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Melbourne student selected for Williams Formula One Ranstad Engineering Academy

A year 10 student from Trinity Grammar School, Kew, has been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the Williams Formula One race team.

Kyle Winkler is the Design Engineer for a team called “Hyperdrive” which today was announced as the 2017 World Champion of the F1 in Schools STEM Challenge, the largest Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics competition in the world.

Kyle used space-age engineering software, virtual wind tunnel software and miniature smoke and wind test tunnels to develop an 80 km/h miniature F1 racing car.

Together with class mates, Hugh Bowman, David Greig and Alec Alder, they qualified to compete at the World Finals in Kuala Lumpur against 50 teams from 25 other nations. The top 300 or so students from the 9,000,000 who use this hi-tech’ STEM program to develop their innovation and technical skills.

Hyperdrive took first prize, won the coveted Best Engineered Car Award, were nominated for the Research and Development Award, and then Williams Formula One announced that it would accept 10 students for their elite Ranstad Engineering Academy. That was when Kyle discovered his amazing opportunity. He will be mentored by race engineers and technicians.

Team Manager, Hugh Bowman, 16, is another who hopes their achievement will lead to a motor sport career,

“The goal is definitely F1, the next Toto Wolff or Christian Horner for me.”

“F1inSchools has been so important to us, it’s given us so many opportunities and contacts, it’s unbelievable. We’ve always done everything to a really high standard and great engineering, and I think that was the key to our success. It means everything to us to have won. We’ve worked so hard and it’s paid off.”

It was the second time that Trinity Grammar School, Kew, has won the World Finals. The first time in 2006 these students were in kindergarten!

Team Australia dominated the World Finals with an Adelaide team finishing second and two others from Launceston and the Hunter Valley receiving awards.

F1 in Schools was introduced to Australian schools in 2003 by not for profit social enterprise Re-Engineering Australia Foundation, the brainchild of Sydney engineer Dr Michael Myers OAM. He is passionate about inspiring young people to innovate, embrace world-best technology and consider engineering and manufacturing careers.

The obscure imprints of the German elections

By Isidoros Karderinis

The German elections of September 24th, 2017, due to the country’s specific political, financial and historical strength, have undoubtedly been at the center of international and European interest. Their results were marked by the winning of the Christian Union CDU/CSU led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, even with a lower per cent (33) while in the Federal elections of 2013 it obtained 41.5%, The contraction – 20.5% from 25.7% in 2013 – of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Martin Schulz, but also by the entry in the Federal Parliament of the AfD party, the most dangerous far-right one in Europe, due to the size of Germany, and to the dramatic historical events that changed the course of the 20th century.

Germans – it is more than obvious – are grateful to Chancellor Merkel for their well-being, their high standard of living compared with that of other European peoples, for combating unemployment effectively, (the unemployment rate is at historically low levels, ie only 3.9% of the workforce) and of course for the budget surpluses. So, for all these reasons, they gave her a fourth term in the Chancellery, something succeeded only by Konrad Adenauer, the reformer of postwar Germany and Helmut Kohl, the father of the reunification of Germany.

On the other side, Chancellor Merkel’s victory and the formation of a government with potential partners – whoever they may be – obviously implies the continuation of the policy of extreme austerity and faithful implementation of the “sacred” rules of budgetary discipline, since it serves Germany in a very visible way. However, the implementation of this policy for years now, has already strained and overstretched the Southern European countries and especially Greece and therefore, along the road, it will lead – with mathematical precision – the entire European project  to a serious risk of collapse.

At the same time the historically high per cent – 12.6% – of the far-right xenophobic and anti-immigrant AfD,which for the first time achieved not only to enter the Bundestag but also to become the third largest party in Germany as a whole and the second largest one in the eastern federal states, is a particularly obscure imprint of the German elections and considerably enhances the right-wing populists and extremists across the continent.It is the first time after the Second World War and the collapse of the Nazi regime in 1945 that such a thing happens, a fact that undoubtedly constitutes a negative milestone in German history.

At this point it should be noted that in the elections of September 2013, the party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD), which was born in the same year from the reaction of a part of the Germans against the Southern European countries,took a 4.7% percent of the votes and did not enter the Parliament.However, with its current entry, the hardcore far-right and xenophobic members of AfD – for many people considered authentic heirs of the Nazis – are bound to exert strong pressure on Chancellor Merkel to change the liberal democratic face she showed on immigration, terrorism and security matters, -for example the open borders policy which resulted to the entry of many refugees and migrants in Germany in September 2015. Of course, in reality, this policy is not motivated by philanthropic feelings but it is based on Germany’s interest, as every year the country needs half a million immigrants in order to continue its existence as an economic power and in order to effectively support its social system.

The statement made by the co-chairman of AfD party Frauke Petry during a speech in Stuttgart, where she compared a society incorporating migrants to a “compost heap”, her approach on surveillance of the border by German guards who will shoot any refugee or immigrant attempting to pass illegally, but also the statement of the other co-chairman of AfD Alexander Gauland a few days before the 2016 Euro regarding the great black German-Ghanaian player of Bayern and of the German National Football Team Jerome Boateng – “People consider him a good player, but they would not want him as their neighbor”- indicate in the clearest way that this party has indeed inherited the loathsome traditions of  the assault battalions of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party of Adolf Hitler in the decade of 1930, regarding the Aryan race.

What is the reason, however, of the frantic rise of this racist political formation who wants among other things to change the attitude of Germany in order to stop the manifestation of remorse for the horrible Nazi crimes? Definitely a key cause is the refugee and migration crisis which nowadays has assumed gigantic proportions and which overstretches the European countries and of course Germany. On this ground of the ongoing refugee and migration flows, instead of the building by the developed world of a democratic and progressive refugee and immigration policy showing compassion and solidarity, the spiky flowers of evil grow, and inhuman, fascist policies and hatred rhetoric emerge triumphant against persecuted and unfortunate people who fled their homes under the most tragic circumstances seeking light far from the horrible, deadly darkness of war and extreme poverty, and hope for a better and more peaceful future.

Moreover, another important reason for the rapid rise of the far-right AfD is the full use – by the officials of this political formation – of the Islamic terrorist incidents and of the criminal events who connect them to the influx of refugees and immigrants from Islamic countries. So, during the election period, they did not fail to remind the massacre in the Christmas market in Berlin and the sexual attacks against young German women by Arab immigrants in the New Year 2016 in Cologne.

Finally, the seed of the extreme and xenophobic views is much better incubated as the new “snake egg” in the prosperous societies of the North that feel threatened by the “poor people” of the South – to whom they have attributed various negative stereotypes – and of course, by the refugees and the immigrants.

In conclusion, the imprints of the German elections are obscure for both the poorer Southern Europe countries in difficulty, -since the German policy of austerity is not going to change not even a little- and for the democratic citizens of Germany and of the whole Europe who watch with horror the nightmarish onslaught of the fascist, racist and xenophobic political entities.

Isidoros Karderinis was born in Athens in 1967. He is a novelist, poet and columnist. He has studied economics and has completed postgraduate studies in the tourism economy. Articles of his have been republished in newspapers, magazines and sites worldwide. His poems have been translated into English, French and Spanish and published in literary magazines and literary sections of newspapers. He has published seven poetry books and two novels. His novels and three of his poetry books have been published in USA and Great Britain.

The ‘impact’ of motor sport

Motor sport impacting the Visual Impact Trade Show at Darling Harbour

The purpose built Subaru WRX turbo 4-wheel drive rally car piloted by Sydney’s Molly Taylor, the world’s highest ranked female rally driver, is to take centre stage at the annual conference for the design, printing, signage and display industry in Sydney next week.

The Visual Impact Trade Show is being held at the new International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, on October 11-13.

Molly is the reigning Australian Rally Champion and the nation’s first ever female national champion.

It is the first time a motor sport vehicle has been seen at this show and it is the main feature of the Re-Engineering Australia Foundation (REA) display. REA is a privately owned not for profit organisation encouraging teenagers to pursue technical careers. Its F1 in Schools competition has already seen students progress into motor sport engineering roles and now it is also pointing youngsters towards the myriad of job opportunities in the graphics, print and signage sector.

The multi-coloured Subaru is covered in eye-catching graphics and provides a prime example of what can be achieved by the print and signage industry in order to showcase team sponsors. Subaru, the factory rally team and Molly Taylor are assisting REA.

Expect Future Storms to Intensify

By Keith Antonysen

Malcolm Turnbull says that the LNP is doing everything possible to keep Australians safe in relation to terrorism (ABC, A.M. 4/10/2017). There are risks, but for an individual reasonably remote.

Yet, in relation to anthropogenic climate change the LNP and Queensland Labor government are seeking to increase existential risks through promoting the huge Adani mine and suggesting the need for new coal powered energy plants. The new coal plants are provided with all sorts of exotic names (e.g. HELE, carbon capture and storage); but, they still void significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Oceans are often not widely discussed in relation to anthropogenic climate change, though they have a significant role in the creation of extreme weather.

There has been much discussion about the hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in relation to what influence climate change has had in relation to their ferocity; scientists state that warm oceans have a great deal of influence on the creation and strength of tropical storms.

Kevin Trenberth, one of authors of a new  study on Oceans, has stated: “The higher temperatures are driving marine life toward the poles in search of livable habitats, bleaching coral reefs, and causing severe impacts on fisheries and aquacultures. They also contribute to more frequent and intense extreme weather events.”

Several scientists have stated that a warm Ocean leads to the creation of higher levels of water vapour in the atmosphere.

It is commonly understood that oceans only gradually build up warmth, or shed warmth slowly in comparison to the atmosphere.

Quote: “Earth’s temperature is rising, and it isn’t just in the air around us. More than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans that cover two-thirds of the planet’s surface. Their temperature is rising, too, and it tells a story of how humans are changing the planet.”

Satellite altimentary displays how sea level is rising; commonsense informs us that water when warmed expands its volume. The point being that a rising sea level is an important factor in leading to worse impacts from storm surges.

Through warming oceans, the strength of storms will become stronger.

Creating new coal mines and coal fired power plants is a completely reckless pursuit; Turnbull definitely has not had safety in mind when spruiking these new potential developments.

“Catastrophic neglect”

By Julie Grint

The death of a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee in Papua New Guinea is the sixth fatality on Manus Island in just four years. Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border protection (DIBP) confirmed the death at Lorengau Hospital but handballed all inquiries to the PNG authorities. It’s believed the 32-year-old man took his own life early on Monday morning. Former Manus Island MP Ron Knight said the magistrate on the island will be conducting a coroner’s investigation over coming days.

This man’s body needs to be brought to Australia immediately for a proper forensic autopsy and a coronial inquest. Unlike the last death on Manus a few weeks ago where nothing eventuated and the matter was handballed to the PNG government. The detainees remain the full responsibility of the Australian government as our Minister for Immigration makes all the decisions regarding the treatment, welfare and freedom of movement of the detainees The PNG government simply does as it is told by Australian officials as they are heavily dependent on financial aid from Australia and do not want to offend.

“It seems like a suicide but it’s not confirmed yet,” Mr Knight, former MP for Manus told AAP. He said locals had become increasingly frustrated with the problems that have come with hosting the immigration detention centre, which is slated for closure at the end of this month. “When people have to resort to something like this to prove a point, it means that something is terribly wrong with the whole detention system,” Mr Knight said. Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) spokesman Ian Rintoul said the man had been sent to the East Lorengau hospital (ELH), a very basic facility like an Australian bush nursing hospital but with fewer resources, three days earlier and subsequently discharged back into the community.

ELH has no psychiatric nurses or facilities to deal with the mentally ill despite the presence of the Manus RPC for the past 4 years and its cohort of troubled men. IHMS did not provide adequate psychiatric and psychological care as evidenced by two deaths within a matter of weeks.

Greens senator Nick McKim said the case was “catastrophic neglect” from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. “This man had suffered for four (4) years in a system that Australia’s Labor and Liberal parties deliberately designed and operated to cause men harm.”

A system deliberately designed to cause both physical and mental harm

Physical harm via the provision of inadequate and poor-quality food for which the Australian taxpayer was paying a great deal; $500,000 per detainee p.a., to be exact.

This money was meant to be for the provision of meals, clothing, shelter, cleaning, sanitation, recreation, medical care and security. Methinks that the contractors, Broadspectrum subsequently taken over by Ferrovial a large Spanish infrastructure company, Wilson security and IHMS (Medical services) made exorbitant profits on these contracts with the Federal government. The Australian taxpayer has not been getting value for money. Time for a thorough financial audit by the ANAO.

Mental harm

Creating a highly stressful environment in which the detainees feel they have no control over their lives and no hope of release or resettlement. Such an environment just makes anxiety and depression much worse. In susceptible individuals insomnia due to anxiety and depression can trigger an underlying bipolar disorder and either a period of mania or a complete psychotic break. This is what I believe happened to the Iranian refugee Hamed Shamshiripour. His body was found near refugee accommodation in East Lorengau in early August 2017. His death was either a suicide or murder, we await the results of the investigation by the PNG police and coroner. I have very little faith that any such inquest by the Papuans will shed much light on the cause of Hamed’s death. Conveniently any Coroner’s inquest held in PNG does not have the legal authority to call Australian public servants to give evidence as to their role in refusing to provide adequate and appropriate medical care and evacuation to Australia for Hamed.

This latest death of this Tamil refugee comes as 54 refugees or 2.7% out of total of approx 2,000 detainees left Manus Island PNG (cohort of 800 men) and Nauru (1,250 men women and children) for a new life in the USA. Some more are expected to follow in coming months. How many more no one knows at this stage and this may all just be a propaganda exercise by the Turnbull government and Trump administration.

 

British Labour’s National Investment Fund: Redefining Centre-Left Politics

Denis Bright invites discussion on Jeremy Corbyn’s National Investment Fund. Can it assist in revitalising the British economy and the finacial hub of the City of London? Is the future of Britain in better hands with the remnants of Thatcherism as claimed by Conservatives at their Annual Conference?

Following Labour’s net gain of 30 seats at the UK General Elections on 8 June 2017, Jeremy Corbyn’s inspirational Conference Speech at Brighton continues the paradigm changes in British politics

Challenges remain in coping with the continued loss of 35 seats to the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP). There are big swathes of Comservative blue constituencies across England between London and the Industrialized North. Seventy constituencies are still required to form a majoirty government.

The latest YouGovernment/Times Poll shows that support base for the Conservative Party has declined by 4.5 per cent since the national elections. This gives Labour a 4 per cent lead in the polls to 22-24 September 2017.

The minority government of Theresa May seems to have run out of consistent solutions to the economic and wider structural problems facing Britain.

The Conservative Government’s only support base is from the over 65 year age group. Amongst younger voters in the 18-24 year range, Labour outpolls the Conservatives by a remarkable 70 to 15 per cent margin.

The UK Economic Context

As the UK Economy enters the troubled waters of Brexit, short-term economic projections are being scaled back. Britain has to craft a new economic identity beyond the remnants of Thatcherism which favours more leadership from the corporate sector as the only path forward.

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester,  there is growing concern at the lack of direction in Theresa May’s government as economic growth rates for 2018 pose new challenges:

The editorial in the UK Guardian Online sums up the likely reactions from Insiders within the Conservative Party at Manchester (Guardian Online 1 October 2017):

Mrs May made it abjectly clear on Sunday that she is both temperamentally and politically too weak to sack someone who is disloyal to her and an embarrassment to the country.

It is possible that Mrs May will get her wish this week and survive. The Conservative party has deep instincts of self-preservation and discipline. The idea that a new leader, Mr Johnson least of all, would unite either the party or the country on Brexit or anything else lacks credibility. Though they are divided on many things, the Tories are as one in their wish to avoid handing power to Jeremy Corbyn. But the real question is not whether Mrs May will survive but whether she deserves to. The reality is that there is almost no sign whatever of that.

Britain’s once robust financial sector is being challenged by investment flows towards the most dynamic European markets such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain.

The global profile of British financial markets has declined since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

The McKinsey Global Institute has just summarised the current situation (McKinsey Global Institute Online August 2017):

The largest banks in the United Kingdom have already reduced their foreign bank assets by one-quarter since 2007. Gross inflows of loans and other investment to the United Kingdom were negative over the past three years (2014 to 2016), indicating that foreigners are withdrawing capital. Gross loan outflows from the United Kingdom were negative in 2012, 2013, and 2015, indicating that UK-based lenders (including foreign subsidiaries of European and US banks based in London) were reducing their stock of foreign loans. The City of London has shed jobs. Much will depend on how Brexit negotiations proceed and on what access banks based in London will have to EU markets.

Even when British financial markets were thriving before the GFC, investors targeted gains from speculation in subprime lending ventures, financial derivatives and futures markets which have little real impact on productive investment in the wider economy. The City of London welcomed money laundering from developing countries and transfers from investors in the US to avoid banking and taxation controls.

During the Obama Years, British financial institutions were prominent on the list of fines imposed in the US financial regulatory agencies for money laundering activities. Large sections of The Handbook of Business and Corruption (2016) are available online from Emerald Group Publishing.

More enlightenment on the role of the City of London in Global Finance comes from Tony Norfield. Having worked for twenty years at Bloomberg, Tony Norfield moved on to become head of foreign exchange strategies at the Dutch lender ABN Amro. From this former insider role, Tony Norfield is aptly qualified to offer a negative insider interpretation of the roles played by the City of London in global finance.

Tony Norfield identifies London as the world’s biggest international banking and foreign exchange market, shaping the development of global capital (Amazon Books 2017).

London as a global financial hub attracts all the big international companies-not just the banks. Tony Norfield offers a shocking and insightful interpretation of the role of the US dollar in global trading, the network of British-linked tax havens, the flows of finance around the world and the system of power built upon financial securities.

Such provocative interpretations contrast with the favourable interpretations of Thatcherism from conservative think-tanks in the UK and Australia.

Until the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn, Thatcherism enjoyed a fair degree of bipartisan support. Any return to government intervention in directing financial priorities was perceived as a vote loser by British Labour.

The Paradigm Change to Labour’s National Investment Fund

Released in Labour’s Manifesto for the 2017 General Election, a National Transformation Fund offered a a 250 billion pound investment fund to modernise essential infrastructure over ten years. Capital investment of these dimensions would come from a National Investment Bank (NIB). This would be established by a 20-billion pound bond issue. The NIB would then attract corporate investment from Brtiain and abroad.

Support for this type of government involvement in the direction of essential public investment flows would provide alternatives to Thatcherite financial processes.

The consequences of a continued focus on deficit reductions by Conservative Governments are reflected in the falling trend-lines for UK GDP Growth (FT Online 30 September 2017).

As the Conservative Party Conference approaches in Manchester this week, the centre-right political rhetoric fluctuates wildly between appeal for a soft Brexit (EU Brexit Summit in Florence), a re-statement of Thatcherite values (Bank of England Address) and a commitment to more responsible social policies (Manchester Conference).

Can Britain as the world’s ninth largest economy in PPP terms, still speak so defiantly in the Trump Era when the US Department of Commerce has imposed a 220 per cent tariff on the C-series Bombardier airliners with a Made in British Ulster Tag for the Canadian firm, Bombardier? (Independent Online 29 September 2017).

Jeremy Corbyn’s public investment agenda will be in stark contrast to the rhetorical flair of attempts by British Conservatives to re-market a new post-Brexit version of neoliberalism at the forthcoming Conference which is expected to attract more protesters than Delegates (Metro Online Manchester 28 September 2017).

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion to evaluate pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.

 

The Rule Book

By Kyran O’Dwyer

If you are to believe the pollsters, politicians are not trusted. Various ‘ratings’ put the level of trust in the ‘profession’ at somewhere between 12 and 20%. Having never met anyone who trusted a politician, comment escapes me. It is of interest the occupation of ‘pollster’ is also distrusted. Yet we seem obsessed with their frequent offerings, and quote them as if they can be trusted. Trust in the media is also subject to wide variation, more often dependent on the outlet, rather than the offerings of their scribes. That ‘the outrageous’ is circulated more widely than ‘the considered’ is, at the very least, cause for concern.

Over decades, professions such as doctors, scientists, teachers, firefighters, police, paramedics, have consistently been considered trustworthy, by more than 70% of us. Over the same decades, their opinions and knowledge have been ignored and/or derided. Their credibility is no match for the incessant howls of the politicians, whom we don’t trust, ever amplified by partisan scribes, in increasingly irrelevant forum. Go figure!

An even greater irony is that the politicians, whom we don’t trust, set the terms and conditions of the ‘rules’ we are meant to abide by, whilst ignoring the rules themselves. They live in a rarefied space. Beyond question, beyond reproach, beyond accountability.

We have now had over four years of non-government. Without fear or favour, our IPA ‘government’ has continued its backward trajectory to ‘the good ol’ days’ of the fifties.

My bad. ‘Without fear or favour’ should read ‘Using fear to disguise favour’. Otherwise, all good.

The list of transgressions perpetrated against the Australian people by this non-government is long. To add insult to this obvious injury, we have our political masters, and their business masters, telling us that these transgressions are not only necessary, but are in our best interests.

Like salt to a very open wound, the only reassurance offered is the platitude “Trust us”.

We do, after all, get to pick the best of the least worst every few years.

If you wish to ponder our current IPA ‘government’s’ achievements, it won’t take long.

Pick a minister, any minister at all, and tell me they are competent (in the ministerial sense).

One. Just one.

I ask only because I can’t think of one. The list of ministers who openly profess their ignorance of their own portfolios simply beggars belief.

Even worse, we have ministers who openly profess their disdain, their contempt, for their own portfolios. Whether it be education, health, the economy, Indigenous affairs, the NBN, NDIS, the environment, foreign affairs, defence, welfare, whatever. Never before has ‘ministerial responsibility’ been confined to nothing more than stating that they cannot do their job. Any expectation that they do their job is an unreasonable and/or unrealistic impost. Apparently.

As to policy, how can such a thing exist in this paralysing vacuum?

Ideology, devoid of reason or substance, will never amount to policy. Notwithstanding that caveat, pick a ‘policy’, any ‘policy’ at all, and tell me they have a plan. Even their co-masters, big business, are screaming for something. Anything.

No ministers. No policies. No judgement. No idea.

None of the foregoing would come as a surprise to anyone living in this vacuum. Whether you are ‘politically aware’ or not, there is no escaping the facts. Jobs are few, and the conditions of employment have gone backwards. Growth is all but non-existent, other than the bank accounts of the privileged. Debt is very real and very personal to most Australians, but of no concern to our ‘government’. Access to health and education is increasingly reliant on the content of your wallet, rather than the extent of your need.

The list of this ‘government’s’ wanton incompetence is well documented.

We have had bad governments before. Whether this is, or isn’t, the worst of all time is irrelevant. What this government underscores is the absence of accountability or any right of redress. How can we, the people, remedy a situation that is detrimental to us, when there are no safeguards, other than the next election?

What this ‘government’ has writ large is that it has no regard for ‘due process’. It has achieved next to nothing through parliament, yet has increased the ‘executive powers’ of, arguably, the most miserable bunch of miscreants yet to occupy the lavish, hallowed halls of parliament, with all of its attendant privilege.

The very existence of this ‘government’ is sufficient evidence that we need change. Not just changing the status quo, but ensuring that we, the people, are never again held hostage by our ‘masters’.

This Peter Dutton thing is an example of what is so horribly (horrifically?) wrong at the moment. A minister so ignorant of his own portfolio, that his frequent lies about those in his care do not warrant repeating, even if only to discredit them. Putting aside discussion of his intellect, character, integrity, compassion, is not an easy task. They are, after all, attributes you would normally like to see in a member of parliament. But, putting them aside for a minute, consider his history.

To recall that he was voted ‘the worst ever’ minister of health may seem unkind. To recall that his competition for such ignominy included Tony Abbott, may seem harsh. That the title wasn’t wrested from him by Sussan Ley, who was fired, is nothing more than an un-subtle underscore of the enormity of his incompetence.

That he has no understanding of, let alone respect for, ‘due process’ is well documented. The Melbourne Border Farce exercise in August, 2015, was an eerie forecast of what to expect. An exercise in overreach, cancelled before it started. The ABF commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg, survived that debacle, only to fall when his ‘judgement’ was called into question. That Quaedvlieg was the arbiter of judgement on so many others is, at the very least, galling.

The ABF has gone on to score numerous own goals. Accounting anomalies, in the billions of dollars. Blatant disregard for international law and treaties. Corruption, resulting in incarceration of its dishonest employees, including Fabio Pezzullo. A four year dispute with its honest employees over pay and conditions. These are but a few of their transgressions.

All under Dutton’s lifeless gaze.

Now add Michael Pezzullo to this toxic mess/mix. The architect of the ‘super department’ has been peddling this for a while.

That this ‘super department’ has been contemplated, and discarded, by various governments since 2001 is a matter of fact.

That the stars aligned for Pezzullo under the lifeless gaze of Dutton is cause for concern. Great concern. That much of this ‘super department’ will be created without parliamentary oversight is terrifying. As for judicial oversight, or legal recourse, Dutton doesn’t do that. He prefers to settle claims out of court, to avoid scrutiny. There are over 20 cases so far settled in this manner, the most spectacular being a $70 mill ‘STFU’ settlement, with a $20 mill ‘Please’ for the lawyers.

Nearly 40% of his arbitrary decisions are overturned in the AAT.

His response? Remove appeal provisions from his decisions. A minister of questionable attribute has gone from ignoring due process, to enshrining his right to ignore due process.

Gillian Triggs, back in 2015, delivered a speech, warning of the dangers of removing oversight from the actions of Dutton and his ilk. It is a strong argument for a far greater application of the doctrine of the Separation of Powers.

The speech has been honed and refined, most recently redelivered in the Michael Kirby Oration.

Justin Gleeson has similar reservations and offers similar arguments for greater, not lesser, scrutiny of Dutton and his ilk.

In the period between those speeches, from 2015 to now, Peter Dutton has exemplified all that is wrong. Not just with this ‘government’, but with a system that is so fundamentally and fatally flawed, that its only celebration is Peter Dutton.

Why would you trust Dutton and Pezzullo to oversee a department with such incredible power, devoid of scrutiny or oversight?

Well, you see, it’s not so much about what we, the people, need. Let alone want. Our ‘leader’ is a great believer in insurance. Not so much like the FAI debacle, where it was more a case of ensuring his bank account got bigger. More like ensuring his political future. Clearly, donating a couple of million to his employers was never going to be enough.

Dutton? Really?

This is the argument for increasing ministerial power and removing oversight?

It’s apparently not popular to argue for more regulation, more scrutiny, more oversight. It’s certainly not popular to argue for those with knowledge to formulate such regulation, such scrutiny, such oversight.

An argument that Ms Triggs and Mr Gleeson have prosecuted well. Certainly, beyond any reasonable doubt.

There are only two words necessary to reinforce their clarion call: Peter Dutton.

We need a new Rule Book.

 

The enduring blight of inequality

By Ad astra

How much longer are we prepared to accept the level of inequality that exists in the world?

How much longer are we prepared to accept the level of inequality we now suffer in this country?

If any reader out there still doubts the extent of inequality here, do read a July 8 article in The Conversation by Nicholas Biddle, Associate Professor, and Francis Markham, Research Fellow at the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences titled: What income inequality looks like across Australia.

They begin: ‘With affordable houses increasingly out of reach, wage growth slow and household debt high, Australians are certainly feeling poor.’ They conclude: ‘Australia has prominent examples of economic policies that disproportionately benefit the upper-middle class, such as the capital gains tax discount and superannuation tax incentives. It also has a geographically concentrated income distribution, with the rich living in neighbourhoods with other rich people. The poor are also more likely to live in close proximity to people who share their disadvantage.’

Treasurer Scott Morrison though insists that inequality is lessening!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote Inequality ambylyopia to highlight the blindness of conservatives, notably our own Treasurer, to the reality and the extent of inequality in this country. The piece argued that while the facts about inequality were abundant and visible to everyone, by the time the evidence reached their visual cortex it had become invisible, just as images transmitted by an amblyotic (lazy) eye are not interpreted properly.

Bill Shorten predicts that inequality will be an issue at the next election. This prediction is not new. In April of last year, before the 2016 federal election, I made the same prediction and wrote Inequality will be a hot button election issue.. It didn’t turn out that way; Shorten is hoping that by the next election inequality and its awful consequences will be burned into the minds of voters, and will influence their voting as he guarantees to do something about it. He will need a sound plan, an understandable and plausible set of objectives, and some appealing slogans to attract attention.

Inequality is omnipresent and persistent. To remind us of this it is worth looking back a little to ascertain if anything has changed.

It is now well over a year since Inequality will be a hot button election issue was published on The Political Sword. It began:

‘Inequality’ is a term used by economists. Joseph Stiglitz has been writing for years about its damaging effect. His book: The Price of Inequality is a classic. More recently, Thomas Piketty entered the arena with his Capital in the Twenty-First Century and hypothesised about the genesis of inequality. He asserted that the main driver of inequality, namely the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth, threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. He reminded us that political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past and could do so again. But is anyone listening?

No matter who writes about inequality, the conclusion is the same: the gap between those at the top and those languishing at the bottom of the pile is widening in many countries, ours among them.

A more familiar way of talking about inequality is to talk about ‘fairness’, a concept every Aussie understands. The ‘fair go’ is valued by most of us. Who would argue against the idea that everyone should have a ‘fair go’?

So look out for emphasis on fairness during the election campaign. You will hear it from Bill Shorten and Labor people; you might not hear much about it from LNP people, although PM Turnbull has often insisted that whatever changes his government makes to the tax system, they must be ‘fair’. We are still waiting to see his version of fairness. Although aware of the angry reaction of the people to the unfair 2014 Abbott/Hockey Budget, he is still seeking approval of many of the elements of it in the Senate. Treasurer Morrison does not seem to have ‘fair’ in his vocabulary.

Have you noticed that ordinary people are becoming increasingly fed up with the inequality we see day after day where those at the top of the pile gain advantages over those at the bottom? In the past few weeks we have seethed as we saw instance after instance of this. More of this later!

If you question whether inequality really is a problem in this country, take a look at these statistics, which are based on a 2015 ACOSS study: Inequality in Australia: a nation divided:

• Inequality in Australia is higher than the OECD average.
• A person in the top 20% income group has around five times as much income as someone in the bottom 20%.
• There is an urban and regional pattern to income inequality, with people in capital cities more likely to be in the top 20%, while those outside capital cities are more likely to be in the bottom 20%.
• Wealth is far more unequally distributed than income. A person in the top 20% has around 70 times more wealth than a person in the bottom 20%.
• The top 10% of households own 45% of all wealth, most of the remainder of wealth is owned by the next 50% of households, while the bottom 40% of households own just 5% of all wealth.
• The average wealth of a person in the top 20% increased by 28% over the past 8 years while for the bottom 20% it increased by only 3%.

In other words inequality is steadily increasing.

To read the rest of this piece click here.

What is your opinion?

What are views about inequality?

Will it be an election issue?

Let us know in comments below.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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An analysis of terrorism: The Turnbull government and political advantage of an ‘Existential Threat’ (Part 2)

By Dr Strobe Driver

(Continued from Part One)

Existentialism: applied to terrorism

First and foremost it is important to observe several attacks which have been noted by commentators’ as being of an existential nature, and it is this labelling that continues to inform the threat level: the Bastille Day attack in Nice (14 July, 2016), which involved an attacker driving a truck through a crowd of pedestrians; the London Bridge attack (3 June, 2017), in which a car was used to kill pedestrians; and the more recently the attack on pedestrians in Barcelona (17 August, 2017), in which a van was used. The type of attack is a reflection of and a response to, what the actor perceives as being an overwhelming problem, and one that he (in these cases the perpetrators were male) must respond to; be part of the cause; and play an active role in opposing the enemy—in these cases the West. What is of interest here however, is the decision-making according to the existential paradigm and the concomitant psycho- and socio-homogenization of the populace. From this standpoint all members of the populace—military and civilian—are bona-fide targets and it can be surmised the existential decision to attack is one of ‘self’ against an overarching enemy. The form of attack, the use of vehicles against the populace has become more frequent[24] and this is because terrorists in the tactical- and kinetic-phase of a low-intensity operation require simplicity, opportunism and vulnerability of the target. Attacks on soft-targets do have an existential basis, as an attack requires a high-degree of decision-making by the individual in the process of acquiring the necessary assets, and of following through with the attack. The existential nature of a terrorist attack is equally able to be applied to a small group or an ‘army’ such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as the decision-making and homogenization components are similar. Notwithstanding these factors, attacks of this type have been used as strategic and tactical necessities by terrorists for many decades.

During the French occupation of Algeria (1954 – 1962), French military and Algerian government forces were constantly harassed by the guerrillas of the Armée de Libération Nationale (FLN), which objected to French involvement in Algerian affairs. The FLN caused constant disruptions through the use of tactical ‘pin pricks’[25] … [consisting of] ‘small, highly trained packets [of guerrillas] … [randomly] shelling and mortaring [French] units … a hand grenade thrown into a café here, a burst of machine gun fire on the beach there.[26] These tactics then, as now, comprises an overall disruptive strategy that is designed to take advantage of small hit-and-run tactics; terrify the public; stretch government authorities and their allies’ to an absolute limit; and exhaust government and governance capabilities. All are intended by a terrorist group, when a government is exhausted from the battles, to sue for peace on favourable terms. It is through the use of persistent minor lethal disruptions from which strategic- and political-advantage is gained.

In the Twenty-first century it is a germane observation that the number of attacks appears to be on the increase and without doubt this is due to the news cycle; and the immediacy with which an attack is reported. Notwithstanding the carnage the number of fatalities from terrorist attacks 2000-2015 decreased compared to previous decades.[27] The number of fatalities however, does not adequately reflect the overarching perception of the terrorist threat, as the aim of a terrorist or group, is to instil fear in the populace. The drastic change that has come about for authorities in the West is that they are now dealing with people ‘willing to die in pursuit of the action,’[28] in a deliberate way whereas, in previous decades the aim was to survive the attack in order to fight another day. This factor brings existentialism to the fore as the decision to die for a cause (theoretically) presents a willingness to make the ultimate and most intimate of personal decision-making, one which is free of logic and reasoning.

Fighting from this existential platform presents numerous and significant problems to the authorities of nation-states—the West in particular. The most lethal form of recent disruptions have been by  ‘lone-wolf’[29] actors, and this is closely followed by actors working within  small cells—usually referred to as ‘sleeper cells.’ The tactics of both have progressively concentrated on ‘soft target’ disruption, which essentially involves the killing of civilians in public places and from a tactical perspective these attacks have been successful in part, because the individuals’ have no followers; are not part of a group; and have no hierarchy of control.[30] Authorities therefore, are reduced in their capabilities as (usually) and by necessity, authorities are pre-positioned as a response to actions; and the attacks are opportunistic and this too, favours the initiator.

Notwithstanding the abovementioned actions and the tangible- and symbolic-outcomes it is able to be accurately argued that the actor is an existential threat to the people immediately involved; and to the population at large—in the case of the aforementioned the three liberal-democratic nation-states of France, Britain and Spain. Other Western nation-states, because of their similarities to these three countries are also able to claim the dangers of terrorism is existential and therefore, terrorism from this perspective, does represent an existential threat to the West. With regard to individual actions terrorism has morphed beyond large group-think actions such as Baader-Meinhof Gang/Red Army Faction,[31]  to being more persuasive to the individuals, and it is here that the connection to existentialism is more erudite and easily made.  Individual action—in the case of a lone-wolf actor—has (theoretically) much less influence from forces external to the self, for instance other members of a group or cell, and the individual encompasses existentialism and becomes an existential-threat. There is and remains however in the complex narrative of terrorism, an alternate perspective of whether terrorists deem the West to be an existential threat.

The West as an existential threat

From a broader political perspective the existential threat the West represents—as a body-politic—is usually judged through the prism of political recognition, military-ties and economic benefits and the concomitant non-recognition that non-state actors may be fighting against may have valid claims regarding exploitative government- and economic-structures exist, and that repression and discrimination are present.[32] Countries with deep-seated and ongoing domestic governance issues and internal frictions are many and the West, through the auspices of the United Nations, has done little in applying comprehensive pressure to bring about change—the Philippines, Israel, Nigeria, Mali and Saudi Arabia[33] is to name only some that have within their societies long-term highly-fractious issues. The West however offers ongoing and systemic support for these countries. The West, usually through the mechanisms of the United Nations, persistently fails abysmally in its problem-solving. The Twenty-first century has shown the West to offer more of the same with regard to demanding change. A recent example of the West’s inept handling of crises is Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). Whilst both operations were aimed at regime change[34] it can also be argued they represent a strategic-foothold for the West in the Middle East which reflects its colonising history and its inabilities to  exercise comprehensive change beyond strategic necessity. The West’s intervention in Afghanistan by the United States of America (US) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2001—Operation Enduring Freedom—in order to expel the Taliban[35] is a prime example of an involvement that was and remains, ill-conceived, badly-executed and ineffectual as the Taliban continues to be a robust force. A significant part of the reason that Afghanistan is an abject failure is the West comprises the US, ISAF and its allies and a compliant and obsequious Afghan government has sought to make Afghanistan, ‘something safe for us [the West], but entirely foreign to the Afghans’ which accords to the historic Western notions of the Orient comprising East Asia, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East as being ‘silent, available to Europe for the realizations of [its] projects… .’[37]

Consequently, the level of forced intervention by the West and the way in which operations are conducted without doubt promotes an understanding amongst the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq that the West is an existential threat to their lands, religion, culture, tribe, kin, population and numerous other elements within their societies. Whilst this may broaden the facets of existentialism to a politico-bloc the West is nonetheless, making decisions and enacting choices. To extend on this point the application of terrorism depends on perpetrator’s attitude, loyalties and focus and therefore it is pertinent to mention the differences between Western values and the values of others. To offer a perspective of terrorism, the Taliban was considered to be a terrorist group by the US only after Bin Laden, the self-prescribed leader of Al-Qaeda, ‘advised the Taliban to offer a [oil pipeline] contract to an Argentine firm … Unicol [a US firm] lost out.  Washington was furious and immediately turned on the Taliban and branded it an ‘outlaw regime.’[38] Terrorism as an act for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban is seen of as a reaction to what is often referred to as ‘Westoxification’[39]  has hinged on many issues although it comes under the macrocosm of the selective inclusion of politico-, military- and economic-principles of the West; and the (selective) application of these to Middle East, Southeast and Central Asian Muslim societies. This has often fuelled much of the recalcitrance toward Western societies, and is largely directed at the US and its closest allies. The recalcitrance referred to has inspired, and then drawn in many other actors. An example of this can be traced to the Gulf War (1990- 1991), in which Osama bin Laden, (and his Al-Qaeda followers) did not approve of Saddam’s military forces invading Kuwait, however Bin Laden’s greatest objections were the US’ maintenance of the Saudi Arabian monarchy; the monarchy’s continuing subjugation of Islam’s holiest land; and the deployment of US troops on Islam’s holy Saudi Arabian soil to fight a fellow Arab state.[40] The West, from this point of view has honed the focus of those that would react against its policies and practices.

The ongoing and consistent animosity toward the West by exogenous and non-state actors in the aforementioned clearly offers examples of the West being deemed an existential threat to their societies.

Conclusion

British forces in Syria, US forces in Iraq and US and Australian forces in Afghanistan are three locations which have presented targets for exogenous actors. The US in Iraq and US and ISAF in Afghanistan are possibly the most significant kinetic interventions with regard to enforcing and reinforcing a Euro-centric/Eurocentrism[41] model of good government and governance. As a result they have drawn the most ire and ongoing reactive violence from exogenous groups; and this shows no sign of decreasing

Within the realm of existentialism and as this essay has borne out, no one power has a dominance over what is an existential threat comprises and moreover, there is some disagreement regarding whether terrorism is an existential threat to developed Western countries.[42]  What is an existential-threat is dependent on perspectives. Whilst all of the reasons that exogenous groups attack governments—particularly Western ones—is beyond the debate in this essay, and bearing in mind there is unlikely to be any unique cause for terrorism,[43] as there is no key event identifying the moment that an actor views himself or herself as a soldier fighting for comrades and cause,[44] an historical underpinning that drives violent reactions by exogenous groups does have a primary focus.  Groups and individuals that present and are subsequently involved in fighting Western forces in non-Western environments essentially, ‘seek to liberate themselves and their co-nationals from what they perceive to be a colonial situation or a repressive government.’[45]  The existential-connectivity of a group is no doubt enhanced through their successes (and losses), and this it can be argued also informs and compels an ongoing belligerence toward their enemy. Thus, ISAF is a force that requires an existential response from an exogenous actor. The followers it is safe to argue, embrace relevant political and cultural ideologies of the group, which in ideologies in turn ‘drive the actions’[46] and this relates to lone-wolf as well as group actors. All in some way contribute to ‘the interests and desires of the individual become secondary to the group [or individual cause] and he/she will take any steps to advance its [and if the act is a lone-wolf attack it must, by necessity, contribute to the group] goals.’[47] The actions may be different dependent on the actors however, this essay argues they are driven by observing the West as an existential threat to their religion, culture, and tribe along with many other aspects of their lives and moreover, the acts of violence will continue as long as the West is perceived as an existential threat.

Acknowledging that existentialism is a profoundly nuanced subject matter and one that encompasses many more aspects than those mentioned is a germane yet necessary observation to make. The process of terrorism morphing from a violent asymmetrical-threat to an asymmetrical- and existential-threat, signals a profound change in its trajectory by Western governments. Whether it has been brought about by numerous failed models of interventionism, it is necessary for Western governments to label terrorism as an existential-threat rather than an empirical- or rational-threat. This is due to labelling a threat in this way disentangles the West from accepting and admitting reactions against it may have a reasoned and rationale evidence-base. It is politicians’ in the West that have controlled the debate, and observed the catastrophic consequences of the attacks, and have sought to prove that terrorism and terrorists are free from judging their actions through the prism of negative Western influences. Regardless of the way in which the West has approached interventionism and the terrorist threat that has been inspired because of it, the fundamental strategy of interventionism remains ensconced in a flawed US model of action. An action that the West (including Australia), nevertheless, persists following. This is writ large in the following observation.

The American tradition [of fighting wars and of intervention] also tends to neglect the lesson, learned repeatedly in dozens of twentieth-century wars, that the only way to defeat an insurgency campaign is not to attack the enemy but instead to protect and win over the people.[48]

Whilst the West continues with the abovementioned strategy—and follows the US model of action—exogenous actors will continue to perceive the West as an existential threat and their violent reactions will continue. Soft-targets will remain at the forefront of exogenous actors preferred method of objecting to, and repulsing the West.

This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

© Strobe Driver. September 2017. Strobe Driver, completed a doctoral thesis in war studies in 2011 and since then has been writing on war, terrorism and Asia-Pacific security. The above article has been modified for an Australian audience although the main argument appeared in E-IR on 28 Sept, 2017; and is in his blog Geo-Strategic Orbit.

References

[24] For a comprehensive list of terrorist attacks 1970 – 2016.  See:  The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Global Terrorism Database, https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/

[25] Alistair Horne.  A Savage War of Peace.  Algeria 1954 – 1962. New York: New York Review of Books, 2006, 413.

[26] A Savage War of Peace.  Algeria 1954 – 1962, 413.

[27] Emma Luxton. ‘Is terrorism in Europe at an historical high?’ World Economic Forum.   24 May, 2016.  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/terrorism-in-europe-at-historical-high/

[28] ‘Is terrorism in Europe at an historical high?’

[29] There are four ‘types’ of ‘lone-wolf’ attackers and for the purpose of this essay it is the second ‘type’ that is of most interest here. The second type is the religious lone-wolf, who perpetrates terrorism in the name of Islam, Judaism or some other belief system.’  See: Jeffrey Simon. ‘What makes a lone-wolf terrorist so dangerous?’ 18 April, 2013. UCLANews.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/what-makes-lone-wolfe-terrorists-245316

[30] UCLANews.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/what-makes-lone-wolfe-terrorists-245316

[31] The Baader-Meinhof Group was formed in 1968 and had its origins in the German protest university movement of the 1970s. The group engaged in bank robberies, arson and terrorism. The group decried the US as an Imperialist power and labelled the West German government as fascist and a holdover from the Nazi era. The group was also involved in kidnapping and assassinations and had at least 22 core members. See: John Jenkins. ‘Red Army Faction.’ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Red-Army-Faction

[32] Global Terrorism, 16.

[33] President Rodrigo Duterte’s of the Philippines ongoing ‘war on drugs’ has been criticised by Human Rights Watch due to the number of unlawful extra-judicial killings

See: https://www.hrw.org/tag/philippines-war-drugs. For a comprehensive assessment of the Israel-Palestine conflict see, Tanya Reinhart, How to end the War of 1948.

‘Nigeria: Corruption Fuelling Police Abuses.’  See: Human Rights Watch. 17 Aug, 2010.  https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/08/17/nigeria-corruption-fueling-police-abuses.

France had been stating for months in 2012, that a West African military force should bring control to Mali.  French President Hollande acted and sent troops to Mali in January, 2013—after the Malian Army had been surprised by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.  See: John Barry. ‘Mali – The French Way of War.’ The European Institute. https://www.europeaninstitute.org/index.php/167-european-affairs/ea-january-2013/1683-mali-the-french-way-of-war

The Saudi Arabia government ‘promised bin Laden that the foreigners would leave as soon as the [1991 Gulf] war was over.  But American forces were in Saudi Arabia a year after the Gulf War ended, and bin Laden felt betrayed.  See:  Cindy Combs.  Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century.  Boston: Longman, 2013, 26.

[34] Joseph Collins.  Lessons Encountered. Learning from the Long War.  Washington: NDU Press, 2015.  http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Publications/Books/Lessons-Encountered/Article/915829/chapter-1-initial-planning-and-execution-in-afghanistan-and-iraq/

[35] For a comprehensive assessment of the Taliban in Afghanistan see, ‘Soldiers killed as Taliban storms Kandahar base.’  Al-Jazeera. 27 July, 2017 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/soliders-killed-taliban-storms-kandahar-base-170726080235545.html

[36] Andrew Rohrer. ‘Why did we fail in the Afghan war? Because we didn’t understand the place.’  Foreign Policy. 12 Feb, 2015.  http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/12/why-did-we-fail-in-the-afghan-war-because-we-didnt-understand-the-place/

[37] Edward Said. Orientalism. Western Conceptions of the Orient.  London: Pengion Books, 1978, 94.

[38] Eric Margolis. War at the Top of the World. New York: Routledge, 2002, 94.

[39] Samuel Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.  New York: Simon & Shuster, 2011, 212-213

[40] Gilles Kepel. The War for Muslim Minds. Islam and the West. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004, 98-99.

[41] The definition of ‘Eurocentric’ is to view societies through the prism of European and Anglo-American definitions of the societies and the World. See: ‘Definition of Eurocentric.’ Merriam-Webster.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Eurocentric

[42] For a comprehensive understanding of terrorism being a threat to the balance-of-power in Western and non-Western countries see: Peter Jennings. ‘Is terrorism an existential threat?’ The Counterterrorism Yearbook 2017. Australian Strategic Policy Institute. 13 April, 2017. https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/terrorism-existential-threat/

[43] Charles Tilly. ‘Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists,’  Sociological Theory. Edited by Mustafa Emirbayer. California: Sage Publications, 2004, Vol 22, 5-13.

[44] Marc Sageman. Misunderstanding Terrorism. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2017, 143.

[45] James Lutz and Brenda Lutz. Global Terrorism. Oxon: Routledge, 2013, 15.

[46] Global Terrorism, 14.

[47] Ami Pedahzur. Suicide Terrorism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005, 7.

[48] Thomas Ricks. The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq.  New York: Penguin, 2007, 5-6.

An analysis of terrorism: The Turnbull government and political advantage of an ‘Existential Threat’

By Dr Strobe Driver

Introduction

There has been an ongoing debate within Australian politics since approximately 2015 about terrorism and it having become an ‘existential threat.’ The debate originally started within the realm of referring to the war in Syria and the violence associated with the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Honourable Tony Abbott (MP) when he was prime minister persistently referred to ISIS as a ‘death cult,’ Attorney-General George Brandis claimed it was an ‘existential threat,’ and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (MP) told Australians that ISIS emerged from the Arab Spring (and therefore had nothing to do with Western intervention in Iraq)[1] and of Royal Australian Air Force strikes in the Middle East.[2] There has since 2015, been considerable discussion about terrorism morphing from a physical to existential threat and recently the debate has included ‘uncontrolled migration’ posing an existential threat to some European countries. From this Prime Minister Turnbull has sought to reinvigorate ‘national values’ and thus citizenship[3] issues have also come into play. The Honourable Peter Dutton (MP) and his views with regard to citizenship, border protection and a myriad of other security and domestic issues are well-known—including his Home Affairs[4] minister front bench status—and he has also been part of the vigorous debate surrounding national values.[5]  Notwithstanding all of the aforementioned the term ‘existential’ keeps entering the debate and whilst this essay is premised largely on Europe and the Middle East with regards to what the threat comprises (and due to the number of attacks), it is nevertheless relevant to Australia as there have been ‘lone-wolf’ attacks and this essay can be related to Australia’s domestic environment. What the term means—and the concomitant political elevation that has been made by Conservatives’ in the Turnbull government—is why the term needs to be debated; warrants exposure; requires clarification; and needs to be given a perspective. As with other Western governments—especially if there is trouble within the economy—the Turnbull government has been quick to use border protection, terrorism, and security in general to gain an advantage in the domestic political sphere. Whilst this in many ways mirrors former prime minister Howard (the patsy from Down Under[6]) going to war with the United States of America (US) and its ‘war on terror,’ and the subsequent political gain (at least initially) that was made, and it is worth noting that the political rhetoric from the Conservatives continues; and remains consistent about the threat. With this in mind and as the threat continues an examination can now be made.

As the threat and actions of terrorists terrorism have become more focussed, and their outcomes having a greater impact on populaces of nation-states. Their actions by necessity have demanded a change in thinking by governments of nation-states—particularly Western nation-states]. The rethink has been brought about by the pursuit of civilian (undefended) locales and the successes individual and terrorist groups have achieved in the targeting of them. The attacks on what have become colloquially known as ‘soft targets’—the attack on the World Trade Center[7] being the most significant in recent times–has permitted terrorism and therefore terrorists, to attain a newfound prominence. Historically, the commentary associated with terrorism consisted only of it representing a threat which employed ‘asymmetrical’ tactics to disrupt populaces. Placing improvised-explosive-devices in public spaces, kidnapping and targeting government buildings is to list only several examples of commitment to what are termed ‘target rich environments.’[8]  In more contemporary times the political rhetoric, largely by Western politicians’ have morphed terrorism into a more lethal dyad: the combination of being an asymmetrical- and an existential- threat. Adding the new terminology ascribes and signals, a fundamentally different view of terrorism and extends it beyond simply being non-state actors taking up arms against the State to that of an actor or actors, using violence as a means of personal expression. Terrorism therefore, has been given a renewed prominence and is a higher level of menace in order to attain domestic political advantage.

Since 2001, there has been numerous attacks: the Westgate shopping mall attack by Al-Shabaab in Nairobi (Kenya, 2013), in which 67 people were killed[9]; the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Chibok (Nigeria, 2014);[10] and the shootings in the Charlie Hedbo office in Paris (France, 2015) by Al-Qaeda, in which 11 people were killed.[11]  Notwithstanding the ferocity of the attacks they continue and in the process have drawn in other actors and due to the connecting of the words ‘existential’ and ‘threat’ by commentators—notably Western politicians—has triggered a renewed urgency to, and in, Western polity. Liberal-democracy, good governance; fair and equal elections, rule-of-law; the illegality of exogenous actors challenging the authority of the State; and transparent government is to name only several components that have been re-asserted as appropriate governance. For the West, terrorists acting against the State comprises a triad: the method (violence), the target (civilian or government), and the purpose (to instil fear and enforce political or social change).[12]

The usage of the term ‘existential threat,’—especially in political forums and the news media—it is fair to argue has gripped the public imagination and therefore, terrorism has gained a renewed vigour; and the term has further created a robust and enduring fear throughout the West. A broad yet accurate summation of why terrorism has gained such importance is the increasing number of individuals are ‘finding’ themselves through their personal experiences and resorting to violence in order to prove their commitment to a cause. It is the perceptions that lead to action that requires analysis and it is necessary to delve deeper into what is meant by the term ‘existential’; whether terrorism fulfils the requirements within the definition. This essay will also intertwine terrorism as a multi-faceted matter within societal and cultural boundaries and perspectives.

Existentialism: an overview

Acknowledging that there are slight, variations to the thematic definitions of what it is to be an ‘existentialist’ and to involve oneself in ‘existentialism,’ is dependent upon which scholarly practice and  interpretation is applied. There are variations in the writings of Søren, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Dostoevsky and Sartre–although the schematic of emotion, ‘anguish and dread’[13]—are within all of the texts. To be an existentialist by necessity means to be a person that has and applies, an existentialist approach to situations.  Within this principled approach, the person—in this case a terrorist—embraces the notions and ‘… importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make in the individual who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe’[14]  An explanation of this is that humans—although Sartre refers to and uses, the gendered term ‘man’—first exists encounters himself and emerges in the world, to be defined afterwards … It is man who conceives himself, who propels himself towards existence. Man becomes nothing other than what is actually done, not what he will want to be.[15]

The aforementioned factors are therefore, and by definition, associated with an ‘individual’s unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.[16] What he/she has become is informed by experiences and their decisions are their responsibility alone. The link that is able to be made here is a terrorist, when reacting through the prism of violence is effectively, using violence as an extension of their reality. A terrorist is ‘made’ through their own unique experiences and understandings associated with what has, or is happening to their country, people, religion, kin, tribe, culture and a multitude of other factors. Terrorism from an existential perspective is when an individual, ‘surges up in the world and then defines himself afterwards … and then he will be what he makes of himself.’[17]  Theoretically, the individual making the decision to carry out an act of terrorism is doing so with ‘freedom, decision and responsibility … [and] these matters constitute the core of personal being.’[18] It is these factors that have contributed to the reconfiguring of terrorism from being a strategic and tactical asymmetrical-threat, to an asymmetrical – and existential-threat. In order to understand existentialism at a deeper level it is necessary to observe how it evolved into a way of deduction. Existentialism was, and remains a response to previous intellectual pursuits of reason and rationale.   Existentialism was a reaction to rationalism and empiricism which has at its core the Enlightenment (1685 – 1815),[19]  which is ‘positivistic’[20] and holds the conviction ‘that the true repositories of knowledge are the sciences.’[21]  Empiricism retains the predisposition and doctrinal components of ‘all knowledge comes from the sense experiences’[22] and that ‘the mind is not furnished with a set of concepts in advance of experience.’[23]

The fundamental variance in the two concepts broadly-speaking is that empiricism is a theory of knowledge that comes from experience from which one makes a decision, whereas existentialism defaults to an individual being able to make decisions free from historical and social constraints—regardless of the processes involved a decision is able to be made. Whether the decision made by a person willing to commit a terrorist act is empirical or existential (or a combination of both), is a moot point as what is being analysed here the politico-application of the term ‘existential,’ and the concomitant considerations therein.

Notwithstanding the abovementioned, the adding of the word ‘existential’ to the word ‘threat’ offers an all-encompassing concept to the practice of terrorism. It is one which moves it as an act, to beyond a rational decision to that of a personal one. According to the political rhetoric the labelling of terrorism in this way is an acknowledgement that when a terrorist act is committed, it is free of social- and historical-constraints—the act is devoid of reason and made solely from personal accord. A drawing together of existentialism and terrorism is now able to be made.

(Continued tomorrow).

This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

© Strobe Driver. September 2017. Strobe Driver, completed a doctoral thesis in war studies in 2011 and since then has been writing on war, terrorism and Asia-Pacific security. The above article has been modified for an Australian audience although the main argument appeared in E-IR on 28 Sept, 2017; and is in his blog Geo-Strategic Orbit.

References

[1] For a succinct analysis of ISIS in Iraq see: Bernard Keane. ‘Turnbull sets terms for a reset of terrorism rhetoric.’  Crikey. 5 Oct, 2015.  https://www.crikey.com.au/2015/10/05/turnbull-sets-terms-for-a-reset-of-terrorism-rhetoric/

[2] See:’ Strike Maintenance in the Middle East.’ Royal Australian Air Force. 25 Aug, 2016.  https://www.airforce.gov.au/News/Strike-Maintenance-in-the-Middle-East/?RAAF-ocpPIMzd7faOsa0P4Nd9VZkOzAUApXao

[3] James Elton-Pym. ‘PM wants ‘patriotism from would-be citizens as counter-terror move.’  SBS. 13 June, 2017.  http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/06/13/pm-wants-patriotism-would-be-citizens-counter-terror-move

[4] Karen Barlow. ‘Peter Dutton Nets New, Super-Sized UK Style Home Affairs Ministry.’  Huffpost.  18 July, 2017.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/17/peter-dutton-gets-new-super-sized-uk-style-home-affairs-ministr_a_23034794/

[5] There is a plethora of Dutton’s views on the Internet, however this article embraces many of the issues in this essay.  See: Jackson Gothe-Snape.  SBS.  13 June, 2017.  http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/06/15/fears-stateless-kids-and-extraordinary-powers-dutton-prompt-new-citizenship?cid=inbody:dutton-promises-new-powers-won%E2%80%99t-distract-from-immigration ‘Fear of stateless kids and ‘extraordinary powers’ for Dutton prompt new citizenship concerns.’

[6] Paul McGeough. ‘Chilcot Report: The mind-boggling incompetence of Bush, Blair and Howard laid bare.’  The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 July. 2016. http://www.smh.com.au/world/chilcot-report-the-mindboggling-incompetence-of-bush-blair-and-howard-laid-bare-20160706-gq06hy.html

[7] For an overarching account of this action.  See: ‘World trade Center Disaster.’  United States Search and Rescue Task Force. http://www.ussartf.org/world_trade_center_disaster.htm

[8] James Lutz and Brenda Lutz. Global Terrorism.  Oxon: Routledge, 2013, 51.

[9] ‘Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall reopens after tragedy.’ BBCNews.  18 July, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33578890

[10] ee:’Nigeria Chibok abductions: What we know.’  BBCNews.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32299943

[11] ‘Charlie Hedbo attack: Track how events unfolded.’  ABCNews. 8 Jan, 2015.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-08/paris-newspaper-attack-mapped/6006110

[12] Harvey Kushner. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003, 359.

[13] See: ‘Existentialism.’ Dictionary.com/British Dictionary.

[14] See: M. Rajimanickam.  Modern General Psychology.‘  Kachehri Ghat: Bhargava Book House, 2000, 37.  https://books.google.com.au/books?id=eJfXkj56H0kC&pg=PA37&dq=deterministic+and+seemingly+meaningless+universe

[15] John-Paul Sartre. Existentialism is a Humanism.1945.  Edited by Glyn Taylor. Arizona State University.  http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/sartre-existentialism-squashed.pdf

[16] I have deliberately suspended the gendered language of the text by Sartre to encompass male and female in this description. Sartre, however describes these actions reflecting ‘a deep responsibility for all humanity.’  See: http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/sartre-existentialism-squashed.pdf

This essay, therefore argues that an act of terrorism, is considered to be an act on behalf of all humanity and the betterment of it which encompasses fellow humans that believe in their cause, and the saving of those that do not. The cause being exercised through the prism of a certain set of values via recalcitrance and in this case through the usage of violence. The values, whether they be freedom, religion, manumission or a multitude of other precedents is not what is of interest here, as it is the act of violence and its motivations through the prism of existentialism that informs this essay.

[17] Existentialism begins with ‘man as existent rather than man as a thinking subject.’  Sartre’s theorizing and philosophising considers man to be the subject, what happens to him is what makes him, it is the philosophy of the subject rather than the object. See: John McQuarrie.  Existentialism.  An introduction, guide and assessment.  London: Penguin Books, 1973, 14 -17.

See: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/existentialism?fallbackFrom=essential-british-english

[18] Existentialism.  An introduction, guide and assessment, 16.

[19] There is much debate amongst scholars when the Enlightenment began and ended, and feminists’ now argue that because women and the poor were excluded the term does not represent an accurate description of history. Notwithstanding the aforementioned and for the purpose of this essay the Enlightenment is 1685 – 1815. See: ‘Enlightenment.’  History. http://www.history.com/topics/enlightenment

[20] ‘Positivism’ was founded by Auguste Comte and is concerned with positive facts outweighing speculation.  See: ‘Positivism’ Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/positivism?s=t

[21] David Cooper.  Existentialism.  A Reconstruction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999, 15.

[22] Jack Reynolds. Understanding Existentialism. Chesham: Acumen Publishing, 2006, 111.

[23] See: ‘empiricism.’ Dictionary.com/British Dictionary.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/empiricism

“War Pigs”

By Christian Marx

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor (‘War Pigs’, Black Sabbath).

Another day, another endless stream of propaganda against the new US bogeyman, North Korea. Commercial channels are awash with this drivel. Sadly, so to is the ABC. Today we get another scare campaign of Soviet Spy Bots on Facebook and the usual North Korea fear mongering.

Time to give it up, ABC! Where is the independent reporting? Never any expose on American Imperialism. Australian media has failed time and again in reporting the facts. Remember the weapons of mass destruction lie in Iraq? How about the shameless lies about Syria? Remember the fraud that was the White Helmets?

Not only are our two publicly owned television channels spewing pro US rhetoric, our so called “left-wing” party, Labor have once again bent over for Uncle Sam. Why do both parties constantly shill for US wars? The answer is that our rich and powerful elite need the US. This is all about money and both parties are very much protecting the parasitism and immorality of the very wealthy.

Former Labor politician Kim Beasley is now on the board of Lockheed Martin. Yes, the company that manufactures bombs and military hardware. Charming. These people are shameless. How can one hope to have a semblance of neutrality or impartiality, when these clowns are appointed to cushy jobs within the Military Industrial Complex? The answer is, they can`t be trusted when they have vested interests in the military/US establishment.

Beasley is just one example of the massive conflict of interest across both political parties when it comes to American Imperialism. Australia has become nothing more than a vassal state of the United States. Our media is completely corrupted, both private and public. The only news organizations one can get a balanced view from is non corporate, independent media, such as Democracy Now, Wikileaks, and The Young Turks. In Australia only independent news pages, such as The Australian Independent Media Network, Independent Australia and New Matilda will offer an in depth analysis of foreign affairs.

Unfortunately many still believe the lies, obfuscation and shameless propaganda of the mainstream media. To any thinking Australian these outlets have zero integrity or credibility. Sadly, a large percentage of the populace just don’t bother to check the facts and in many cases do not even care.

So long as they have their plasma TV, their jet ski and all the other useless trinkets, they are anesthetized by product.

Let’s face it, Australians don’t really have an opposition to corporate power in this country. We have a duopoly of Liberal and Labor. Both are fully owned and controlled by the wealthy 1%. On the important issues such as asylum seekers, raising Newstart/pensions, foreign affairs, American imperialism, big mining, and tackling unemployment, the two parties are identical. There is a slight illusion of choice on the surface, such as Labor’s support for gay marriage, but this is just a distraction to divert the attention of the majority away from the crippling scourge of Neoliberalism, globalization and the ever increasing inequality which is flourishing in Australia.

In EVERY American pretext for war, Labor have been in lockstep with the Liberals. They supported all the lies and rhetoric from Washington. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Israeli apartheid, and now North Korea. The same old cliched rubbish is pumped out ad nausea from both political parties and their pathetic media.

Both sides of politics benefit with their unwavering alliance to the US. There is an endless revolving door after politics into cushy ambassador jobs and sitting on the boards of big American companies. These so called leaders of both sides of government are shameless parasites. They suck huge money from the public coffers, only to represent the geopolitical interests of gas and oil companies and the United States Military machine.

Make no mistake, these wars are not about bringing freedom and peace to the world. These wars are solely bout securing America’s energy needs for the future and expanding their already bloated empire. Russia, North Korea and increasingly Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia are fighting back. North Korea is far from a perfect country, but it has a right to self defence if it is threatened. The United States bombed North Korea into oblivion in 1953, so naturally it is very defensive of any US threat. Imagine if North Korea had bases all around the world and had their military on the seas around America? Do you think America would just accept this? Look what happens to countries that don`t have sufficient miltary insurance. America will just rape and plunder any nation who has poor defence capabilities. Libya is a prime example.

North Korea has attacked no other country in over six decades, while the United States has been an out of control death machine since 1945. Plundering, destroying dozens of countries and killing tens of millions around the world for sheer greed.

Great leaders around the world have condemned this and have known the truth for decades. Mighty men such as Mandela, Martin Luther King, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro have spoken of the evil of the United States. Increasingly many thinking people are now starting to realize the criminality and ruthlessness of the United states and their puppet Western lackeys. Australia is very complicit in this charade. Our media and both sides of politics are corrupt and complicit in these war crimes and attacks on sovereign nations. It is high time that the people of Australia united against these evil war pigs.

Christian Marx is a political and social activist interested in making the world a fairer place. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and has a keen interest in sociology, politics and history. He was one of the organizers of the March in March rallies in Melbourne and is the founder of the progressive news and information page, “Don`t Look At This Page”, and is also a co-founder of “The Global Revolution” website.

The “Nobel Peace Prize for War”

By Dr George Venturini

Heinz Alfred ‘Henry’ Kissinger obtained a Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1954. His interest was on Castelreagh and Metternich – two empire builders. He devoted his life to sublimate them.

In an incendiary, studiedly defamatory book the late Christopher Hitchens described him as “a mediocre and opportunist academic [intent on] becoming an international potentate. The signature qualities were there from the inaugural moment: the sycophancy and the duplicity; the power worship and the absence of scruple; the empty trading of old non-friends for new non-friends. And the distinctive effects were also present: the uncounted and expendable corpses; the official and unofficial lying about the cost; the heavy and pompous pseudo-indignation when unwelcome questions were asked. Kissinger’s global career started as it meant to go on. It debauched the American republic and American democracy, and it levied a hideous toll of casualties on weaker and more vulnerable societies.”

The story is all here: from the martyrdom of Indochina to becoming the real backchannel to Moscow on behalf of his new client: Donald Trump.

Editor’s note: This outstanding series by Dr Venturini concludes today with Part Twenty-three. Here is the link to Part Twenty-two; The strategies of a madman.

 

Throughout this essay evidence has been offered, and abundantly at that, of Kissinger’s moral failing, callousness, perhaps better still: indifference. Some of it is as inexplicable as it is shocking. There is a macho swagger in some of Kissinger’s remarks. It could, perhaps, be explained away if he had never wielded power, just as the world has been exposed to the gratuitously offensiveness of Donald J. Trump, forever presidential candidate. And one is fully  aware that Kissinger, the longest-lasting and most frequently observed pariah figure in modern American history, is but one of a line of men held in fear and contempt for the immorality of their services rendered and yet protected by the Establishment in recognition of those same services. William Tecumseh Sherman, Curtis LeMay, Robert McNamara, and, more recently, Donald Rumsfeld all come to mind.

Errol Mark Morris is an American film director primarily interested in documentaries examining and investigating, among other things, authorities and eccentrics. He is perhaps best known and most revered for his 1988 documentary The thin blue line, commonly cited among the best and most influential documentaries ever made. In his remarkable 2003 documentary The fog of war: Eleven lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara one saw that the protagonist, who was an octogenarian at the time, was a tormented man who was attempting to come to terms, unsuccessfully, with the immense moral burden of his actions as the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam war. McNamara had recently written a memoir (In retrospect: The tragedy and lessons of Vietnam, Times Books, New York 1995) in which he attempted to grapple with his legacy. He would conclude, well before leaving his post, that the war was a futile. But he did not share that insight with the public until late in life. In 1995 he was able to confess that the adventure was “wrong, terribly wrong.” He was full of remorse and feelings of guilt for his behaviour while in office. In return, he faced a ‘firestorm of scorn’ at that time.

Around that time, Stephen Henderson Talbot, a journalist and documentary producer interviewed McNamara, and then also secured an interview with Kissinger, who had been Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State and National Security Advisor during the Vietnam war’s hopeless, final years.

As he later wrote about his initial meeting with Kissinger, “I told him I had just interviewed Robert McNamara in Washington. That got his attention. … and then he did an extraordinary thing. He began to cry. But no, not real tears. Before my eyes, Henry Kissinger was acting. ‘Boohoo, boohoo,’ Kissinger said, pretending to cry and rub his eyes. ‘He’s still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty.’ He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis.”

McNamara died in 2009, at the same age Kissinger is today – ninety-three – but his belated public struggle with his conscience helped leaven his clouded reputation. Now that he is nearing the end of his life, Kissinger must wonder what his own legacy is to be. He can rest assured that, at the very least, his steadfast support for the American superpower project, no matter what the cost in lives, will be a major part of that legacy. Unlike McNamara, however, whose attempt to find a moral reckoning Kissinger held in such scorn, Kissinger has shown little in the way of a conscience. And because of that, it seems highly likely, history will not easily absolve him.

But would Kissinger care?

Kissinger obviously held McNamara and his feelings of guilt in utter disdain. Regret? Was is das?, remorse? What is it?

Kissinger had actually committed greater crimes than McNamara – crimes documented in Hitchens’s 2001 book, The trial of Henry Kissinger – and yet apparently felt no remorse at all. How does one get like that?

In his book Hitchens argued that Kissinger should be tried “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap and torture.”

The former secretary of state, whose ‘mentorship’ Hillary Clinton boasted during the last Democratic debate, is not just a poor choice of foreign policy adviser. He is an authentic war criminal.

Hitchens presents Kissinger as a master of “depraved realpolitik” with “a callous indifference to human life and human rights,” who was behind American-sponsored and financed atrocities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, Chile, East Timor – as it then was, Argentina, Cyprus, Kurdish Iraq, Iran, South Africa, Angola and more.

Despite the alleged crimes he oversaw, Kissinger was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Or should it be ‘Nobel Peace Prize for War’?

Kissinger’s intimate handwritten note [see Part 22: The strategies of a madman] is just one sign of the close ties between the accused war criminal and Clinton, who is herself notorious for advocating a similarly aggressive, hawkish foreign policy. Will she be remembered for twisting Julius Ceasar’s “Veni, vidi, vici” into “We came, we saw, he died”, on hearing of the death of Gaddafi?

At age 93, Kissinger is one of the longest-serving public men in United States history. Since 1969, the accused war criminal has played an important role as a foreign policy adviser in most, if not all United States presidential administrations. Having just finished his assignment with Obama is now sucking-up to Trump.

Thanks to the work of historians, however, we now know much more about the atrocities Kissinger oversaw while in office.

As just some of the myriad examples of his crimes, in ‘The trial’ Hitchens documented Kissinger’s implications in the following:

  1. The deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in Indochina.
  2. Deliberate collusion in mass murder, and later in assassination, in Bangladesh.
  3. The personal suborning and planning of murder, of a senior constitutional officer in a democratic nation – Chile – with which the United States was not at war.
  4. Personal involvement in a plan to murder the head of state in the democratic nation of Cyprus.
  5. The incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor – Timor-Leste.
  6. Personal involvement in a plan to kidnap and murder a journalist living in Washington, D.C.

That could be a good starting point for a bill of indictment. Yes, of course, it  only scratches the surface. It is for specialists, criminologists and international lawyers to meat-up those initial charges.

There are problems of course.

Kissinger has evaded questions and legal summons by investigators in Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Spain and Uruguay. They sought answers about his involvement in ‘disappearances’ of citizens in the United States and other countries in regard to Operation Condor. On 10 September 2001 the family of General Schneider initiated a civil action in federal court in Washington, D.C., claiming that Kissinger gave the agreement to murder the general because he had refused to endorse plans for a military coup in Chile.

On 13 November 2002 eleven individuals brought suit against Kissinger for human rights violations following the coup. They accused him of forced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture and wrongful death. The suit claimed that Kissinger provided practical assistance and encouragement to the Chilean Junta with reckless disregard for the lives and well-being of the victims and their families.

Both cases were dismissed on the ground of sovereign and diplomatic immunity.

The nearest justice got to a result was when, in 2001, the French Judge Roger Le Loire issued a warrant to have Kissinger appear before his court to account for his actions. When Kissinger received the summons at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, he fled the country.

If he were to show up in Australia, which is a member of the International Criminal Court, there would be further problems: the prosecutorial branch of Australian justice – absit injuria verbis – was unable to find satisfaction in evidence proffered about the criminality of the Howard Government in the assault on Iraq in 2003.

And the ‘reason’? The bill of evidence was not satisfactorily drafted. That an eminent Senior Counsel was the author did not matter.

The last words belong to Hitchens: “Kissinger’s impunity is rank; it smells to heaven. If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate the ancient philosopher Anacharsis, who maintained that laws were like cobwebs: strong enough to detain only the weak, and too weak to hold the strong. In the name of innumerable victims known and unknown, it is time to take a hand.”

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at  George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

American CIA Hegemony

By Christian Marx

The Central Intelligence Agency was formed in 1947. It was ostensibly designed to gather intelligence on foreign countries during the cold war. However, within months of its formation it was drastically altered to become an agent for regime change and to enhance geopolitical U.S. hegemony around the world.

Since 1950 the CIA has been actively involved in regime changes, political assassinations and mass propaganda. Their first major involvement in world events was the Korean War of 1950-1953.

The CIA is basically a crypto Fascist organization that works on behalf of the U.S government and the Military Industrial Complex. It serves the U.S and is all about creating more profit and opportunity for the United States. Any foreign country that has a) valuable resources to exploit, such as gas or oil, and b) resists the Neoliberal doctrine of Western capitalism, will become a target for regime change or an outright invasion.

History has exposed the criminality of the CIA time and time again. A 1970s congressional investigation into the CIA by Frank Church revealed assassination plots, coups, and a litany of lies and the systemic corruption of the media by CIA infiltrators. Some 400 operatives were found to be involved in the manipulation of the media, university campuses and in government.

A declassified dossier exposes the CIA, via Operation Mockingbird. This was a covert operation that involved the wire tapping of journalists and the infiltration of multiple media outlets with journalists who would systematically propagate the goals and the narrative of Neoliberalism.

Basically the CIA is the thuggish hand of big business interests. They are there to do the dirty work that the U.S. government cannot overtly carry out. They can also hide in the shadows of the media, the judiciary and the halls of Academia in universities. This is done in order to cultivate popular favour for interventionist wars amongst the general public. The narrative is spun in such a way as to create fear and panic into the public. The CIA expose a problem that is a “threat to the safety” of Americans, they then come up with a plan. This is sometimes known as Problem/Reaction/Solution.

This plan has been carried out more than 2 dozen times since WW2. It is always a ruse to extract the minerals or wealth of another sovereign nation. Every war from Iran, Vietnam and Cuba up until the present day has been done for this porpose. The media will universally condemn the nation who is under attack. Why is this? Precisely because anyone who goes against the narrative of U.S foreign policy is either fired or discredited. One must be a puppet and go with editorial policy, despite the fact it is usually bogus or heavily manipulated. One must remember who owns and controls the media … it is not the average citizen, but the very wealthy elites.

Even Australia is not immune from the manipulation of the CIA, despite being a so called ally.

In 1972, Australia became an independent, socialist type state. Gough Whitlam abolished conscription, brought in universal healthcare and generally a host of other progressive policies. This angered the Australian business elite and enraged the U.S, especially when he publicly condemned the U.S. spy centre at Pine Gap.

In an explosive moment in history, Gough ultimately was overthrown in a bloodless coup on Nov 1975. The instigator was John Kerr, who was subsequently exposed by whistle blower, Christopher Boyce. Boyce was a young analyst working at Pine Gap who leaked the decoded transcripts. Not only had the CIA infiltrated the Australian unions, but they also had installed a a stooge in Parliament. That man was John Kerr, the Governor General!

The CIA will stop at nothing to implement American, capitalist hegemony for its corporate handlers. Whether it is against Ghadaffi in Libya for daring to reject the U.S. dollar or Salvadore Allende in Chile for daring to protect the national interests of his people, the same lies and bogus story of a new “Bogeyman” will be trotted out to an unsuspecting public. Fortunately in the age of the internet, the paid stooges in the media can no longer control the narrative. They are no longer the Gatekeepers of information.

Below is a list and brief summary of the major CIA crimes and coups, many resulting in the deaths of millions of innocents. (This is only a partial summary of the U.S/CIA war crimes since 1947):

1949/1950: OPERATION MOCKINGBIRD: CIA begins recruiting stooges and propagandists within multiple news agencies, eventually including Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, Hearst, Reuters etc.

According admissions from the CIA itself, over 25 news agencies and 400 “journalists” are involved.

1953: IRAN COUP: Democratically elected government is overthrown after they threaten to nationalize British Oil. CIA /U.S puppet becomes new leader of Iran.

1954: Guatemala: Yet another democratically elected government overthrown. Rockefeller Fruit Company was going to be nationalized. Over 100,000 murdered by a series of right wing puppet dictators over the next 4 decades.

1959: Haiti: U.S helps install ruthless dictator Duvalier. He forms his own private army and murders an estimated 100,000 of his own people.

1961: Cuba: CIA arms and trains 1,500 anti Castro Cubans to overthrow him. This fails due to the massive support from the majority of Cubans against this U.S force.

1964: Brazil: CIA overthrows democratically elected government. New U.S backed dictator trains an army of death squads with CIA money. Tens of thousands of leftists and other activists brutally murdered.

1965: Indonesia: Another puppet CIA installed stooge purges 1,000,000 Communists.

1973: Chile: Salvador Allende assassinated by U.S/CIA forces. Mass murderer Augusto Pinochet comes to power. He murders tens of thousands of his own people and pushes Chile into Fascism. A strong ally of Margaret Thatcher.

1975: CIA topples Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam for daring to take on Pine Gap.

1976: Angola: Henry Kissinger launches war backed by the CIA. 300,000 Angolans killed.

1981: Iran/Contra drug smuggling and arms sales

1991: First gulf war. Hussain was a CIA asset throughout the 1980s.

2001: Invasion of Afghanistan and the bogus assertion that Bin Laden committed 9/11. He denied it and was never a serious supect according to the FBI. Millions killed.

2003: Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction lie leaves millions dead.

2011: Ghadaffi brutally murdered by CIA/U.S backed thugs. His crime was attempting to ditch the U.S dollar and trade in Dhinnars.

References 

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/22/the-cia-70-years-of-organized-crime/

https://anticorruptionsociety.com/2016/05/28/a-timeline-of-cia-atrocities/

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/gough-whitlam-and-the-cias-forgotten-coup,7029

Christian Marx is a political and social activist interested in making the world a fairer place. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and has a keen interest in sociology, politics and history. He was one of the organizers of the March in March rallies in Melbourne and is the founder of the progressive news and information page, “Don`t Look At This Page”, and is also a co-founder of “The Global Revolution” website.

Power to the people

Technically it would be harder to have a hot potato issue without electricity. Amongst other things, electricity makes it far easier to create the hot potato in the first place, as well as light, heating and cooling, traffic control, transport and giving you the ability to read this article.

However, if you listen to the Coalition who, in their best Hanrahan, are crying ‘we’ll all be rooned’ if any more of the coal fired power stations around Australia are allowed to close. The justification is that we need power that we can switch on and off like a lightbulb (pun intended). The problem with the justification is that there are other and better ways of getting power on demand.

Turnbull and his Coalition colleagues are not even sure what they want. At the Australian Forest Products Association Industry dinner in Canberra on 12 September 2017, Turnbull’s remarks included:

So we’ve taken action. Recently we commissioned the energy market operator AEMO, to analyse the future of dispatchable power in our energy market, in the immediate, short term, medium term and longer term.

Their finding, that you’ll have all read about in the news, is that the closure of Liddell power station in New South Wales in 2022 will create a large gap in reliable baseload power, in the national electricity market, the east coast essentially and South Australia.

I’ve made it clear that we will not allow this gap in baseload power to occur.

So naturally we are exploring all options to fill this gap. We cannot have another event like the closure of Hazelwood, which whatever you may think of the Hazelwood power station, its closure at such short notice, taking so much dispatchable power out of the energy market, caused a dramatic rise in wholesale energy prices.

In New South Wales alone, it was over $50 a megawatt hour, nearly double the wholesale price of electricity. So you know ideology and good intentions are not enough; you have to be very hard-headed about this.

Apart from the illogical leaps of faith, the fundamental problem with Turnbull’s speech is that the use of the terms ‘dispatchable’ and ‘baseload’ in connection with power production are not interchangeable.

Dispatchable power can be quickly turned on and then off when the demand for electricity surges or at those times when the wind’s not blowing. It’s best provided by hydro-electricity, or gas.

Baseload power (usually provided by coal) isn’t particularly dispatchable. It’s always on, whatever the need. It’s one of the reasons off-peak power is cheap overnight. Baseload generators needed to get rid of the stuff. As the energy market operator put it in the letter to minister Josh Frydenberg that Turnbull claimed to be acting on, baseload power is in general “not well suited to respond to rapidly varying energy system needs”.

The Coalition government seem to have been caught out by the closure of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria which, apart from its age requiring its owners to fund major upgrades, was one of the most polluting power stations in the world. Possibly as a sop to their own right wing climate science denialists (and to potentially pick up a seat or two in the Hunter Valley based on a local jobs ‘Fear Uncertainty Deception’ campaign), Turnbull’s government appears to have decided to draw the line in the sand over AGL’s announcement that the 46 year old Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley would be decommissioned in 2022.

The engineer familiar with Liddell said the plant routinely had at least one of its four units out of operation, and that half of the rated 2000-megawatt capacity was suddenly unavailable on February 10 – the first day of a record NSW heatwave – due to leaks in boiler tubes. That poor performance was despite its turbines being replaced about a decade ago.

On three occasions, the plant’s equipment had oil supply failures that led to turbines grinding to a halt in about 10 minutes, compared with 40 minutes under normal conditions; “basically wrecking” the machinery.

AGL, which valued Liddell at zero dollars when it bought it in 2014, said in a statement: “Liddell has four units that, due to age and reliability issues, are rated at 420MW”.

“Safe generation levels at Liddell are driven by a number of factors including market demand, plant outages and maintenance but more critically at present access to coal supply.”

Dylan McConnell, a researcher at Melbourne University’s Climate & Energy College, said Liddell operated at just 39.6 per cent capacity in August.

That level was about half the capacity utilised of Victoria’s aging Hazelwood power plant in the final year before its closure in March.

Stephen Saladine, the managing director of Macquarie Generation at the time AGL bought both the Bayswater and Liddell plants, said the then state-owned corporation had planned for Liddell’s closure “in the early [20]20s”.

And even if the two generators were available during the heatwave last February, clearly they can’t be ‘switched on’ immediately. Ironically, AGL bought the power stations from a Liberal Party controlled NSW State government.

Meanwhile in Western Australia, which isn’t connected to the ‘National’ Grid, the Barnett Liberal Party government decided in 2009 to complete a major refurbishment of the coal fired Muja AB power station which was:

. . . 43 years old and mothballed. Reviving it was meant to cost $150m, paid for by private investors who would reap the benefits for years to come. But costs and timeframes blew out. An old corroded boiler exploded. The joint venture financing the project collapsed; a wall followed suit. The bill ultimately pushed beyond $300m, much of it to be stumped up by taxpayers – and once completed, the plant was beset with operational problems. It ran only 20% of the time.

By April 2016, the government acknowledged it was subsidising more generation capacity than it needed and predicted demand for coal power would fall over the coming decade. In May this year the new Labor administration confirmed Muja AB would shut early next year.

Apparent dual citizen and current Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was recently on the ABC’s 7.30 talking about the Clean Energy Target – and putting another line in the sand that coal had to be included to get the approval of his political party.

LEIGH SALES: Is there any form of a Clean Energy Target that the National Party would accept?

BARNABY JOYCE: Look, I think we have to be part of the negotiations most certainly Leigh and obviously the higher the level, the more it brings in coal-fired power.

Leigh, we are easy to understand in this one, we want to make sure we keep coal base load fired power stations going. Because the reality is that that is how you get the base load power onto the system to keep power prices down to make sure that we keep manufacturing workers in a job and to keep coal workers, to keep power workers in a job.

We’ve seen what happened in South Australia under the Labor party, it was a fiasco. They are doing it now in Victoria.

We don’t want it to happen to our nation, power’s overwhelmingly driven by the states but we’ve got a role in this and we’ve got to try and do our bit to try to keep these people in a job and keep the people in the weatherboard and iron with a power bill they can afford.

LEIGH SALES: Just to ask a first principles question, does the National Party accept that over time coal will be replaced by renewable sources of energy?

BARNABY JOYCE: We accept over time that you have to keep it renewable sectioned in to meet your international commitments. We understand that.

LEIGH SALES: But I mean just broader than that though sorry. I just mean you know generally, like over time, you know whether it is 50 or 100 years does the National Party believe at some stage coal will be replaced by renewable energy?

BARNABY JOYCE: I accept over time that technology goes ahead and if you can use coal more efficiently then you will use coal more efficiently and that Leigh won’t be remarkable you know, because you know cars are more efficient.

You think of what you go around on a tank of fuel today and what you went around on a tank of fuel 50 years ago, it is vastly different.

If we can do this in a vastly more economic way, then we should let technology be the presiding judge as to what form of power is driven, not religion.

And that’s the thing where we stand against the National Party. When someone says, “We’re going to have a 50 per cent renewable target”.

And say, “Well that’s great China plate, exactly how does it work?” And we find out from South Australia that it doesn’t work very well and we know what happens if it doesn’t work. Your lights go out, your lifts get stuck, operations stop in hospitals and people at that moment will completely change their views in the power debate and that mightn’t be a good idea even for the renewable energy sector. I have said that to the renewable energy sector. If the lights go out in Sydney and the lights go out in Melbourne, this is going to be a bad day for all of us.

John Hewson is a former federal Liberal Party leader who, amongst other things, occasionally writes articles in the media. In a recent article published by The Guardian, he observes:

. . . neither the government, nor the opposition, has yet produced a believable and deliverable energy policy. That is, a policy to specify the path forward to a low-carbon society, demonstrating a genuine capacity to lower power prices and to guarantee supply.

The bottom line is an outcome you might reasonably have expected that they would have wanted to avoid. While consumers are totally confused about what our pollies are doing, they get their regular power bills, which they can’t understand, and the power companies certainly don’t help them in this respect, so they remain absolutely convinced that they are being “ripped off”, which of course they are!

One of the most disturbing aspects of all this is that the government seems to have lost its sense of what it stands for – or at least what the electorate had come to accept that it stood for.

For example, as a Liberal government supposedly believing in small government, little regulation, market processes and private enterprise, they now feel at home “shirtfronting” the board and management of a significant power company, AGL, pressuring them to reverse a board decision to close the Liddell power plant in 2022.

This has come on the heels of them pressuring gas companies to “reserve” a proportion of their output for the domestic market, rather than for the exports that they had been encouraged to pursue in the past.

Of course, self-appointed Prime Minister in waiting Abbott has an opinion:

Abbott declared the government should end all subsidies for renewable energy, and that would mean there was no need to subsidise coal.

Despite leading the successful political campaign to scrap the former Labor government’s market mechanism, the carbon price, Abbott declared on Thursday afternoon: “I don’t want to see subsidies, I want to see a market”.

“I say let’s not subsidise anymore renewables, and if we don’t subsidise anymore renewables, we won’t need to subsidise coal, because coal in a normal market is the cheapest way of providing reliable power.”

“It is vastly cheaper than wind and solar and considerably cheaper than gas.

While Abbott’s opinion is wrong according to Ross Garnaut at least he is ‘suggesting’ a return to a free market and Liberal Party tradition.

There are a few of things here to ponder further.

First, the ‘market’ so beloved of Abbott and (up until recently) Turnbull is clearly telling the government that a new coal fired power station is as likely as most of us winning big on Lotto last night, in short, it just ain’t gunna happen.

Second, the war between the conservative and progressive factions of the Liberal Party, as represented by Abbott and Turnbull, is just as destructive and dangerous to the rest of us as the ALP power wars of the past 10 years.

Third, if I was the owner of coal fired power generator in Australia, I would be either selling now or advising the government at the last possible minute of my plans to close it down, rather than manage an orderly transition with the Energy Regulator and Unions. No one would willingly replicate the problems that AGL is currently having by being the proxy in an ideological war within the Liberal Party.

Fourth, yes there will be readjustment in people’s lives as their jobs in coal mines and coal fired power stations do slowly evaporate over the next 40 years as the coal powered generators close down. A similar thing happened when horses were swapped for internal combustion engines in a generation early in the 20th century as well as when steam engines were converted to diesels in the mid-20th century. While the job losses will inevitably make the headlines, the ‘unemployment rate’ in Australia usually bounces around within a couple of percent from one year to the next. As the Brisbane Times recently reported:

The number of Queenslanders who found a job last month would more than fill a packed out show at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics seasonally adjusted figures show 16,700 Queenslanders found work in August.

The arena at Boondall seats 13,500.

The adjustment is happening already.

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

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Power to the people? Perhaps not.

By Terence Mills

There is something very strange going on with power pricing in Australia, particularly so in the states where privatisation of distribution and generation has occurred. Whilst the federal government have no ongoing energy policy for Australia you have probably noticed Turnbull laying in to the power chiefs, demanding that they turn up at meetings in Canberra where he lets them know in no uncertain terms that he, on our behalf, is not happy and he calls on them to let their customers know when they are coming off specially discounted deals. This much heralded concession evidently means that the big distributors will write a letter to their customers: big deal!

Then he demands that the head of AGL come to Canberra and he tears strips off him and says that he can’t close the Liddell power station in 2022 despite AGL having given the government over five years notice. Now he has AGL on a ninety day deadline to come up with an energy policy beyond 2022.

All very strange stuff coming from a government who are absolutely committed to avoiding having an energy policy largely because they would then have to take ownership of the problem, something they desperately don’t want to do as they see much greater mileage in blaming Labor for all their problems. Indeed, it seems that a major plank of the coalition’s re-election campaign for 2019 is based on calling people names, particularly Blackout Bill Shorten and having at least a couple of power blackouts over the summer, ideally in the Labor states of South Australia and Victoria.

Reading the Weekend Australian today – it’s an old habit I have dating back to 1964 – Caroline Overington has an article about the crushing pressure particularly on pensioners of energy bills. She mentions Turnbull’s suggestion that we all phone our power companies and demand a better deal and that’s exactly what she did evidently. She called Origin and instantly got a 30 per cent discount. Well, good on her you may say but if she was being overcharged to the extent of 30 per cent then surely there is a case for the ACCC to step in and prosecute these guys: this is money gouging and demands that government regulate pricing for what is an essential commodity.

Rather than a coordinated energy policy sensibly allocating a future role for a mix of LNG, Solar, Wind, coal, pumped hydro and the like we seem to have a Prime Minister running around the country announcing a feasibility study for Snowy 2.0 which should be published (or not published if it comes up with the wrong numbers) by the end of the year. Then, of course, there will need to be funding for the project which presumably will come from the existing stakeholders. The commonwealth is a minority shareholder in the Snowy Hydro, with a 13% stake. New South Wales and Victoria have 58% and 29% stakes respectively. So, unless Turnbull takes on the total cost on behalf of the Commonwealth or buys out the states, there will have to be some serious talking with the other stakeholders once the feasibility study is done and costings worked out.

Then we find Turnbull in Townsville telling the LNP faithful that he will fund a coal-fired power station in North Queensland using clean coal technology that has yet to be developed and funding it from the North Australian Infrastructure Facility even though it doesn’t meet NAIF criteria.

Surely we deserve better policy formulation than this random finger in the dam approach? The CEO of Alinta Gas summed up the prevailing situation on energy policy in Australia when he likened it to: playing a game of football with invisible goalposts: we don’t know what it is we are shooting for.

Where I live in Queensland electricity generation and distribution are still in public hands and despite the Abbott asset recycling scheme which had been embraced by the Newman LNP government the people of Queensland were not impressed and quickly despatched Newman and his henchmen after just one term. Looking at my most recent electricity bill from my monopoly publicly owned electricity distributor there are no special offers, no discount periods not even a free set of steak knives. Just a straight forward bill telling me what I have used, what I am being charged per kilowatt hour consumed, divided between two essential tariffs. The main tariff is for continuous power charged at 25.890 cents per kwh and the off-peak tariff used for pool pumps and in our case over night water heating charged at 20.482 cents per kwh plus GST in both cases. So, whilst we have the energy distribution companies in those states that have privatised this essential service playing silly buggers with opaque pricing, slick marketing and plans that are designed to confuse and mislead consumers, in Queensland we still have a straight forward and transparent pricing system.

I have no idea how my power charges in Queensland compare with those in other parts of Australia – although I would be interested in feedback from AIMN readers – but I do take comfort from the fact that as a voter I still have some control over the supply and pricing of this essential service and the ballot box is after all a blunt and persuasive taskmaster that always helps focus the attention of politicians.

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