in 1976 saw a number of African states demand that the IOC expel New Zealand. Officials were cool to the suggestion, arguing that rugby had last featured as an Olympic game in 1924.

The ensuing boycott by some 20 African and Arab states of the Montreal games, which also featured the withdrawal of athletes, caused quite a stir. It troubled the UN Secretary General at the time, Kurt Waldheim, who wished “to point out that the Olympic Games have become an occasion of special significance in mankind’s search for brotherhood and understanding.”

Fancifully, the Commonwealth Secretary General Shridath Ramphal went so far as to argue that participating in the games, not withdrawing from them, would aid the “propitious resolution of wider questions.”

By not participating, the countries in question helped spur one particularly propitious resolution: the signing of the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement between Commonwealth States. In reaching the agreement, the signatory members agreed to “combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and by taking every practical step to discourage contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa or any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin.” Isolated, apartheid South Africa began facing searching domestic questions about the future of that political system.

An event free of wine guzzling and canapé gobbling dignitaries is something to cheer but leaving the sporting figures out of a “sporting boycott” is a proposition that remains pointless and absurd. The point was not missed by the authoritarian IOC president Thomas Bach. “The presence of government officials is a political decision for each government so the principle of IOC neutrality applies.”

At Beijing, sporting participants will be able to avoid the Carter experiment of 1980 and the babble about human rights and the liberty of the subject. Expect a few, however, to take the knee, though not for the Uighurs. In the meantime, the policies of the PRC will remain unchanged.


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A four phase, fur-lined, gold-plated, double-barrelled, ocean-going, right royal, shit-show.

Buddy, our PM’s photogenic pet black Schnoodle, gets his own column (paywalled) in our yellow press; The Daily Telegraph. Bet you never had Schnoodle on your ScoMo winter bingo card. Schnoodle could become a transitive verb, given the recent dip in approval ratings for Morrison in three major polls; Guardian Essential, Nine’s Resolve Monitor and NewsPoll.

Trust that mongrel, Morrison, to schnoodle up to us after failing to deliver on any vaccination promise, people could say. But how good, how quick are his new promises? If stringing a country along were an Olympic event, (and Covid’s entrance in this year’s $20bn Tokyo Olympics may cause its committee chief to pull the pin). Morrison would be sensational; a world champion, instead of making Australia a pariah over its lame “zero by 2050, preferably, BS. And now we’re a laughing stock. The BBC, CNN and NYT are asking how Australia could botch its pandemic response so comprehensively.

Now Scotty’s let everyone in Australia down. Three states are in lockdown because he couldn’t get his vax act together. Five people have died in NSW. ICUs are filling up with people who need intubation just to breathe. Your heart goes out to the family of the mother in her fifties who is found dead in her home, Saeeda Akobi Jjou Stu, 57.

Her twin sons Roni and Ramsin Shawka, 27, are charged by police for allegedly working while infectious with coronavirus. They say a language barrier is to blame. They didn’t fully understand how the lockdown applied to them. NSW Health authorities claim the deceased woman was offered “alternate” meaning alternative care. Vaccination would have helped. The Health Minister and his PM are full of lame excuses as to why vaccine supply is too little and too late.

Or silence. Other countries could secure a billion does, Chris Bowen claims. Kevin Rudd has a virtual meeting with the Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla to ask if a million doses can be brought forward. Bourla is insulted by Morrison’s attempt to bargain through a junior bureaucrat. Rudd says our PM has not bothered to pick up the phone to Bourla.

Morrison certainly knows how to use his ScoMobile. He makes fifty-five calls to thirty world leaders to get Mathias Cormann a post as top dog of the OECD, in a job-seeking junket that cost us $11,000 per day, but he can’t place a single call with the Pfizer Czar? Even that genocidal crook, Packer’s pal, Bibi Netanyahu, could make nice with Pfizer.

“Netanyahu was obsessive, calling me dozens of times, even at 3 AM!” Dr Bourla laughs. But what seals the deal is that Israel boasts one of the most advanced health services in the world – every Israeli, Jew or Arab, young or old, is enrolled in a public health service. Highly organized, it could immediately begin to inject millions with the vaccine very quickly.

Israel puts us to shame. Morrison goes fully Bodmin to gate-crash a G7 in Cornwall, but does he button-hole a single leader who could help us? No he skives off on a pub crawl and he just must look up a felon in his family tree.

Current opinion polls are a slap down; rebuking the federal government and its leader for stuffing up. You had only two jobs to do. Vaccination and quarantine. Albo likes to remind him. You did neither. Punters blame the federal government for the mess we’re in with Delta. No-one buys the bullshit of a brand-new, four phase plan. It’s just the old five phase plan with bit of pruning, although to hear Morrison spin you would expect at least a bit of topiary.

In the eternal sunshine of Scotty’s spotless mind, he has already won. Of course. Not only will Buddy turn all this around like a border collie with wayward mob of merinos, Dr Doolittle will skip away unscathed. But others beg to differ.

“… a drover’s dog could lead the Labor Party to victory the way the country is and the way the opinion polls are.”

Bill Hayden was miffed in 1983 to be stiffed by the silver bodgie; rolled for the leadership by Robert James Lee Hawke, (1929-2019). But Bill could be right on the money again. There’s talk of Albo needing a bit more of a combover, or a makeover or a total replacement but such misgivings may be redundant. In Australian politics, oppositions don’t win elections; governments lose them and Morrison is shaping spectacularly as a loser; a reverse Steve Bradbury.

This week brings news of another huge SNAFU. Instead of discovering how to prevent and treat COVID-19, the Morrison government frittered its research investment on the now-discredited hydroxychloroquine treatment, according to the Medical Journal of Australia. Craig Kelly is out but Clive Palmer must have friends in high places. Or a big war chest.

With over half the nation’s population now locked-down, uptight or out of sight in the Morrison Shit-Show™ as Bill Shorten calls the federal government’s delta debacle; its failure to deliver on any of its vaccination promises is telling. No-one trusts its offers of support: you get no money if you’re already on a pension.

But you do get the compassionate Anne Ruston looking after you with her industrial-strength tough love  – or is it withering contempt? Coercive control?

Who can forget her slur on those out of work, that raising Newstart would be a gift to drug dealers?

While a yellow press uses lurid features and sensationalised reports in newspapers, along with dog stories and beat ups featuring druggie dole-bludgers, to entice readers and boost circulation, The Terrograph or Smellograph as it is also known, is also, like Sky and The Australian, larding Murdoch’s sewer with a fatberg of Liberal propaganda.

Where does Murdoch begin and Morrison end? They are joined at the hip-pocket.

In Morrison’s case, moreever, The Daily Telegraph helped a hugely unpopular candidate but a useful idiot cheat the system. Himself.

The Tele helped create Morrison, MP. News Corp’s notorious, dog-eat-dog Tory dung-heap-raking, dirt sheet gave Morrison a way to hack into post-truth federal politics. He’s always keen to think outside the box. The ballot box.

In four articles in July 2007, “The Tele” defames Lebanese Christian Michael Towke; causing NSW Libs to dump ScoMo’s democratically pre-selected rival candidate for blue ribbon Cook.  Towke is pilloried as some type of imposter; a serial liar. Accusing another of your own behaviour is a classic gas lighter’s tactic. Towke wins a defamation case which News Limited settles out of court. But irreparable harm is done to Towke and his family. The stress puts his mother into hospital.

Faking a family pet’s perspective is another nifty initiative from the same creative whiz behind the fifty-five million dollar fiasco of the 2014 Cambodian Solution, which resettles two refugees -another Morrison Shit-Show™ stunt, light years ahead of its time. And how good are budgie smugglers? Morrison’s unique genius in marketing NSW Liberal Peter Debnam in his swimmers helped him lose the 2007 NSW Liberal election Shit-Show™. Labor had a field day.

“The member for Vaucluse barely ventured outside his harbourside comfort zone. But when he did, it was for staged stunts in his Speedos. That’s not listening to the community, it’s offending common decency,” then NSW Transport and Police Minister, who later become Labor Deputy-Premier, John Watkins, calls out ScoMo’s modus operandi.

Robodebt is another Morrison brainwave, hatched in his thirteen months’ stint as Minister for Social Services, a brief role which, nevertheless, created interminable suffering for victims. Apart from those who took their own lives.

At least 2,000 vulnerable citizens who had received a Robodebt notice between July 2016 and October 2018, died during that period, although with no official coroner’s report, it is not known how many were driven to suicide.

Robodebt went beyond offending common decency and into court where the government wasted $1.2 billion settling a case it should never have brought. The total comprised refunds of $721 million to 373,000 people, $112 million in compensation and $398 million in cancelled debts.

Given the PM’s pathological obsession with secrecy, no-one will ever know just how many similar triumphs he or his office are behind. Or why. There’s the baffling disappearance of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rapist who once had access to the entire ministerial wing at Parliament House and who could knock up security in the small hours. If he were a Labor staffer, there’d be such a brouhaha and a hullaballoo from the Murdoch media you’d never hear the end of it.

This week comes news of an optional online learning module of two hours for staffers and one hour for MPs. Brilliant. Fix up all that disrespecting. Of females. The women who marched on parliament have been studiously insulted. Mocked. Abused.

Sends a clear message to all serial sex pests. The boys’ club rules, OK?. But there are signs of waning support for the PM and his government among women.  Finger On the Button, Dutton keen to keep himself relevant as his PM crashes and burns, beats up two Chinese spy ships lurking in international waters off Queensland to watch our navy’s sailors play war games with America’s.

Settle down, Dutto. Chinese ships visited when the biennial games started in 2017 and again in 2019. Let’s not pretend it’s up there with malicious cyber warfare, although it’s touching to see how we come running, panting, when our US masters need token support from their imperialist running dog lackeys as we were in Mao’s era. Bound to help our merchants solve China’s current Aussie export embargo.

If spying’s old hat, it also seems the hard way to garner Oz-defence secrets. All it takes to get into the defence minister’s office is a Liberal junior staffer or two with a pass, even at absurdly early hours of the morning.  You don’t even have to be sober. Any security guard who challenges this system and speaks on ABC will be sacked.

If a Yellow Peril 2.0, doesn’t put the wind up you, a blue Katie Hopkins™ pops up on the starboard bow just when the PM and his open-all- hours poster girl, Gladys Berejiklian, need another Shit-Show™ distraction. Hopkins’ claims to fame include being caught en flagrante delicto frolicking naked in a field with Mark Cross, a former married colleague, but her racist bigotry and attacks on refugees make her a serious threat to the Coalition’s One Nation supporters.

“Get over yourself,” Katie tells a UK journo. I’ve stolen both my husbands. There’s a tip right there, Kerry and Peter, for Farmer Wants a Wife.

Billed as a “far-right provocateur” and a “reality TV personality”, both iron-clad guarantees of security – if not integrity – in our state-sponsored dog whistling racist political culture, Hopkins is astonished to be given the bum’s rush after she flouts quarantine rules by refusing to wear a mask or anything else in her luxurious quarantine hotel, a grave risk to our multi-skilled AFP wallopers on room service calls. She hopes to “frighten the shit out of them” by answering the door naked, she boasts.

Hopkins’ deportation mirrors the overkill of Morrison’s slathering attack on Christine Holgate, over the Cartier watches she gave a few workers as bonuses. We all know, now, that Holgate was not on board with his plan to privatise Australia’s Post. Had to go. By bullying a woman, from the floor of the House, protected by parliamentary privilege, Morrison hopes to pose as an authority figure who just happens to go MIA whenever there’s set of bad opinion poll results, or a Covid or a bushfire crisis.

Barking Barnaby Joyce, a changed man, he tells us, also gets a chance to butch up and put the boot in on Insiders. If he’s going to be paid a Deputy Prime Minister’s salary, he might at least pretend to take the high moral ground with Ms Hopkins over her breach of quarantine etiquette, even if he is upstaged by his mate Kerry Stokes’ outfit Channel 7 whose business end terminates Katie’s Celebrity Big Brother contract, given the threat that advertisers might boycott his Olympics broadcasts. If there is an Olympics.

Behind his Po-face, however, WA’s bantam rooster and Ben Roberts Smith godfather, billionaire mining, construction and media showman Stokes is laughing all the way to the bank. We’re all in this together, as Morrison says. To all his A-lister associates and toadies. In Western Sydney where the workers live, it’s a different story.

NSW police are demanding ID on the street or wherever they knock you up. Some even helpfully rummage through your Westie shopping bags, a welfare call, to help poor working class consumers determine which of their purchases are essential.

Invasive? Discriminatory? Legal? All of the above.  It’s another top idea made flesh under emergency super powers the Coalition gives itself, in the interests of public health. States rush to follow suit. Some more quickly than others.

But help is on its way. The Indue cashless debit card for all welfare beneficiaries including age pensioners will quickly sort out the vexed issue of taking the discretion out of discretionary expenditure.

Cunning stunt of the week, however, goes to the Shit-Show™ that is the federal government in secret squirrel mode for its refusal to release details of fixer Phil (The Ferret) Gaetjens’ secret enquiry into Bridget McKenzie’s role in the Morrison scandal known as the Sports Rorts Affair.

Sports rorts are minor compared to the $600 million car parks in the air scam.

Why buy one election when you can buy three? The budget-minded need fear no more. Michael West reports Jimmy Tee’s 2020 research which shows team Morrison has stashed away billions in the Community Development Grants Program to buy at least the next two elections. The official extension of the CDG “provides the government with yet another campaign war chest of $1 billion for the next election in 2022 and a yet-to-be-determined figure for the election after that in 2025 — a case of rolling rorts.”

Another day, another government corruption scandal. The plot thickens in senate estimates, reports The Monthly’s Rachel Withers; the same PMO staffer enabling the “sports rorts” corruption is confirmed “as the contact for the car parks fund, for which a list of the top 20 marginal seats was created to canvas for projects – not just for commuter car parks, but for the entire $4.8 billion Urban Congestion Fund.”

FOI requests are rebuffed because the Rorts Report was commissioned for Cabinet ministers’ eyes only, a bluff that rather defeats the object of FOI laws, but in our brave new world of government by disinformation, deception and double-speak, a world in which Barnaby can stand in a paddock in a corn pone hat and blow his bags about how he’s the Deputy Prime Minister and not just some random Nationals leader.

And how Hopkins better remember how he dealt with Johnny Depp.

But Morrison’s circus is not just a flea-bitten dog and (corn)pony show, there are clearly big ideas in the offing.

Next the chooks will be cackling on 2GB. Other pets are bound to follow. History lessons from The Morrison Goldfish, Shark. ScoMo’s QAnon bestie, Tim Stewart, will pen a personal reflection: So Your Family Dobs You in to the National Security Hotline? Stewie could also do the odd family friendly report on our war with satanic paedophiles. Be just the sort of re-set we all need given the Morrison’ government’s monumental ineptitude; a paralysis that is turning a coronavirus crisis into a catastrophe.

Not everyone’s taken in. The vaccination disaster is the worst national public policy failure in modern Australian history, rivalled only by Paul Keating’s early-1990s recession “we had to have.” ANU Historian, Professor Frank Bongiorno writes in Inside Story.

Malcolm Turnbull cuts to the chase on The Project.  The inability of the federal govt to secure enough Pfizer vaccines for Oz is “an epic fail”. It is the biggest failure in public admin he can recollect.

“The vaccines were able to be got, because other countries got them. What we lacked was leadership.”

Morrison could never be accused of being a leader. Or much of a success, really. His career is filled with stunts that blow up in his face. “Crass and sickening” The Greens call his decision to rock up twenty minutes late to the Cambodian debacle – and then to break out the champagne. Toasting his Cambodian “dirty deal” with champagne would be one of the lowest points of his political trajectory if there weren’t so many rivals.

Keating observed that Peter Costello, Howard’s eternal bridesmaid, was, a low altitude flyer. Morrison claims to have heard the voice of God in a painting of an eagle. He’s a low-flyer, too. Eagles may soar but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.

As the PM’s career goes to the dogs, you are struck by a groundhog day vibe.

In a career spanning a series of election campaign failures, notes Bernard Keane, Morrison’s employment pattern is to leave or be shown the door before his contracts end. It’s a bit like serial monogamy. Coitus interruptus? Or chronic incompetence? .

Scotty’s NSW Liberal godfathers, John Howard and Bruce Baird helped Morrison become NSW Liberal Party Director and Toe-Cutter, 2000-2004. Next, “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?”, he’s Lara Bingle’s travel agent (2006). An even more hypomanic period follows where the quick change artist and protean, shape-shifter poses as a federal MP who claims to be Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Treasurer. What we have here is chronic case of delusions of grandeur.

For some time now Morrison’s been insisting that he’s PM. Julia Banks vividly recalls Morrison telling her; “Julia. I. Am. The. Prime. Minister,” Paul Bongiorno, notes that he’s made himself King of Kirribilli with more than a hint of The Castle in his claims to legitimacy, abandoning The Lodge to those of less exalted status.

Now, as Delta exposes Morrison to be a dangerous sham, it’s time for the Bronte Bogan to mimic something more presidential. The affection of a literary pet should do it. The tradition dates to 1789 when George Washington brings Polly, to his administration. While George’s parrot’s commentary is unknown, during the period between his death in and internment, in 1845, the earthy Andrew Jackson’s Poll, another African Grey, turns the air blue with obscenities.

Is it grief? Or Old Hickory’s faithful, feathered, two-legged companion’s playback, payback, panegyric? All we know for sure is that the parrot has to be removed from the premises. Reverend William Menefee Norment, who presides at Jackson’s funeral, observes that the ex-presidential parrot is, “excited by the multitude and … lets loose perfect gusts of ‘cuss words.’” People are “horrified and awed at the bird’s lack of reverence.”

Buddy Morrison has a hard act to follow. A Schnoodle is not renowned for causing shock and awe. Yet everyone is cheered by a shaggy dog story, especially when times are rough if not downright impossible. Despite Glad’s Gold Standard Clayton’s lock-down of Botany Bay, the omphalos of Oz and spiritual shopping centre of our corporate oligarchy’s universe continues to put on a brave face. Seldom does it deign to wear a mask.

There’s business class muppet, Gladys Berejiklian’s mock-down fiasco, a spectacular leadership debacle and toxic by-product of the ongoing failure of a morally and intellectually bankrupt federal government to govern, let alone lead.

A NewsCorp photograph of Gladys and her new squeeze, hot shot defo lawyer, Arthur Moses, unmasked on a morning Macciato run doesn’t augur well for the Premier. Watch out for that bus. Nor does her mentor’s disappearance bode well for Glad. RoboScomo doesn’t give an Engadine Maccas whom he pushes under a bus if it saves his own hide.

And as for all those stricken with the deadly Delta variant of Sars-Covid 19 -and all those who worry about their friends, their neighbours; their family members’ safety, especially mothers bearing the bulk of the emotional labour of parenting – and even more in an era where women are forced into insecure underpaid part-time casual work.

“I”ve just learned not to care,” Morrison tells Annabel Crabb.

“And I really don’t that much.”

It shows. Increasingly, as a pandemic rages that could so easily have been brought under control just with vaccination and a dedicated quarantine system. A plan that’s not just four, vapid, flatulent phases of evasive rhetoric.

And a government with its heart in the right place from the start. A government fit to govern. One that honours its contract with the people. Not an endless series of announcements; a cynical shitshow™ of promises to be broken.


“Elbowed and Hustled”: Australia’s Yellow Peril Problem

With the babble about Cold War paranoia becoming a routine matter in Canberra, the treacherous ground for war with China is being bedded down and readied. The Yellow Peril image never truly dissipated from Australia’s politics. It was crucial in framing the first act of the newly born Commonwealth in 1901: The Immigration Restriction Act. Even as China was being ravaged and savaged by foreign powers and implosion, there was a fear that somewhere along the line, a reckoning would come. Charles Henry Pearson, a professor of history at King’s College London, penned his National Life and Character: a Forecast (1893) with fear in mind. The expansion of the West into all parts of the globe and its claims to progress would soon have to face a new reality: the threat posed by the “Black and Yellow races.”

Pearson fastened on various developments. The population of China was booming. The Chinese diaspora, the same, making their presence felt in places such as Singapore. “The day will come and perhaps is not far distant, when the European observer will look round to see the globe girdled with a continuous zone of the black and yellow races, no longer too weak for aggression or under tutelage, but independent, or practically so, in government, monopolising the trade of their own regions, and circumscribing the industry of the Europeans.” Europeans would be “elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside by peoples whom we looked down upon as servile and thought of as bound always to minister to our needs.”

The work’s effect was such as to have a future US President Theodore Roosevelt claim in a letter to Pearson that “all our men here in Washington … were greatly interested in what you said. In fact, I don’t suppose that any book recently, unless it is Mahan’s ‘Influence of Sea Power’ has excited anything like as much interest or has caused so many men to feel like they had to revise their mental estimates of facts.”

Anxiety, and sheer terror of China and the Chinese became part of the political furniture in Washington and in Britain’s dominions. In Australia, such views were fastened and bolted in the capital. The country’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, drew upon Pearson’s work extensively in justifying the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901. The White Tribe had to be protected.

In 1966, the Australian historian Donald Horne noted the continuing sense of impermanence for those living on the island continent, that “feeling that one morning we shall wake up to find that we are no longer here.” He recalled the views of an unnamed friend about China’s political aspirations, voiced in 1954. By 1957, he predicted, Southeast Asia would have fallen to its soldiers. Australia would duly follow, becoming a dependency. “Because of the submerged theme of impermanence and even catastrophe in the Australian imagination,” observed Horne, “the idea of possible Chinese dominance is ‘believable’ to Australians.”

There was a hiatus from such feeling through the 1980s and 1990s. The view in Australia, as it was in the United States, was that China could be managed to forget history, disposing itself to making money and bringing its populace out of poverty. But historical amnesia failed to take hold in Beijing.

Australian current actions in stoking the fires of discord over China serve a dual purpose. There is a domestic, electoral dimension: external enemies are always useful, even if they are mere apparitions. Therein lies the spirit of Barton, the besieged White tribe fearing submergence. The other is to be found in the realm of foreign policy and military security. Australian strategists have never been entirely sure how far the ANZUS Treaty could be relied upon.

One moment of candour on what might happen to trigger ANZUS obligations took place in 2004. Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, on a trip to Beijing, pondered the issue of how a security relationship with China might affect US-Australian ties. Asked by journalist Hamish McDonald whether Australia had a treaty obligation to assist the US in defending Taiwan, the minister stated that the treaty was “symbolic” and would only be “invoked in the event of one of our two countries, Australia or the United States, being attacked. So some other military activity elsewhere in the world, be it in Iraq or anywhere else for that matter does not automatically invoke the ANZUS Treaty.” Its provisions, he observed, had only been invoked once: when the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001.

This startlingly sound reading did not go down well. The press wondered if this cast doubt over “ANZUS loyalties.” The US Ambassador to Canberra John Thomas Schieffer leapt into action to clarify that there was an expectation that Australia muck in should the US commit forces to battle in the Pacific. “[T]reaty commitments are that we are to come to the aid of each other in the event of either of our territories are attacked, or if either of our interests are attacked, our home territories are attacked or if either of our interests are attacked in the Pacific.” One cable from the Australian government attempted to pacify any fears about Australia’s reliability by suggesting that, “Some media reporting had taken elements [of Downer’s comments] out of context.”

The argument has now been turned. Discussion about Taiwan, and whether Australian blood would be shed over it, has much to do with keeping Washington focused on the Asia- and Indo-Pacific, finger on the trigger. If Canberra shouts loudly and foolishly enough that it will commit troops and weapons to a folly-ridden venture over Taiwan, Washington will be duly impressed to dig deeper in the region to contain Beijing. This betrays a naivety that comes with relying on strategic alliances with little reflection, forgetting that Washington will decide, in due course, what its own interests are.

So far, the Morrison government will be pleased with what the Biden administration has said. Australia could be assured of US support in its ongoing diplomatic wrangle Beijing. In the words of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, “the United States will not leave Australia alone on the field, or maybe I should say alone on the pitch, in the face of economic coercion by China. That’s what allies do. We have each other’s backs so we can face threats and challenges from a position of collective strength.”

Australia’s anti-China rhetoric has its admirers. Michael Shoebridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute – a US security think tank in all but name – dismisses the value of words such as “major conflict,” preferring the substance of action. He talks about “honesty” about China, which is grand coming from a member of an outfit which is less than frank about its funding sources and motivations. That honesty, he assumes, entails blaming China for belligerence. “Reporting what [President] Xi says and what the PLA and other Chinese armed forces do is not ‘stoking the drums of war’; it’s noticing what is happening in our region that affects our security.”

Thankfully, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans is closer to the sane fringe in noting that words, in diplomacy, are bullets. He reminds us of “the immortal wisdom of the 1930s Scottish Labour leader Jimmy Maxton: ‘If you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the bloody circus.”

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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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None of Your Business: China, Hong Kong and a Question of Sovereignty

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam seemed to relish it before the cameras this week. The United States was enduring extensive shudders of internal instability in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Dubious proposals to deploy the military were on the books. This was a superb stage show. The Chinese move to crush or, to be more accurate, bring forward, the ultimate incorporation of Hong Kong into the PRC structure, had received some breathing space.

It all had to do with a little matter called sovereignty. For years, the United States, the United Kingdom, and European Union have seen Beijing’s sovereignty over the island qualified by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. On the horizon lay the magic year when this singular status would end: 2047. In 2016, the Under Secretary for Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Ronald Chan announced that 2047 should not trouble those in Hong Kong. There was “no question of the expiry of the Basic Law after 2047.”

In the “one country, two systems” formula, the one country has, at stages, been forgotten in favour of the two systems, with Hong Kong having sway in most matters of governance except foreign affairs and defence. Much of this was bound to be wishful thinking on the part of those outside China. Since June 2019, when large and determined protests commenced against the proposed extradition treaty to China, the program of integration and winding back various provisions otherwise guaranteeing autonomy in the province has been fought tooth and nail.

The onset of the pandemic provided something of a forced lull, enabling the power brokers on the mainland to take stock. In April, a sense of what was to come was floated. Beijing threatened a sitting legislator with disqualification for sitting in office for resorting to filibustering. New security legislation was aired as a distinct possibility. And a conclusion was reached that the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and Liaison Office in Hong Kong were exempt from the application of Article 22 of the Basic Law. The provision prohibits “departments of the Central People’s Government” from meddling in matters otherwise within the scope of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

For all that, last month’s resolution through the National People’s Congress to enact a national security law specific to Hong Kong was merely part of an organic process that would ultimately challenge, if not displace the “one country, two systems” idea. Alvin Y.H. Cheung picks up on this in Just Security, suggesting three “interrelated and long-running developments: the Beijing and Hong Kong governments’ abuse of ‘advocating independence’ as political and legal cudgel; the growing role of the Liaison Office; and the political capture of a previously professionalized civil service apparatus.”

The proposed provisions are not pretty for the protesters, but then again, such laws are the generic stuff of a state apparatus that needs to prove its mettle. These include stopping or punishing conduct that seriously endangers national security (the usual offences of separatism, subversion or organising and carrying out terrorist activities would apply).

In of itself, any security-minded type would have little issue with language that focuses on targeting subversive elements, anything threatening national security and interference from a foreign power. (According to the NPC, the legislation “opposes the interference in the HKSAR affairs by any foreign or external forces in any form”, and authorises the taking of “necessary countermeasures” where necessary.) Such language is the essence of muscular sovereignty, however ugly it looks.

The reaction towards the unilateral move has been a gift to Lam and Beijing. We use a fist; you use a sledgehammer. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded that the NPC’s decision neutered Hong Kong’s autonomous status. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.” Having attacked China intermittently over its handling of the novel coronavirus, US President Donald J. Trump further mudded matters by seeking to, in his instruction, “revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.” Such privileges are to be found in the US Hong Kong Policy Act 1992, which seems to be sliding into the morgue of treaties and understandings that has been increasingly packed by the Trump administration.

Such an alteration of Hong Kong’s status will have the ill-considered effect of pushing it further into the arms of PRC control. This point has been made by pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai, who claims that “removing those privileges would only make Hong Kong more dependent on China.”

In this latest rhetorical skirmish, everyone has a take on sovereignty. Naturally, the unfortunates in Hong Kong are wedged in between. Commentary has been quick and sharp on the subject of the NPC resolution, much of it regretful or indignant if you so happen to be in the British or US camp. “It should have come to this,” rued Caron Anne Goodwin Jones of the Birmingham Law School. The “de facto mini-constitution that came into effect after the British handover in 1997 – specifically limited Beijing from applying national laws to the territory, except in matters of defence and foreign affairs.”

Jones naturally puts this down to unnecessary PRC authoritarian paranoia. China, she suggests dismissively, has no grounds for fearing the prospect of Hong Kong become a base for subversion. Nowhere does she mention the eye-poking Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, passed by the US Congress and celebrated by certain protesters for permitting the imposition of “sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.” The mantra about the PRC challenging the “rules-based” order, a rather seedy way of concealing the role of power behind it, is cited in conclusion.

This rings rather oddly in an age where international paperwork on that very order is being torn-up with relish, most of all by that unruly man in the White House who deems all that preceded him “bad” and the “worst”. Anything with a pre-existing rule or code must, by Trump’s reckoning, be rotten. Be it trade wars or long standing security agreements, the MAGA platform of Trump has insisted on casting all the crockery out and replacing it with makeshift, rickety substitutes. Now, it seems that the PRC has taken a leaf out the president’s own book of ruffling chaos, suggesting that Hong Kong’s Basic Law can be tampered with ahead of time.

China’s foreign ministry has not shied away from poking fun at the anger from Washington. US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus was sappy in her remark that China’s move was “a pivotal moment for the world”, one that challenged the “rule of law”, inviting an acid response from Hua Chunying: “I can’t breathe.”

Britain has also waded into the sovereignty debate in its own, merry way. The UK government has offered all Hong Kong citizens who hold British National (Overseas) passports and those eligible for the BN(O) status but had not renewed their passports on expiration the right to live and work in the UK as a prelude to becoming citizens. Up to three million would fall into this category. China, in turn, claims the offer violates the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. No one, it seems, wants to read the fine print these days.

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US Goes Full Fascist: Trump and The Floyd Protests


As an historian, I do not throw around the word fascist lightly. It has a very precise meaning but is so often used to describe anyone to the right of you. I am not using it in that sense. Fascism, as I am using it here, refers to an authoritarian and repressive government using military force to enforce its will domestically.

Background: The Protests Around the Death of George Floyd

Protests have erupted across America in response to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota. The protests have been largely peaceful, but there has also been some violence, looting and property destruction. The latter is obviously to be condemned, but we cannot ignore the wider systemic issues to which these protests are responding. Consider the following brief list. The blatant use of excessive force by the police. Systemic wealth and income inequality. Political corruption and the government’s pathetic response to COVID-19. Rank corporatism in the government. The death of Mr Floyd may have been the spark for these protests, but the powderkeg has been there for a long time.

What was the response from the police, you may ask? Violence, in a word. Jimmy Dore has covered multiple instances of police violence throughout these protests. The police have become a militarised force who are not to be questioned, just ask them (or maybe not). The issue here is not about responding to the issues the protesters are upset about. This is about maintaining and exercising power and control. The Mayors of many of the towns have backed the actions of the police, despite the violence. This should not surprise anyone: a unified front in response to criticism is a common political trick.

Fascism, USA, Part One: The Framework

In a speech from the White House, President Trump declared that

In recent days our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, rioters, criminals, ANTIFA and others.

He then described acts of violence against the police while omitting any mention of acts of violence by the police. He added this little gem too

These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror.

While the claim about violence being anathema to peaceful protest is true, domestic terror Mr President? Recall his false equivalence of ‘very fine people on both sides’ in reference to Charlottesville and the infamous ‘Jews will not replace us’ clowns? No such claim here. What could it be that is different about this situation? I cannot seem to put my finger on it. Someone will work it out I am sure.

Fascism, USA, Part Two: Martial Law?

He then gets to the point of the speech that is garnering the most attention. Having outlined (in suitably propagandistic terms) the nature of the situation, the President said this

I am taking immediate Presidential action to stop the violence and restore safety and security in America. I am mobilising all available federal resources (civlian and military) to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruciton and arson and to protect the rights of law-abaiding Americans including your Second Amendment Rights

Yes, Mr President, because the protesters were coming for people’s guns. That man is an idiot. He lives in a reality completely of his own creation. But more to the point, mobilising federal troops (that’s what federal military resources means)?

As if this point were not explicit enough, he added this

I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take the steps that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them

That last clause is decisive: sending the military into states to quell protests. The President has now gone full fascist. To deploy the military against unruly citizens is the height of tyranny. It is the very definition of a dictatorship; the very form of government America claims to oppose.

Cease Quoting the Laws to Us, For We Carry Guns, Part One: The First Amendment

The title of this section is a modernisation of a line from the ancient biographer Plutarch in his life of Pompey the Great. It refers to the fact that when you have troops at your command, the law means nothing. Well, I am going to do it anyway. This blatant violation of at least two laws that I can think of off the top of my head must be called out. Trump’s claim to be able to deploy the armed forces against American citizens contravenes many laws (the First Amendment chief among them). Now before anyone tries to strawman me and say that the First Amendment does not protect rioting, I never said it did. But Trump has conflated the issue of rioting with protest broadly defined, which is protected by the ‘beautiful law’ to quote him. The text of the much-vaunted First Amendment says (in full)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Note the word ‘peaceably’ in that quote. It is perfectly legal to assemble (gather and protest) and to petition for redress of grievances (cry out for change in some form). You can, indeed you must, arrest the rioters and criminals and leave the non-violent protesters alone. Trump’s conflation of non-violent, civil protest with the rioters, intentional or otherwise, allows him to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nuance never was his strong suit however, so the precedent is set: protest is bad. Any other rights you would like to curtail, you fascist?

Cease Quoting the Laws to Us, for We Carry Guns, Part Two: Posse Comitatus

Of greater interest than the First Amendment violation, however, (where the hell are you constructionist and states’ rights conservatives?) is the violation of Posse Comitatus. Under this 1878 law, it is illegal for active duty (federal) soldiers to perform law enforcement functions inside US borders. In other words, federal troops cannot be used as a make-shift police force. Note that this only applied to federal troops. The state governors are Commanders in Chief of their respective National Guard regiments and can deploy them to supplement existing law enforcement. The prohibition is on using federal troops for law enforcement purposes inside US borders. The problem is clear enough: state governors have no authority over federal troops.

Trump’s policy of deploying the military to quell the violence (and by extension the protests) by definition means he intends to have the soldiers shoot people. They cannot enforce the law, so what other purpose do they serve? This is truly dangerous and must be opposed with all possible (non-violent) force.

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Is a Food Crisis the next big hit for humanity?

By Julian Cribb  

As the world reels under corona virus and the resulting economic meltdown, another crisis – far more serious – appears to be building: the potential collapse of global food supply chains.

For those who cry “We don’t want any more bad news”, the fact of the matter is we have landed in our present mess – climate, disease, extinction, pollution, WMD – because we steadfastly ignored previous warnings.

The first warning of a corona pandemic was issued in a scientific paper in 2007 and was blithely ignored for thirteen years. In it, the scientists explicitly stated “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the re-emergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” [1]

Similarly, in 1979, the World Meteorological Organisation warned “… the probability of a man-induced future global warming is much greater and increases with time. Soon after the turn of the century a level may possibly be reached that is exceeds all warm periods of the last 1000-2000 years.” [2] And climate warnings have been coming thick and fast ever since, to scant avail.

Now we have a new warning from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, a cautious body if ever there was one, that states “We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.” [3]

Border closures, quarantines and market, supply chain and trade disruptions are listed as the chief reasons for concern. However, like many national governments, FAO insists “there is no need to panic” as world food production remains ample.

This, however, depends on fragile assumptions. It assumes that farmers and their families do not get sick. It assumes they will always be able to access the fuel, fertiliser, seed and other inputs they need when supply chains disintegrate. It assumes the truck drivers who transport food to the cities do not get sick, that markets, cool stores and food processing plants are not closed to protect their workers. That supermarkets continue to function, even when their shelves are stripped bare. All of which is starting to appear tenuous.

There is never a ‘need to panic’ as it does not help in resolving difficult situations. But there is definitely a need to take well-planned precautions – as we have failed to do in the cases of climate and corona virus.

The looming food crisis starts from three primary causes:

  • The global ‘just-in-time’ industrial food and supermarket system is not fit for purpose in guaranteeing food security. It is all about money, and not about human safety or nutrition. Its links are fragile and any of them can break, precipitating chaos – especially in big cities.
  • The agricultural system we know and love is becoming increasingly unreliable owing to climate change, catastrophic loss of soils worldwide, shortages of water and narrowing of its genetic base. Farmers are struggling with their own pandemics in the form of swine fever, army worms and locusts. This unreliability will become increasingly critical from the 2020s to the mid-century.
  • The predatory world economic system now punishes farmers by paying them less and less for their produce, driving them off their farms and increasingly forcing those who remain to use unsustainable methods of food production. This is causing a worldwide loss of farmers and their skills and destruction of the agricultural resource base and ecosystem at a time of rising food instability.[4]

The reason that a food crisis is far more serious than either the corona virus or its economic meltdown, is that the death toll is generally far larger. More than 200 million people have died in various famines over the last century and a half, and many of those famines led to civil wars, international wars and governmental collapses. That is why we need to pay attention now – before a new global food crisis arises. Not brush it aside, as so many inept world leaders have done with the virus.

The Spanish have a well-learned saying that “Lo que separa la civilización de la anarquía son solo siete comidas.” [5] The French and Russian Revolutions both arose out of famines. WWII arose partly out of Hitler’s desire to capture Soviet farmlands in order to avoid another WW1 famine in Germany. Many modern African wars are over food or the means to produce it. The Syrian civil war began with a climate-driven food crisis. Indeed, there is growing evidence that lack of food plays a catalytic role in around two thirds of contemporary armed conflicts. As US former president Jimmy Carter has observed “Hungry people are not peaceful people.” [6]

Food failures bring down governments and cause states to fail. In 2012 a drought in Russia and the Ukraine forced them to cut grain supplies to Egypt and Libya – where governments promptly fell to popular revolutions. It was a strange echo of history: in the third century a combination of climate change and a pandemic caused a failure in grain supplies from North Africa, an economic crash and, ultimately, the end of the Roman Empire.

While there is ‘no need to panic’ over food, there is a very clear and urgent need for plans to forestall major shortages around the world. Yet, there is very little evidence that governments worldwide are preparing to head off a food crisis, other than to reassure their citizens, Trumplike, that there isn’t a problem.  However, lack of trust by citizens in their governments has already prompted a global rush to stock up on staple foods which has ‘upended’ the vulnerable ‘just-in-time’ food delivery system in many countries.[7]

Over four billion people now inhabit the world’s great cities – and not one of those cities can feed itself. Not even close. None of them are prepared for catastrophic failure in fragile modern food chains, on which they are totally reliant. It would appear almost nobody has even dreamed of such a thing. We are sleepwalking into something far larger and far more deadly than corona virus. The delicate web of modern civilization is fraying.

What is to be done? The short answers are:

  • Introduce emergency urban food stocks
  • Compulsory reduction of food waste at all points
  • Prepare for WWII-style rationing if needed
  • Pay farmers a fair return
  • Increase school meals programs and food aid to the poor
  • Encourage local food production and urban food gardens
  • Develop a global emergency food aid network as a priority
  • Reinvent food on a three-tier global model encompassing: regenerative farming, urban food production (and recycling), accelerated deep ocean aquaculture and algae culture.

There are few crises that cannot be avoided with careful forward planning, including the ten catastrophic risks now facing humanity as a whole. [8]

It is time we, as a species, learned to think ahead better than we do, and not listen to those who cry “no more bad news, please”. They only lead us into further crisis.



[1] Cheung VCC et al., Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection. Clinical Microbiology Reviews Oct 2007, 20 (4) 660-694; DOI: 10.1128/CMR.00023-07

[2] World Climate Conference 1979, http://wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/wcc-1979.html#flohn

[3] FAO. Will COVID-19 have negative impacts on global food security? March 2020. http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/q-and-a/en/

[4] These issues are extensively analysed in my recent book Food or War, Cambridge University Press, 2019. https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/food-or-war

[5] Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart.

[6] Carter J., First Step to Peace is Eradicating Hunger. International Herald Tribune, June 17, 1999.

[7] Lee A, How the UK’s just-in-time delivery model crumbled under coronavirus. Wired, 30 March 2020.

[8] Cribb JHJ, “Surviving the 21st Century”. Springer 2017. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-41270-2


This article was originally published on SURVIVING C21.

Julian Cribb is an Australian science author. His book Food or War describes what must be done to secure the world’s food supply.

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