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The cost of ideology

By 2353NM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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The distortion of the Australian public sphere: Media ownership concentration in Australia

The following article, by Associate Professor Johan Lidberg, first appeared in Australian Quarterly (Jan-Mar 2019) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Editor-in-Chief and the author.

They say News Corp staff can feel when Rupert Murdoch is in town. The 88-year-old chairman of News Corp has achieved a mythical status in Australia and around the globe. He is the maker and breaker of prime ministers, his latest scalp that of Malcolm Turnbull. His company also embodies the societal problem with media ownership concentration.

This article will not resort to News Corp bashing, because the problem is far greater than just one company. But there are a few useful case studies emanating from News Corp that I’ll return to. The wider problem is a structural and regulatory issue where Australian politicians, from both major parties, have yet again failed to play the role of the honest broker between market forces and the public interest.

Australia is not alone in having a concentrated media market. We can see similar patterns emerging both in the US and in some parts of Europe[i]. But Australia stands out as one of the most concentrated media markets in the world and this increasing concentration has been happening for some time[ii]. There is also the question of why it also appears to be speeding up.

Background

We could program our Tardis to revisit various technological disruptions that have led to first media expansion and then concentration, eg. offset printing, the birth of radio followed by TV, but they all pale in comparison with the birth of the internet within which the world wide web (www) exists. The online/digital disruption was, and still is, immense and it caught most legacy media companies off guard.

I saw my first web page in 1992. It is forever burned into my memory. It was the official web page of the US White House. The second page my early technology adopter colleague showed me was a fake US White House page – an ominous sign of what the www would offer in the future.

It took until the mid-to-end 1990s until media companies started to explore the potential of publishing online. Here we find pivotal moment one: most publishers made news available for free. Possibly the dumbest business decision since (a quick internet search later) Western Union passed on the offer of buying the telephone patent in 1876 for US$100,000.

What were the legacy media companies thinking when offering their quite expensively produced content for free? Probably that the www was a bit of passing fad and that in a best-case scenario publishing online would attract audiences to the real stories printed with ink on paper in huge printing presses that rumbled in the basements of newspaper houses.

In Australia, we have our own worst media business decision. Fairfax, publisher of The Age, was a leader in on-line news in the early 2000s. They had a clear edge compared to their competitors and the choice of embracing online. Instead, against the advice of expertise, the Fairfax board decided to stay with and prioritise the hard copy newspaper[iii]. Eric Beecher, then a senior editor at Fairfax, was commissioned by the Fairfax board to look into the future. The future Beecher saw was online and digital. The board disagreed and the rest is history.

For Australia the second pivotal moment arrived in 2006. The then-communications minister, Helen Coonan (Liberal), engineered (heavily lobbied by the big media owners) media regulation ownership reforms that allowed for increased ownership across media platforms. Blogs were the flavour of the day and one of her driving arguments for the reforms was that the internet allowed citizen journalists, for instance via blogs, to publish and contribute to media diversity.

That argument was as flawed then as it is today. Here is the reason: producing independent public interest journalism that meaningfully holds power to account is time consuming and expensive. Citizen journalists have day jobs. Very few of them contribute original reporting to the public sphere. This is not a critique of citizen journalists (CJ), there are some really good things with CJs – like diminishing the publication gate-keeping role of legacy media, but they do not add to media plurality in a meaningful way.

Fast forward to October 2017, and the then Turnbull government re-hashes Coonan’s, still flawed, arguments for loosening media ownership restrictions further allowing for ownership across all media platforms by the same company. This takes us to where we are today with the Nine – Fairfax merger (or more correctly takeover, as the Fairfax name will disappear). The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) recently waived through the deal acknowledging that it would lead to less competition. But not significantly less, which means the take-over can go ahead. Disappointingly, the ACCC also fell into the flawed Coonan argument trap displaying a surprising naivety about how the Australian media market works[iv]. One major issue is that the new players, such as Crikey and The New Daily do not have the resources to fight defamation battles or challenge court suppression orders. They do good journalism, but don’t have the funding clout needed to be a proper complement to the remaining big four media companies. It is highly likely we’ll see more mergers and takeovers after this ruling.

The diagram below illustrates how a handful of owners dominate the Australian media market before the Nine – Fairfax deal.

 

Source: the Australian Communication and Media Authority. Current as of October 2016.

 

Multiple studies have clearly shown that Australia has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world most aptly illustrated by the fact that the four major commercial media players, News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media, Seven West Media and APN News and Media accounted for more than 90 per cent of the revenue in the industry in the 2015-16 financial year[i].

The third watershed moment is the rise, rise and rise of the big three: Facebook, Google and Amazon. Not in recorded history have we seen such global dominance of any company in the media sector, or any sector for that matter. You only have to look once at the advertisement revenue charts, the profits of the big three, and how they have spread around the world, to realise that this is where the future big issue lies in terms of concentration.

News Corp shrinks into an ant compared to the three. How on earth did we let this happen? Well, again, our elected representatives were asleep at the wheel or did not understand the potential market power of the three. Culpable too are people like me and my colleagues, we could have been clearer on where things were going and focused our research more on this to sound the alarm.

Consider one chilling example (apart from the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook debacle and Google being part of the global mass surveillance dragnet): Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to connect the world to make it a better place. So, Facebook is helping African countries to connect to the internet via satellite and wifi technology bypassing more expensive fibre and cable roll outs. Sounds like a win-win. The problem is: the citizens in these countries, to a great extent, access the internet via one interface – Facebook. They get the www according to Zuckerberg.

Consequences

This is where it gets a bit dystopian. But fear not, there is light at the bottom of the rabbit hole, depending on if we chose the red or the blue pill.

Remember the German political philosopher Jurgen Habermas? His main contribution to public discourse are his thoughts on the public sphere. In a nutshell, Habermas defined the public sphere as part of social life where citizens come together voluntarily (freely) to discuss the issues of the day in order to influence policy and politics. We would probably call it public political participation today. In order for the public sphere to function effectively its participants need to have equal access to quality, unspun information and facts. This is of course a utopian notion even at the best of times (and there are a lot of other critiques of public sphere theory that I cannot fit into this piece), but it is nonetheless a model that allows us to analyse the consequences of media ownership concentration.

Media and journalism play a vital role in supplying the public sphere with the fuel it needs: information that is in the public interest in order for citizens to be self-governing. For this to work events need to be reported as fairly and neutrally as far as possible. Some refer to this as a sort of social contract between media/journalism audiences and the media owners[ii]. You, the publishers, deliver independent and integrity strong stories holding power to account and we, the audience, buy your product and back you up when you are under pressure from the powers we have asked you to hold to account (politics, the corporate sector, indeed all actors in society that exercise power). Media ownership concentration threatens this contract and its delicate balance.

 

 

 

Let us use News Corp as a case study. There have been several studies done on the way Rupert Murdoch influences his editors. One of the most powerful research projects is by David McKnight[iii]. He synthesised Murdoch’s influence and access to political leaders in Australia the UK and the US. There are two main takeaways from this study.

  1. Murdoch uses journalism to gain commercial advantages. This is done via hiring editors who thinks like him, meaning that there is no need for explicit instructions regarding content and editorial direction. If an editor loses the ability to think like Murdoch, he/she is replaced. The Murdoch editor clones can then be trusted to run lobbying campaigns like the ones on weaker and weaker media ownership regulations, which is lucrative for News Corp as it allows the company to expand and buy more and more of the Australian and global news media market.
  2. When all News Corp’s outlets in multiple countries run the same editorial and news reporting line, their influence is immense. One potent example of this was the lead up to the 2003 Iraq war when all Murdoch media spoke as one in support of the war. When the case for war proved to be null and void as no weapons of mass destructions were found, some media companies, like the New York Times [iv], apologised to the public for its lack of critical reporting. Not so News Corp.

The second example is the ongoing issue of climate change. In spite of repeated and overwhelming global scientific consensus on man-made climate change, the Murdoch media continues to publish misinformation, half-truths and sometime outright lies on the issue. A prominent case in point here is the News Corp coverage of the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef[v].

The above examples have caused a serious and lasting distortion of the public sphere in Australia. This has lead to the bitter divisions between progressives that desperately want to act on climate change and that overwhelmingly voted for same sex marriage opposed by a small, but very loud, conservative faction supported by News Corp media.

This is exemplified by the attempt to turn Sky News into a version of Fox News in Australia. This is very serious because it means that the sensible political middle is increasingly empty as citizens desert it heading for the partisan trenches. It may sound boring, but the middle is where we make progress via compromises and mutual respect for different points of view.

One of the elements of journalism, according to Kovach and Rosenstiel[vi], is that ‘It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise’. At the moment the hyper partisan, mainly opinion-driven, journalism produced by some sections of Australian media is failing this element completely and thus fuelling partisan and at times hate and fear driven politics.

Agreeing to disagree and respecting other points of view, while in good faith striving for workable compromises to form policies is the hallmark of mature liberal democracies. The ideological trench-like political warfare we are currently witnessing in the USA, and to a lesser extent in Australia, is the polar opposite to mature democratic behaviour. Part of the blame for this situation must be squarely put on some media outlets producing journalism that is, in effect, anti-mature democratic behaviour. I keep asking myself – where does all the ill will and hate come from in this partisan ideological war?

This leads to the core consequence of media ownership concentration, the risk is greater for partisan ideological divides to form in society when fuelled by media outlets that have made it part of their business model to publish heavily opinionated content instead of striving for compromise via respectful democratic behaviour.

The way ahead

So, what can and should be done? Well, it ain’t rocket science. Most of the solutions have already been suggested to and canvassed by the 2017 Senate Inquiry into the Future of Public Interest Journalism[vii]. Below I cover, in my assessment, the most viable and urgent proposals. In the interest of transparency and disclosure, I co-wrote and edited one of the submissions to the inquiry.

Public broadcasting

While commercial media is figuring out the future business models for journalism (and it will be a combination of models), public broadcasters is the most important repository for public interest, in-depth journalism. It is therefore crucial that they are properly funded to do their job. Under the current and previous government in Australia the opposite is true.

In spite of former prime minister Tony Abbott promising no cuts to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) or Special Broadcasting Services (SBS) on election eve 2013[viii], two consecutive coalition government have cut $101 million dollars per year in ABC funding since 2014[ix]. In the last 2018-19 federal budget a further $84 million was cut and if you include not renewed targeted grants, such as one for news gathering, the total ABC funding has been lowered by $254 million[x] since 2014 – a 25 per cent cut of the total ABC budget.

This should be restored as soon as possible and funding should again be coupled to the consumer price index. Re-funding the ABC is the most powerful antidote to the distortion of the Australian public sphere as the ABC is bound by its charter to offer national forums for respectful public debate – the opposite to Sky News after 6 pm[xi].

This should not be a difficult political decision to make. Opinion polling unequivocally shows that while public trust in other media outlets is falling, the ABC still enjoys very high trust levels[xii].

The ABC board and the appointment process of board members needs to (as it used to be) be once removed from government and handled by a neutral body. The recent debacles exposing the former chair person Justin Milne as doing the bidding of the government trying to influence editorial decisions and the sacking of journalists, clearly illustrates why this is an urgent change.

Furthermore, the fate of the ABC is not only a matter for Australia. Across the globe there are currently only between 11-15 independent (from government and the corporate sector) properly funded public broadcasters. The total number vary depending on what you classify as proper funding. But if we use the ABC as a benchmark, it is closer to 11 than 15[xiii]. Given these low numbers, if an entity like the ABC is diminished, so is independent in-depth journalism globally.

Government support for public interest media

Following on from the ABC funding flows the argument that if we fund public broadcasters with tax money, why not other media outlets as well? A good question that was thoroughly canvassed in the senate inquiry into the future of public interest journalism. There are already models that could be adapted for Australian purposes.

Several European countries have various forms of tax payer funding for media outlets, predominantly newspapers, to avoid the one-paper town scenarios that is the unfortunate case in several Australian cities. These funding schemes have been around for a long time and are now more needed than ever. So, there is no need to re-invent the wheel – assess the existing models and adapt versions that work in the Australian media landscape[xiv].

Re-regulate media ownership

The market and its inherent competition is, in most cases, a force for good and drives innovation. But in certain areas leaving it to the market is a really bad idea. Heavy public utilities such as power grids, natural gas infrastructure and water infrastructure are some examples. In the case of privatising utilities, the private operators drove each other out of the market until there were one or two operators left – close to the same as was the case when they were state owned. Then they didn’t spend enough on maintenance to increase profit margins.

We’re seeing a similar scenario in domestic and global media companies. They compete, buy or merge to increase their margins. This is the driver, not delivering public interest journalism. Therefore, if we leave it only to the market, media diversity will keep shrinking until we only have a handful, if that, owners and publishers left. Such is the logic of the media market and therefore ownership needs to be re-regulated to protect public interest journalism long-term.

There are several other sources of income for media companies. We are seeing an increase in subscriptions for publications such as The Guardian (and Guardian Australia), The New York Times (and the NYT Australian edition). This in combination with crowd sourcing funding for major reporting themes could be one potent future business model for journalism.

Another suggestion that is getting increased traction is for Facebook and Google to pay for stories from media outlets that are shared and published on their platforms. How this can be done is unclear. But there is no doubt that publishers need to think carefully before they put all their eggs in one basket and abandon their own publication vehicles to publish only on social media platforms that they do not control. We have already seen what small changes to the Facebook and Google algorithms can do to traffic and advertising revenue[xv].

A role for universities

Submissions to the senate inquiry raised possible roles for universities in countering media concentration. The reasoning went that universities are independent from faction as far as possible and could therefore serve as a base for independent journalists. This would be connected to altruistic funding from the private sector. This funding avenue is not well established in Australia, but it is worth exploring.

Investigative journalists could, for instance, be seconded to journalism programs to both produce stories and collaborate with and teach journalism students. Several submissions to the senate inquiry suggested that altruistic funding of public interest journalism should be tax exempt. That makes a lot of sense. It certainly works in the US.

The other role for universities is already, I am very pleased to report, happening. On October 24, 2018 a new online nationwide publication was launched. The Junction[xvi] is published by the Journalism Education and Research Association Australia and features the best stories from journalism students across Australia. The founding universities are eleven, but we know from the project UniPollWatch (UPW) that covered the 2016 federal election, that many more will join. The UPW 2016 project involved 26 universities, close to 600 students and produced almost 800 stories from most federal electorates. The main value add of UPW is that it covers the electorates down to a very local level in a way that legacy media don’t have the resources or will to do. In 2018, The Junction hosted the UPW VIC state election 2018. The adventure continues.

So, there is hope. And here’s a thought. Chip in. Subscribe to as many quality media outlets as possible. From little things …


[i]https://theconversation.com/factcheck-is-australias-level-of-media-ownership-concentration-one-of-the-highest-in-the-world-68437

[ii]https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/95291/the-elements-of-journalism-by-bill-kovach-and-tom-rosenstiel/9780609504314

[iii]https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/current-affairs-politics/Rupert-Murdoch-David-McKnight-9781742373522

[iv]https://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/world/from-the-editors-the-times-and-iraq.html

[v]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/21/scientists-resort-to-advertising-to-get-great-barrier-reef-crisis-in-queensland-paper

[vi]https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/95291/the-elements-of-journalism-by-bill-kovach-and-tom-rosenstiel/9780609504314

[vii]https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Future_of_Public_Interest_Journalism/PublicInterestJournalism/Submissions

[viii]https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/abbott-to-break-abc-no-cuts-promise-20140412-zqty9.html

[ix]https://www.crikey.com.au/2016/05/10/abc-100m-dollars-poorer-since-2013/

[x]https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/08/abc-funding-slashed-by-84m-in-budget-to-help-broadcaster-live-within-their-means

[xi]https://www.smh.com.au/national/sky-news-after-dark-a-digital-nuremberg-rally-20180807-p4zvxr.html

[xii]https://www.roymorgan.com/findings/7641-media-net-trust-june-2018-201806260239

[xiii]https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Future_of_Public_Interest_Journalism/PublicInterestJournalism/Submissions

[xiv]https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Future_of_Public_Interest_Journalism/PublicInterestJournalism/Submissions

[xv]https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2018/03/06/facebooks-latest-algorithm-change-here-are-the-news-sites-that-stand-to-lose-the-most/#2edfd81a34ec

[xvi]http://junctionjournalism.com/


Johan Lidberg is an Associate Professor in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University and the Director of the Master of Journalism.

Australian Quarterly is published by The Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), an independent and non-partisan not-for-profit organisation first founded in 1932.

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Giuliani

By Ad astra

Giuliani. You know him well. He’s been in the public eye for decades. Now, he’s Donald Trump’s attorney, caught in the middle of Trump’s futile campaign to wrest the presidency from Joe Biden, the acknowledged and certified winner of the recent election. That he is prepared to join Trump in this inane, some would say insane campaign, brands him as loopy as Trump. What does he expect to gain? Attorney fees would be of no interest; notoriety will be the only dividend he can expect. Why would he covet that? Is he, like Trump, so desperate for publicity, no matter how tawdry, that he is prepared to take his hand and accompany him to the political oblivion and the ridicule and loss of respect Trump will surely suffer?

We have often asserted that Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder is now so advanced that he is incurably deranged. Anyone doubting that need only to reflect on his recent insistence that he won the election and examine his bizarre attempts to prove it via a variety of nefarious, illegal and laughable moves, to conclude that he is even more deranged than ever. Although Trump’s supporters blindly cling to him like followers of a weird cult while he continues to insist that he won the election despite all the documented evidence that he did not, why would Giuliani?

Until now, Giuliani has had a distinguished career, successively filling major posts as United States Associate Attorney General, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Mayor of New York City where he ran successful campaigns against crime and social disorder. For his mayoral leadership after the September 11 attacks in 2001, he was called ‘America’s mayor’. He was named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ for 2001, and was given an honorary knighthood in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth.

As mayor of New York, he reformed the police department’s administration and policing practices, applying the broken windows theory, which cites social disorder, like disrepair and vandalism, for attracting loitering addicts, panhandlers, prostitutes, and violent criminals. In particular, Giuliani focused on removing panhandlers and sex clubs from Times Square, promoting a ‘family values’ vibe and a return to the area’s earlier focus on business, theatre, and the arts. As crime rates fell steeply, well ahead of the national average, Giuliani was widely credited, although critics cite other contributing factors. In 2000, he ran against then First Lady Hillary Clinton for a US Senate seat from New York, but left the race once diagnosed with prostate cancer.

In April 2018, Giuliani joined President Donald Trump’s personal legal team. His activities as Trump’s attorney have drawn media scrutiny, including allegations of corruption and profiteering. In late 2019, Giuliani was reportedly under federal investigation for violating lobbying laws, and possibly several other charges as a central figure in the Trump-Ukraine scandal which resulted in Trump’s impeachment.

After the 2020 election, following Joe Biden being named President-elect, Trump placed Giuliani in charge of lawsuits related to alleged voter irregularities through unsubstantiated conspiracy theories involving a communist conspiracy, rigged voting machines and polling place fraud to claim that the election had been stolen from him. Guiliani still occupies that role.

The question then is why he would risk contaminating his career, which although it has low points, includes several significant achievements, by associating so closely with the deranged Trump who will soon limp into obscurity and disgrace? Is this just old fashioned loyalty, or is it another example of publicity, no matter how disgraceful, being more important than obscurity? Is this another instance of the menace of Trumpism?

For Giuliani, the enduring image that will be recalled by political commentators though is that of rivulets of hair dye streaming down his face in the heat of the political turmoil into which he has so foolishly wandered. What a sad legacy!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Dutton Defeated in High Court by Refugees

National Justice Project Media Release

High Court Refuses to be Treated as “Post Box” by the Minister

Refugees who were detained by the government in Nauru and Papua New Guinea have secured a major legal victory in the High Court of Australia against the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.

The High Court of Australia has ruled that the Federal Court has the power to hear the cases of over 50 refugees and asylum seekers, after the Commonwealth appealed to the Court in September 2019 to dispute the jurisdiction of the Federal Court.

The Minister claimed that Section 494AB of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) prevents the claimants from taking action for negligence and breaches of duty of care while held in the government’s custody.

The High Court, however, has ruled in paragraph 4:

“s 494AB is not a law that takes away the jurisdiction of those courts (or that of this Court) to hear and determine proceedings of the kinds described in s 494AB(1).”

In Paragraph 27, the High Court held:

“That conclusion is grounded in the established principle that “a law of the Commonwealth is not to be interpreted as withdrawing or limiting a conferral of jurisdiction unless the implication appears clearly and unmistakably.”

In Paragraph 34, the High Court said:

“So construing s 494AB as a statutory bar avoids the High Court being made a post box for the commencement of proceedings destined to be remitted to another court.

It avoids diverting the High Court away from its central work as the apex court of the Australian judicial system. And, further, it avoids administrative inconveniences for the courts, the profession and litigants in circumstances where the Commonwealth could not identify any purpose or utility in requiring the proceedings to be filed in the High Court only for them to be remitted.”

The full court decision can be found here.

George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor and Director of the National Justice Project, has said:

“We’ve argued successfully at every stage that the Federal Court has the jurisdiction to hear these claims. Today, the High Court agreed.”

“This decision vindicates the right of our clients to seek justice for the cruel and inhumane treatment that they suffered.

“In an act of legal bastardry, the government tried to slow down the course of justice, and they failed.”

“The decision vindicates our clients. By taking legal action against the government, our clients hope to access the long-term medical and psychological care that they need.”

“Many of our clients are young children who have suffered so much from the Minister’s cruel policies. These children suffer from constant nightmares, they struggle to interact with other children, and they experience suicidal thoughts. Some of them have self-harmed or attempted to take their own lives.”

“Now, we will fight in the Federal Court to make the government accountable for what it has done to these children.”

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Seeking the Post COVID Sunshine: More Proactive Resistance and Politics Ahead?

By Denis Bright

As most state borders reopen, Australians will welcome a summer with renewed local travel, home gatherings and household renewal projects. In these times, household are usually awash with spare spending money. More chance to live proactively with less, I expect and to warn our national leaders against going too far in their criticisms of our most profitable trading and investment partner.

Earlier generations successfully made the transitions from difficult times in the inter-war period as observed by History Professor Frank Bongiorno of the Crawford School of Public Policy.

Australia’s recovery from the twin crises of war and pandemic during the 1920s was however tarnished by a fearsome glorification of Britain’s imperialist traditions.

Like Trump’s America today, Britain was not really great again after the financial devastation of the Great War (1914-18).

Australia’s Reserve Bank Museum recalls the imperialistic nostalgia of those times even though it was the Commonwealth Bank that performed some of the roles of RBA during the 1920s.

At the end of the First World War, the Renown was refitted as a royal yacht. It transported Edward, the Prince of Wales, to Australia on his highly successful Royal Tour in 1920; a tour to thank the people of Australia officially for the sacrifices made during the Great War. The First World War official war artist, Arthur Streeton, captured the arrival of the Renown and its Prince in his painting, HMS Renown, Sydney Harbour. The Prince of Wales’ arrival caused great excitement, which is conveyed within the painting. On the foreshore of the Harbour, spectators wave from vantage points as the ship is welcomed by a flotilla of boats.

The visit also marked the Royal Australian Navy’s first fleet review, which was held in Port Phillip Bay on the 26th May 1920, with the fleet inspected by the Prince of Wales. The Australian Fleet at that time consisted of 28 vessels.

The Renown also became a floating zoo during the Prince’s visit, taking back to Britain various “ship’s mascots” for zoological parks, including a cockatoo, two rare lizards, emu chicks, a Dominican tortoise, opossums, parrots and a wallaby.

In the years between the First and Second World Wars, the Renown was commissioned on several occasions for tours by the British Royal Family, including a tour of India and Japan by the Prince of Wales in 1921-1922 and in 1927 for the Duke (later King George VI) and Duchess of York’s tour of Australia. Like the tour by the Prince of Wales in 1920, the tour by the Duke of York was also, in part, to thank the Australian people for sending so many of their young men to fight in Europe.

Today’s neoconservatives still cling to old shadows of the greatness of US democratic leadership behind tariff barriers which have been left by the Trump administration and a style of despotic imperial leadership which has crept into the White House since the Cold War era.

US author Gore Vidal (1925-2012) and others anticipated this current instability in US politics and popular culture (In Defence of Marxism by Alan Woods 17 November 2005).

Joe Biden will find it difficult to reverse the effects of the trading and investment war between the US and China.

Expect a state visit from President Biden in the lead up to an Australian Khaki federal election as the federal LNP begs for a higher strategic profile for the US in our Indo-Pacific Region.

A century ago, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, the Prince of Wales, embarked on an extended journey around Australia to talk up a British presence in our region after a world wind tour of the USA and the West Indies.

Australians responded with a commitment to proactive lifestyles as a vibrant outpost of the British Empire.

The art of Sir Arthur Streeton in the 1920s showed how creative endeavours could straddle the two worlds of Australiana as part of a wider British presence in global affairs.

Getting on with Life

Sir Arthur Stretton’s Land of the Golden Fleece (1926) was a welcome attempt to return to the sunny landscapes of his youthful impressionism. Stretton’s art work in the 1920s displayed tensions which are still present in contemporary society and are easily stoked up by neoconservative leaders.

Stretton had served as a wartime official artist in Britain and on the Western Front. Lost again in the colours of rural Australia, the Grampians offered a good space to forget some of the horrors of militarism (Image from the Art Gallery of NSW):

 

 

The National Gallery of Australia offers a real context to The Golden Fleece:

In Land of the Golden Fleece Arthur Streeton presents a view towards Mount William from the southern end of the Grampians mountain range in Victoria. Looking down and across a property at Willaura (owned by Streeton’s friend Walter Cain),

Streeton depicts a flock of sheep grazing, a dam and a windmill. Shadows move across the land and Streeton has used colour to give the image a sense of space, painting the distant Grampians with blues and greys to make them recede, and using warm yellows in the foreground to make the golden fields appear closer to the viewer.

Land of the Golden Fleece displays an open and opulent pastoral Australia: full of potential, grand in scale and scenic in beauty. In this work Streeton presented a country rich in ‘blue and gold’, earth and water, sky and land. Australia was a land of youth and possibility. Following the death of many thousands of Australians during the First World War, and the devastation of the landscapes of France and Belgium, artists such as Streeton looked to the land as a symbol of national pride and prosperity – a reaffirmation of place and identity.

Popular media and our own travels can assist in restoring the spirit of dreaming. The mindset of Prime Minister Morrison is not on artistic creativity (Image from Marvel Studios and news text from The Conversation):

 

 

On July 17, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an additional A$400 million to attract film and television productions to Australia until 2027.

In a press release, Morrison argued Australia is an attractive destination due to our relative success in managing COVID-19. The idea is that this financial expansion of the “location incentive” program will attract international filmmakers in production limbo to come to Australia.

What does the Australian film industry get out of this incentive? There is no doubt more film production here will ensure the employment of production staff, technical crews and support actors, many of whom have been badly economically affected by the stoppage in film making. As Morrison notes:

Behind these projects are thousands of workers that build and light the stages, that feed, house and cater for the huge cast and crew and that bring the productions to life. This is backing thousands of Australians who make their living working in front of the camera and behind the scenes in the creative economy.

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The existing location offset provides a tax rebate of 16.5% of production expenses spent in Australia, while the location incentive – which this $400 million will go towards – provides grants of up to 13.5% of qualifying expenses.

This new input is predicted by the government to attract around $3 billion in foreign expenditure to Australia and up to 8,000 new jobs annually.

This is not a fund to make Australian films, but an incentive for foreign filmmakers to make films in Australia.

Such antics invite comparisons with an earlier generation of quality Australian films in which Australian locations became part of the storyline.

Image: Macedon and Mount Macedon Tourism

In Picnic at Hanging Rock, the streets of Woodend north of Melbourne rattled to the sounds of shrill laughter as students from Appleyard College headed off to their St. Valentine’s Day picnic at Hanging Rock in 1900. The Australian Film and Sound Archive captures the simulated events.

Revisiting the scene requires an hour’s train ride from Melbourne and a short bike ride through the old town to the volcanic rock anomaly.

Just watching Picnic at Hanging Rock on YouTube is a good substitute for the full reality of the visit as noted in David Buckingham’s Film Review:

“What we see and what we seem are but a dream – a dream within a dream.’ So begins Picnic at Hanging Rock, with this quotation from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe – a quotation that aptly summarises its hypnotic, dream-like atmosphere, and its refusal of rational explanations.

Directed in 1975 by Peter Weir, and based on a historical novel by Joan Lindsay, first published in 1967, it is widely regarded as one of the defining films of the state-funded revival of the Australian film industry. Even in these unequal times, it still possible to live simply and proactively as the income divide widens in Australian society. Support from progressive governments can be a great support.”

In Queensland, a succession of Labor governments offered a middle of the road agenda for the entire period from 1915-57 with just one term with a state LNP administration under the leadership of Premier Arthur Moore (1929-32).

Progressive commentators have often criticized the neoconservative style of Queensland Labor during this extended period. However, it was reformist enough to defat the political jingoism of Prime Minister Billy Hughes and to achieve the elimination of the Queensland Legislative Council in 1922.

Perhaps a similar style of political pragmatism can eroded indifference to the growing income divide in Australian society with the federal LNP’s largesse towards its own support base through unfair tax reforms and a wink at the excesses of unit and family trusts for systematic but legalized tax avoidance which is eroding the capacity of Medicare and essential grants to the states and territories.

 

 

With the federal LNP performing reasonably well in recent public opinion polling, the prospect of a khaki election to maintain a higher strategic profile for our side in the US global alliance is a threatening prospect.

During the 1930s, progressive Australia mobilized a progressive networks of creative activists. Let me know just where the network of responsible resistance exists today.

Despite the four per cent swing to Labor at the Groom byelection, the likely 2021 election year approaches with strong support for the status quo:

Courtesy of The Australian, Newspoll has the Coalition leading 51-49 on two-party preferred, unchanged on three weeks ago, from primary votes of Coalition 43% (steady), Labor 36% (up one), Greens 11% (steady) and One Nation 2% (down one, and their weakest result since at least the 2019 election). Scott Morrison is up two on approval to 66% and down two on disapproval to 30%, while Anthony Albanese is up one to 44% and up two to 41%, with Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister out from 58-29 to 60-28.

As the trade and investment dispute with China worsens, prepare for a rough time ahead for the Australian economy in the mid-2020s.

Our federal LNP is locked into an ideological market agenda which challenges the best efforts of progressive states and territories to forge more balanced public policy agendas on behalf of constituents on both sides of the wealth divides across Australia.

Despite these challenges, Queensland has delivered a record level of budget expenditure from a reduced revenue base through responsibly borrowing in the old traditions of pre-1957 pragmatic politics with the added political risks of extended deficit spending which will run at $8.633 billion in 2020-21:

General Government Sector expenses of $64.881 billion in 2020-21 represent an increase of $1.383 billion (or 2.2%) over the 2019-20 outcomes. Key initiatives contributing to the growth in expenditure in 2020-21 (Queensland Budget Highlights):

  • Queensland Health COVID-19 Response Plan with additional funding to expand community screening, contact tracing, quarantine accommodation, compliance activities associated with COVID-19 Public Health Directions, elective surgery and appointments to reduce backlog, building critical supply reserves of medicine, medical equipment and personal protective equipment, and boosting mental health community treatment and support services.
  • Business adaption grants to sustain small business operations and help build resilience in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
  • Further economic stimulus announced in election commitments to support jobs and economic growth, and to strengthen frontline services. Election commitments include targeted assistance to the Queensland tourism industry, further small business grants, support for local community sporting infrastructure, a Queensland manufacturing package, and strengthening fire services.
  • In 2020-21 expenses growth has been tempered by savings of $750 million

 

 

As Queensland’s local taxation revenue declines in 2020-21, 51.7 per cent of all Queensland’s revenue is now derived from the Commonwealth in grants and GST allocations which have not grown to support the current public health and financial crises.

Just imagine the challenges to proactive lifestyles in Queensland if our government was in the lands of the state LNP under Opposition Leader David Crisafulli or his Deputy David Janetski with that reflexive support from former Premier Campbell Newman as the budget speech was under way.

 

 

In the traditions of pre-1957 politics, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is offering government for all sections of society at a time of a growing income divide and words of caution against the current investment and trade disputes with China at the next National Cabinet Meeting.

Perhaps it’s time for federal National Party members to speak up before income levels in rural Australia and its regional mining sectors are further eroded.

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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You gotta hit bottom

By 2353NM

Sitting on this side of the Pacific, it seems that the USA has chosen a new President after one term. A sitting President who is eligible for re-election has been defeated only 10 times in US history. While the razzle-dazzle and showbiz style of the US election campaigns is ongoing and seems to be accepted in the US, there are dangers in the hyper-partisan ‘geeing up’ of those that do get out and vote.

Some were certainly ‘geed up’; we saw Trump supporters in large Utes seemingly harassing a Biden Campaign bus on a major highway with Trump tweeting his support. Weeks after most of the votes have been counted, Trump only recently acknowledged the possibility of defeat while still spending millions of his supporters’ money in kite flying legal battles that won’t change the outcome. In comparison to Trump’s hyper-partisan statements and publicity, Biden looks — well, Presidential.

Trump has form in appending less than appealing names to political opponents — two of the better known ones are ‘sleepy Joe’ Biden and ‘crooked Hilary’ Clinton. We tell our kids that name calling is childish — why can a President get away with it? President-elect Joe Biden seems to be actively attempting to calm the US down by not bombarding social media with claims that are apparently not supportable, allowing the process to come to a natural conclusion and refusing to join in the name calling.

Australia probably has less interest in ‘geeing up’ supporters with mass rallies at one of the big sporting grounds as there is a legal obligation to get out and vote. In fact, you are more likely to meet your local candidates at the local shops, factory or transport hub — sometimes with one of the party leaders ready to listen to your individual concerns. In Australia, certain groups or positions are victimised in an effort to appeal to the larger population.

In recent weeks, a Sri-Lankan family living in Kempsey NSW have been threatened with deportation because the husband, father and ‘primary visa holder’ recently died of cancer. Obviously no one chooses to die of cancer and there is considerable angst and pain for families where someone is diagnosed with the illness. The family was a part of the community, they were employed, the children were in school, and they were members of various community groups. In short, the family was another of the untold success stories of Australian multiculturalism.

Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs Department observed that they are in little danger of persecution in Sri Lanka which maybe the case. But it is also hard for a bureaucrat somewhere in Australia to prove they have sufficient knowledge of the current Sri Lankan political and cultural situation as it affects this family to make that judgement. And while it might have been acceptable in the time of the bible for people to have to return to their home town for each census, these days we realise that people move around, blend in and contribute in all sorts of ways to their adopted community.

Using the same logic as Home Affairs has here, should all the Victorians who have migrated to Queensland over the past 20 years be forced to go back to where they came from when the person who earned the money in the partnership dies or moves on? Of course the proposition of sending all these Victorians home is ridiculous, just as the proposition of sending a Sri Lankan family home because the person who holds the visa died. How incredibly heartless.

All Australian Governments since the one led by John Howard have form in this area. Howard’s colleagues such as Peter Reith claimed that the refugees were throwing children overboard to secure rescue and passage to Australia, The claims were false. Since then successive governments, both Coalition and ALP, have attempted to demonstrate they are tougher on refugees than the previous government from the other side. Rudd’s ‘no refugee will stay in Australia’ is equally as harsh as the false claims of children overboard.

The Murugappan family from Biloela are still incarcerated on Christmas Island. They were taken from their home in 2018 in a dawn raid organised by the Home Affairs Department and transported against their will first to Melbourne, then Christmas Island. Again they are valued members of their community and there has been considerable protest by Biloela residents and others as well as considerable time in court to allow this harmless family return to their home, jobs and schools in Central Queensland.

Australia has motels across the country filled with refugees who have been there for years, and have done nothing wrong except look for a better life. We have migrant workers with incredible skills doing low skill work because no one has ever bothered to ask the question about the qualifications held by refugees, or the learnings and experience refugees can contribute to better our society. Sadly, it seems to have only got harder for refugees since The Political Sword published Number 982 in March 2014.

It seemed that a lot of Americans didn’t vote for Trump as they had realised the country was at rock bottom. Australia surely is also at its own nadir. We have had no climate emissions plan for a decade due to political infighting as discussed recently and the competition on which side of politics can be more horrible to refugees which is thought to win votes.

When those who are recovering from addiction are interviewed, a frequent discussion point is they realised they had hit rock bottom and someone or something gave them the impetus to commence the climb out of the abyss they found themselves in. Hopefully Biden is the impetus for the US to start climbing.

Is it too difficult to hope that enough Australians realise at the next Federal Election that we have hit rock bottom, and elect parliamentarians that can show us the way out of our climate change denial and refugee abyss?

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Trump is a cult leader

By Ad astra

Do you sometimes ask yourself how it is that President Trump is able to attract and hold such a devoted collection of admirers, some of whom insist they ‘would die for him’? Are you amazed that they come out on the streets again and again in their thousands to cheer him and rail angrily against those who decry him? Why is it so?

One plausible explanation is that Trump is the leader of a cult.

In modern English, a cult is “a social group that is defined by its unusual religious spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by common interest in a particular personality, object or goal.” The label is usually considered pejorative.

The concept of a cult seems to fit what we are seeing among Trump’s admirers. For them, it appears that Trump can do no wrong. Not only do they embrace every word he utters, but every concept, every proposition, every ‘truth’, even when his ‘truth’ changes often and inexplicably. They are even prepared to donate to his political fund!

When he lost the recent election, yet insisted that he had won it, his followers came out on the streets in droves echoing his accusation that the election had been ‘stolen’ from him. The thieves were not identified. How they could mastermind such a complex coup involving thousands of players scattered across a vast nation of over 330 million was never explained. Yet that did not concern Trump’s followers; if Donald insisted they had stolen the election, that was enough. Did they ask how any group, no matter how brilliant, no matter how well organised, no matter how ubiquitous, no matter how influential and powerful, could exercise enough influence at any point in the electoral process to ‘steal’ an election? Evidence was absent, as is so often the case in Trump’s utterances.

 

 

Characteristically, cult followers do not question the leader, dispute the veracity of his words, or doubt the plausibility of his predictions. What he says, goes. Thus it is pointless to try to address his propositions through logical discourse using verifiable evidence.

Think about Trump and his committed followers. When did you last see them debate an issue? When did they ever propose an alternative viewpoint when their leader has already made his pronouncements?

This in not an academic discussion. It is a serious exposé of the danger of cults and the perils to which cult followers may be exposed when they unthinkingly embrace the leader’s words and beliefs.

Beware!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Emergency department visits surged during 2019-20 bushfire season

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Media Release

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows increases in emergency department visits for respiratory problems and sales of asthma medication in regions affected by the 2019–20 bushfires.

The report, Australian bushfires 2019–20: Exploring the short-term health impacts, examines some of the short-term health impacts of the devastating bushfires, focusing on the period from September 2019 through to March 2020.

The report brings together data from NSW emergency departments, air quality monitoring, GP visits, Medicare-subsidised respiratory testing, and pharmaceutical sales data from all states and territories.

‘The bushfire season of 2019–20 saw widespread destruction of land, national parks and property, and tragically, 33 people lost their lives,’

‘The smoke-related health costs of the 2019–20 bushfire season have been estimated by researchers at the University of Tasmania to be $1.95 billion.’ AIHW spokesperson Mr. Richard Juckes said.

Visits to NSW hospital emergency departments for respiratory conditions increased in the 2019–20 bushfire season, compared to 2018–19.

‘Some areas of NSW were affected more than others, with emergency department visits rising by more than 50% in the Capital Region (includes Bateman’s Bay) during times of peak bushfire activity, and 86% in the Riverina region,’ Mr. Juckes said.

Similarly, some areas of Australia experienced worse air quality than others—Canberra residents experienced the worst air quality in the Territory’s history, and on some days, the worst recorded air quality in the world.

‘In the week beginning 5 January 2020, hourly PM2.5 concentrations at the Canberra-based Florey air quality monitoring station reached 2,496µg/m3—hourly readings of 300 and above are considered ‘extremely poor,’ Mr. Juckes said.

Analysis of pharmaceutical sales data revealed that sales and dispensing of asthma reliever medications, including salbutamol (often marketed as Ventolin or Asmol), increased in bushfire-affected regions.

In the Coffs Harbour – Grafton region, there were increases of 70% and 43% in sales of inhalers for shortness of breath for the weeks beginning 10 November and 17 November 2019, respectively.

Similarly, in the week beginning 29 December 2019, there was a 63% increase in the Capital Region.

Mr. Juckes noted that this report focusses on short-term impacts but it will be important to monitor any potential longer-term health and mental health, impacts of the 2019–20 bushfires.

There were almost 19,000 bushfire-related Medicare-subsidised mental health services accessed by 5,094 patients (as at 11 October 2020),’ Mr. Juckes said.

‘The most commonly accessed services were provided by a registered psychologist (46%) or a clinical psychologist (41%).’

Future analysis and updates will aim to explore hospital emergency department data beyond New South Wales, alongside hospital admitted patient data.

‘The AIHW will further analyse air quality and fire danger index data to provide a more comprehensive picture of the relationship between population exposure to bushfire smoke (fine particle pollution) and health. We are also exploring a broader program of work for the AIHW relating to the environment and health,’ Mr. Juckes said.

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Opportunity lost: Trump’s presidency

By Matthew Synnott

Could there be anyone caught surprised that Donald Trump would be the sore loser that he has shown himself to be? We hear about millennials and the entitled generation, well Trump takes the trait to Stratosphere levels that no millennial could challenge. While we are at it, his ego is up there as well. It matters not that commentators – many of whom were avid supporters have, now that he is on the cusp of being sacked from the office that he would regard as the most coveted, valued and precious – have now turned on him, no doubt disturbed, disappointed, disgusted even that this pathetic human has revealed he is possessed of most if not all of the worst traits of character it is possible to reside in just one individual.

I believe that his decision to run for the office of POTUS was not about “Making America Great Again,” but more about making Trump greater. It was going to be just another conquest, another notch on the bed head, more confirmation that he was not just a highly successful business man but a statesman as well. This would assure him a place in the history pages of the U.S. not just as a wealthy and successful self-made businessman – hell such people are as common as flies – but as the one who had achieved all the things he said he would and so much more than any of his predecessors. It matters not that the reality is very different, his self-belief is all that matters, commentators who have the temerity to disagree even question his claims and assertions are heretics, purveyors of “Fake News.”

I have struggled to find a redeeming quality I can attach to this man and I use the term advisedly, I am no closer to finding any, any man who is so bankrupt of human decency is unworthy of that title. It bears a responsibility to live a life beyond the selfish gene we all have and while it is necessary for survival, it should not become so dominant that it extinguishes our instinct to be the social creatures that we have evolved to be. I have no professional training/experience but my inclination as a lay observer is that the subject is a pathological liar combined with a paranoid psychopath, and throw in narcissist all at the extreme high end of the curve. He is such a loose cannon that he is a danger, not just his countrymen and women, but the world through his denial of climate change science. He seems so deluded that he believes his handling of the pandemic is world-class. Doing an Admiral Lord Nelson or he is in a parallel universe.

It concentrates the mind to think what might have happened during the Cold War years had Trump been POTUS then. He would have held the launch codes for the missile defence system. Those of us now in our senior years were familiar with the terms, “Arms Race, 100 Megaton Bombs/ICBMs, MAD.”

The one chance the subject had to redeem some grace and dignity, to accept that his chance to win a successive second term is lost. Condemned felons have accepted their fate with impending death with greater courage and dignity than he will ever know. Victory is a showcase of talent, defeat is a showcase of character (unknown author), no point explaining this to the subject, the only quote he gets is; “winners are grinners, losers always lose” and that is what will really hurt him. He can say what he likes, history will record that in 2020 he lost by a not inconsiderable margin and that he resorted to all the dirty tricks he could invent to manipulate the system by falsely asserting illegality and dishonesty in the postal service, the electoral service, the Democrat States, the legal system, even the party that gave him oxygen in the first place, the Republican Party, conspiracists all of them.

I predict this spoilt brat, when his only option is to take his bat and ball and wander home alone, that he will boycott the Inauguration ceremony next January. He will go to his grave proclaiming he won the election but it was stolen from him thus attending the ceremony would only legitimise the illegal acts that resulted in the injustice. And that will plague him forever. The President-elect and his Vice President-elect should not be troubled by any immature action by this aberration, it reflects not badly on them only on the ignominious ex-POTUS. The truth is that he was never going to be equal to the task he was assigned and trusted to do four years ago. His ego was such that he believed that only his ideas were worthy of being exercised, when confronted with advisers who held differing views, he found reasons to dismiss them. As the smartest person in the room, correction, the world, he didn`t need to consult experts.

 

 

The incoming administration has its job cut out restoring faith in the process and in the nation`s leader to repair the damage reaped by four years of inglorious damnable conduct.

The Republican Party also has some fence-building to do. The lights in the party room need to be burning late into many nights analysing the last four years; what worked, what didn’t and what needs to happen to ensure the Democrats only get one term (when Biden is likely to hand the baton on to his Vice President for 2024). Should their outgoing fellow decide he wants another tilt, do they support him or send him on gardening leave, or do they quietly hope that the agony of loss will fry his addled brain completely? Time will tell. Maybe he will retire to his golf courses, sorry, country clubs. Memo to anyone competing with the club owner; let him win, he doesn’t like losing … in case that fact eluded you.

 

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