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Condemned: The Case of a Prime Minister

The man calling himself the Prime Minister of Australia has, by his own words, committed seppuku in public – just without the honour. It is worth taking a look at a Guardian article and some other sources around Mr. Morrison and these fires, for they say much about his Prime Ministership and his ability to remain in office. Specifically concerning the most recent address, we clearly have a man who never truly left the marketing department. Scotty from Marketing indeed.

The Prime Muppet Speaks: How Good is Propaganda?

Quote the Guardian

The prime minister began 2020 with a message acknowledging a “tough past 12 months” with the terrible bushfires that have claimed the lives of so many Australians”, before moving into the reasons he believed the nation could remain optimistic.

 

“But one thing we can always celebrate in Australia is that we live in the most amazing country on earth and the wonderful Aussie spirit that means that we will always overcome whatever challenges we face. That we will always look optimistically into our future. There’s no better place to raise kids anywhere on the planet, and we’re all so grateful that we can live in this amazing country, and that’s something we can always give thanks for as we enter into their [sic] new year.”

In other words, yes the place is burning and there are other natural disasters, but How Good is Australia? You can take the man out of marketing, but you seemingly cannot take the marketing out of the man. Does it make sense to have a positive message for the new year? Sure – but you could at least give empathy a go! Did that empathy consultant teach you nothing? By the way, if you require a consultant to teach you how to behave like a human being, you do not require their services, you need professional mental help.

Also, those who have died and lost their homes have nothing toward which to look forward with optimism! Morrison’s propaganda, along with the fireworks in Sydney, is the equivalent of a Roman Consul giving a speech and putting on a series of chariot races after Cannae, a battle where the Romans lost 40,000 troops! The sheer destruction, horror, and suffering brought about by these fires requires your attention, Sir, not merely your words.

Optics and Politics: A Case of Unbridled Incompetence

It is difficult to imagine how a natural disaster could be politicised, but then Scott Morrison could politicise the air (and continues to). After initially refusing to compensate volunteer firefighters for loss of income because they ‘want to be there’, Morrison, like any good weather vane, saw which way the wind was blowing and changed direction. It was decided to pay NSW firefighters up to $6000 for loss of income as a result of their service. However, not only was this limited to NSW, it was not even Morrison’s idea.

The previously linked article says that he responded to a request from the NSW government. He really does need to be prodded to do even the most basic things. Say what you will about John Howard, he and his predecessor Paul Keating made payments to volunteers and others affected by bushfires. Morrison either does not know about this option, in which case he is ignorant, or he does not care, in which case he is arrogant and callous.

Make of this next fact what you will, but NSW has a tory government, while Victoria and Queensland have Labor governments. I am not saying that partisanship dictated the decision, but the optics of it are terrible.

Pentecostal PM: Religion vs Reality

Mr. Morrison is, as many are aware, a pentecostal christian. The Conversation provides useful insight into the beliefs of this sect (or cult) and their effect on his politics. The most noteworthy aspect of this subset of christianity is its belief in what the Conversation calls ‘divine providence’. This is the idea that, quoting

All of history – and the future – is in the control of God; from creation, to the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, to the redemption of all in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In turn, this will lead to the second coming of Christ, the end of the world and the final judgement.

Yes, because all of those things happened. But more to the point, if history and the future are predetermined, then all is going according to plan and there is nothing that Morrison (or anyone else) needs to – or can – do about anything. This explains Morrison’s climate policy (or lack thereof). For the saviour to return, the world needs to suffer all sorts of tribulations.

He may not say it in so many words, but the current natural disasters are a good thing for Morrison and his ilk. Maybe if we create a situation where the world, over which we were made stewards but ignore that, chokes and burns and suffers just enough, my mythical imaginary friend will return and take me and my co-religionists to heaven (which totally exists) and leave the peasants, the unrighteous and the non-pentecostals to their divinely mandated fate.

I do not believe in hell, or anything approaching it, but DAMN YOU YOU CRIMINAL. The uninhibited (and yes, religious) arrogance that it takes to place your mythological, evidence-free, reality-denying beliefs above the knowable facts is more than enough to justify your removal from office! Leave – NOW!

Untenable Tenure: Morrison as PM 

It truly is amazing that Scott Morrison can continue to occupy the role of Prime Minister. His utter lack of empathy, leadership, decisiveness and, you know, interest in humanity’s continued survival, renders him illegitimate. As the Queen’s First Minister, your job is to lead, show compassion and, most importantly, display mental flexibility. Your petulant insistence on, and continued defence of, coal and your grudging admission that climate change is but one factor in these fires (itself a minor upgrade from the total fingers-in-the-ears of previous months) is crap! You are not amenable to evidence and facts: your mind is made up before the conversation starts! If you sincerely believe the crap that you spout, you are a fool. If you spout the crap that you do because you are paid to, you are a corrupt fool. Neither of these interpretations resounds to your political benefit.

Conclusion: Depart, I say

I end by paraphrasing and modernising the Lord Protector of England, Mr. Oliver Cromwell

You have sat too long for any good you have done lately.

 

It is high time to put an end to your sitting in this place,

which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

 

You are a factious crew; enemies to all good government.

You are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like  Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

 

You have no more religion than a horse. Wealth is your God. Which of you has not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

 

Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of your god, GO!

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The Right as Political Hydra: New Strategy Needed

How do those of us on the left (and both rightwingers wedded to reality – jk) fight the right? How do you have a constructive policy-based debate with people who are immune to evidence, have no shame or standards and do not acknowledge the legitimacy of their political or ideological opposition? How is it possible to hold a debate and reach compromise with such people?

The Divine Right, Corporate Socialism, and Political Survival: How?

In recent history, the right-wing has become increasingly politically inept, openly authoritarian corporate socialists. They despise the poor and the middle class and they have no qualms about showing it. Whether it is drug-testing or otherwise demonising welfare recipients, gutting health services (freezing the medicare rebate or sabotaging the ACA) or spending without limit on the armed forces and corporate subsidies, the platform is pretty clear. They are brazen corporate cuckolds who care not a fig for anyone making less than 6-figures per annum.

Now, in a democracy (laugh along with me) a platform that is so openly hostile to the majority and favours the minority would not be long for this world. But we in the west have not been democracies for almost half a century now. This goes far to explain the continued political existence of a movement so hostile to the people. But there are other factors at play too.

Secret Weapons of The Right, Part One: Immunity to Evidence 

As the title suggests, the two chief weapons of the modern right-wing are their complete immunity to evidence and their utter shamelessness.

The fact that the right does not care about evidence utterly nullifies the chief weapon of the left: facts. Whether the issue is climate science, the economy or anything else, the right is not interested in any countervailing opinion. Whatever they have decided (or been told to say) is already correct and the opinion of a communist is not worth listening to anyway. They do not care what the facts are: ideology comes first and the facts must be bent or otherwise distorted to fit. Simply put, to the extent that they believe in evidence at all, the right believes in policy-based evidence rather than evidence-based policy. Examples abound, but Mr Morrison on climate change is perhaps the most blatant: he either does not know or does not care. Either way, he has no business in politics.

Secret Weapons of The Right, Part Two: Utter Shamelessness

The second great weapon of the right is their utter shamelessness when it comes to pedalling their lies. When Morrison left the country earlier this week (because that’s what a good leader does mid-crisis), his department lied and said he was not there. Mr. Morrison has since cancelled his holiday and will return, but I hope the damage is done (again, laugh along with me). Previous efforts on his department’s part to use national security (the age-old cry of the oppressor as Captain Picard said) to hide his whereabouts were even debunked by the Errorgraph. Ok – when a Murdoch rag debunks your lies, you need to get better ones. But the point here is the utter lack of shame in their lying. This renders them immune to any and all charges of hypocrisy, lying and other transgressions. They do not care what the facts say (up to and including their own words), we have always been at war with Eurasia, ie the truth is what we say it is at any given time.

Secret Weapons of The Right, Part Three: Deny the Legitimacy of the Opposition

The modern right continually denies the legitimacy of their opposition and has done so for some time. Whether the GOP uses the term ‘Democrat party’ (something Bush 43 made up) or the LNP dismisses out of hand anything that anyone says that deviates from their preconceived ideas, the right does not see any value in the opinions of their opposition (or even their existence). They do not see the value in a conversation with someone who does not already agree with them. They expect lockstep compliance with everything they say and any talk of reform is socialism. They claim to be all about free speech and the exchange of ideas. Indeed: as long as they already agree. You know there is much to be said for Bill Maher’s quote

Whenever a Democrat seeks ‘common ground’, he always seems to find it where the Republican was already standing

Other western tories are no different: their opposition is illegitimate and compromise is treason. Indeed, the term ‘compromise’ only ever seems to apply to their opponents. Tories are the stereotypical entitled partner in an unhealthy marriage: there is compromise alright – the other one compromises and they get what they want. As with such a marriage, this is not a healthy model for politics, since the other partner eventually grows tired of the situation.

Conclusion: Fighting a Political Hydra 

We return to the question asked at the beginning of this piece: how do you fight such an enemy? If facts and evidence do not matter, and you cannot shame them or in some other way convince them to change their minds, and they are not even open to considering other opinions, how do you make progress? This is where I would usually insert some thought out potential solution, but I have nothing. I am genuinely at a loss.

The chief weapons of the left, namely evidence, the political dialogue, and our opponents’ better natures, are all nullified. The modern right hates the facts (and the media is on their side anyway) and they cannot be shamed or otherwise convinced to change their minds. The right-wing is a modern political hydra: every fact you present and every quote of theirs you offer just results in more heads growing.

The disappointment is strong in this one, but we must fight. The only problem is – I do not know how. Even with a competent opposition (which Labor and the Democrats are not), it is not clear how to kill this hydra of ineptitude, proven lies, and reckless (and ruthless) planetary destruction.

If anyone has any ideas, I am all ears. A new strategy is required, but I am not sure what it is.

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Special Religious Education: Propaganda?

The NSW Education Department (the Department) guidelines say that between thirty minutes and an hour per week must be set aside for ‘special religious instruction’ (SRE). SRE is defined as instruction in a particular religion. This is quite different from General Religious Instruction (GRE), which is more of a comparative religion course. The latter should be encouraged, the former is to be shot down in a ball of flames. To qualify that last clause, this is not because I am non-religious. It is based on the idea that if you want your child to receive religious instruction in your chosen faith, a venue exists for that: church (or other religious building). Even if the Department claims that the provision of SRE is not government funded, the fact remains that the schools are. Since this instruction is taking place in the schools, which are government-funded, this claim is misleading at best.

The Problem: Religious Propaganda as Education

It is my intention to use the christian example, as this is the religious text with which I am most familiar. Using just one example of a scope and sequence (a connected series of bullet-point descriptions of lessons across a term), we can see the great issue at the heart of this.

As an example, consider the following, aimed at stage 2 (years 3 and 4)

Aim: To help students to understand that Jesus is the centre of God’s plan of salvation for everyone. ·

Outcomes: Students learn about

  1. How events in the Old Testament make promises about Jesus in the New Testament
  2. Stephen, who spoke the truth about Jesus, even though he knew there could be extreme consequences.

Outcomes: Students will learn to

tell others about Jesus as Saviour, even when it is difficult.

Reflection and Analysis

Of all the issues with this, the greatest is perhaps the utterly uncritical nature of the content. All of the biblical text, and its claims, are presented as fact. Of course, jesus is the saviour, of course, the old testament makes promises about jesus. It is all taken as assumed fact. The reality is that the so-called prophecies in the Hebrew text about jesus were no such thing. As one example, Isaiah 7:14 about the ‘virgin conceiving and bearing a son’ is a mistranslation of the Hebrew almah (young woman) into the Greek parthenos (virgin), which informed the Latin vulgate in its virgo. Also left out is the fact that the ‘prophesy’ says that the child was to be called Immanuel and not Jesus. None of these facts that fly in the face of the christian narrative are pointed out.

Finally, of course, is the little gem where ‘Students learn to tell others about Jesus as Saviour’ – seriously. This is quite the admission that the purpose of these ‘classes’ is to ‘make disciples of the nations’ – to proselytise – to turn these children into little door-knockers before they learn critical thinking. Get ’em while they’re young.

Now you might say ‘this is aimed at years 3 and 4’. On the last point about telling others about Jesus as Saviour, that is precisely the point. But the larger issue is that religious beliefs are being taught as fact on the public dime (despite the Department’s claim). My issue is not with belief – you are free to believe whatever you wish – but academic content should be grounded in the facts. If the purpose of SRE is not academic then it has no place in education. To clarify once more, I am not trying to stamp out religion or whatever other strawman anyone would care to throw at me. I am simply asking that unexamined beliefs not be taught as fact.

The Solution, Part One: Academic Study of Religious Texts

I do have a solution though, lest I should come across as purely negative. You could examine the beliefs of any given religion from a philosophical, historical, literary or another critical perspective. Another method might be to look at what the text means rather than simply parroting what it says. As examples of academic study related to the bible, you could consider the Synoptic Problem, that is the relationship between the gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark and Luke and the various source-critical hypotheses (including Q) that have been put forward. Or you could consider the historical jesus and the various models put forward to explain that, from cynic sage to apocalyptic prophet to political revolutionary and beyond. These are genuine academic inquiries that teach students methods of thinking rather than what to think.

The consideration of context, literary types (prose/verse, letter vs chronicle etc) as well as the search for bias (the anti-Petrine bias in Mark for instance) are useful skills to impart to students. This is somewhat covered in history, but applying such skills to other texts, including the bible (sorry christians, no exceptions) is an invaluable skill. Remember, this is a society in which over 70% of the print media is owned by a rank right-wing partisan named Rupert Murdoch. The ability to look for bias is critical when you live in such a society.

The Solution, Part Two: Comparative Religion

A comparative religion course (perhaps taught over several years) would outline, using the relevant text, the central tenets, beliefs and practices of many different religions. The point of such a course is not to provide propaganda (which, unpopular among the religious as this may be, is what SRE does) for any religion, but to teach the facts about them and allow students to make a choice. The structure might be to spend a term on each religion in no particular order. If desired, members of the faith could be brought in and given a chance to say ‘this is what we believe’, with strict instructions not to proselytise.

Conclusion: Religion in School 

Even as a non-believer, I acknowledge that religion, for all the harm it has caused, does have a place in society. As a consequence, this gives it a place in education. However, much like how the wider society effectively neutered religion by taking away its political power, the education system needs to keep a close eye on religion in the schools (and not just the catholic priests). On a slightly more serious note, knowledge of what multiple religions believe is useful information in a pluralistic and multicultural society. However, an iron fist is needed to maintain the bright red line between stating facts and proselytising.

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It’s The Classism, Stupid: Why ‘OK Boomer’ Is Not The Whole Story

Over the last month or so, the phrase ‘Ok Boomer’ has made its way into popular usage. I first saw the phrase used by a New Zealand MP to dismiss a condescending remark by a detractor. The term has come to represent a dismissal of old ideas, essentially a version of ‘Ok, you had your turn running the show, step aside’. In light of the current state of affairs, with corrupt politicians ruining the environment, society and everything else they touch, this does not seem unreasonable. But I want to encourage nuance in the use of the phrase. Is this a version of #notallboomers? Yes. Generalising is not a useful technique of argumentation, no matter how many clicks it gets. Rather than pointing the finger at an age group, we are better served by targeting the class who has caused the trouble: the greedy and corrupt oligarchs

#NotAllBoomers: They Are Not All to Blame (But Some Are)

It is true that many in the so-called Boomer generation grew up with many advantages: medicare, free university and so on. But they also worked very hard for what they have, and this should never be doubted. The crime came in the late 1980s when a Labor government introduced a partial payback of the cost of university, which had previously been free. They had their free education, you see, so this was no longer necessary. What should never be forgotten is that there is footage of Joe Hockey protesting for what he called ‘our right to free education’. One wonders what the current Prime Monster would have to say about that. However, what is interesting is that Hockey was right!

Bob Hawke’s decision to introduce the partial payback paved the way for John Howard to sabotage the economic participation of all future generations by making the payback 100%. Once again, they had their free education, so the policy was now redundant. The key point is that this had nothing to do with the Boomer generation (Howard was too old), but rather was the political class saying ‘for me and mine, not thee and thine’.

The Usefulness of ‘OK Boomer’

The phrase does have its place: dismissing the old and failed ideas of these corrupt kleptocrats who petulantly cling to power. We should set these failed ideas aside: tax cuts for the rich, coal as the only viable energy source and so on. These ideas have been tried and the last forty years of reality has shown that they do not work. If we are talking about ideas here, then yes, Ok Boomer has its place: failed ideas of generations past should be left in the past. But let us not forget why these failed and regressive ideas remain part of the ether: the oligarchs. Media moguls and the ultra-rich who, in the case of Clive Palmer (who is a boomer) quite literally tried to buy the election by spending tens of millions of his own money.

A Pattern Emerges: Class over Generation

I hope the examples of Clive Palmer, John Howard, and Bob Hawke have generated a pattern. Specifically, it is class rather than generation that is the cause of our current problems. While you might argue that I am generalising the rich as the cause, I have targetted specific examples. The point is that the problem is members of the Boomer generation, who, to paraphrase George Carlin, happen to be rich. It is, as I said above, these kleptocrats who petulantly cling to power despite being wrong for forty years who are the problem. Perhaps ‘Ok Wealther’ might be a more accurate term.

Conclusion: Debunking a Myth

It used to be said that people became more conservative in their political outlook as they aged. This was a sort of conventional wisdom, and like many forms of conventional wisdom, it is a load of crap. The reality is that age often correlates with the accumulation of wealth, which usually generates less uncertainty, and with it less need for change. I am doing just fine, thank you, nothing needs to change. This is, once again, an example of class over generation. Typically, each generation winds up better off financially than their parents were, and successive generations of this increase in wealth, and the associated tory turn that goes with it, generated this myth. Once more, it is not generation, it is class.

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I am Nostradamus: Warren Falls in Line

Ok, I admit: the title is rather pompous. But I can never resist a Judas Priest reference.

In a piece published on July 23rd of this year, I suggested that Senator Elizabeth Warren was the ‘Corporate Compromise Candidate’. This phrase meant that she was as far left as the corporate elite would tolerate. They had seen that the energy in the primary was in the populist wing of the Democratic party. Thus, they needed a candidate who was populist enough to excite the base but who would ‘play ball’. It gives me no great pleasure to say that I was right in my prediction. Senator Warren has backtracked on the major issue of this primary: Medicare4All. In addition, despite ripping on the rich in public, her campaign has maintained close links with major Democratic donors.

Senator Warren and Med4All, Part One: The Backflip 

In a recent set of tweets, cited by the Washington Post, Warren put forth her plan to, over the course of her first term

reverse Trump’s sabotage of the ACA, lower drug prices, lower the Medicare age to 50 and create a true Medicare for All option—and fully transition to

Warren appears to have adopted the corporate Democrat talking point about strengthening ObamaCare, which was, we should note, originally a rightwing plan. Medicare4All would replace this individual mandate system, which forces people to buy private insurance, with universal coverage paid for by tax revenue. The Medicare for All ‘option’ that she talks about is but a slight variant on the corporatist lines ‘Medicare for All who want it’, ‘preserving choice’ and ‘expanding access to care’. Specifically, if the goal is Medicare for All, why would you not go directly to that, instead of putting an extra destination on the trip?

Senator Warren and Med4All, Part Two: Nice While it Lasted

There is a degree of incrementalism in Senator Warren’s plan that is disturbing. She appears to lack vision and boldness. She does not realise (or is ignoring) that the people support Medicare4All as a specific policy initiative without transition. Senator, it is not necessary to hold the hand of the electorate and walk them towards something to which they wish to run.

In addition, the Medicare4All ‘option’ is, as Axios notes, a public option, which the Democrats were not able to get during the original healthcare debate under Mr. Obama. The public option represents a halfway point between the current system and universal coverage. Once again we see the Senator’s incrementalism. As a snide jab Senator, the idea is to wait until you win the primary before pivoting to the ‘centre’. Finally on the public option, as Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski noted, the private insurance companies would simply palm off the sick onto the public system and keep the healthy for themselves. The public system would suffer, ultimately collapse and, after a time, things would return to business as usual. Just as the corporations like it.

Senator Warren’s backflip on this was present in the ether as early as October. In that month, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did an interview with CNN. He noted that Warren was ‘more pragmatic’ (read corrupt) than to pursue Medicare for All. Reid seemingly knew something the rest of us did not, and he was right.

Senator Warren and The Donor Class: Public vs Private Positions 

Warren is running a populist campaign, or so she claims. Publically, she has ripped on the rich. This culminated in her selling a mug with the phrase ‘Billionaire Tears’ on it. However, as Politico notes, Senator Warren maintains connections to a wide network of Democratic party big donors. We should note that she is never actually present at fundraisers. This is a laudable effort to eschew paid access to her. In spite of this, she is still raising money from big donors and vowed earlier this year to take corporate money in the general (election).

Now, before anyone suggests that ‘this is how the game is played’, I offer a counter-example: Senator Bernie Sanders. Per the Rational National on YouTube, Sanders has broken yet another fundraising record in terms of individual donors, breaking the previous record that he also set. In addition, many of Sanders’ donors are recurring. These include monthly pledges which will allow him to continue beyond the primary should he be successful. Bernie is thus showing that it is possible to run a successful primary campaign without reference to the corporate elite.

Returning to Senator Warren, before anyone argues that it is the campaign rather than her that is doing this, stop. She is ultimately (and quite literally) the face of this campaign. The buck stops with her. If the staff acted without her knowledge (no evidence of that) she should fire them post-haste. Her own claims earlier this year (referenced above) about corporate money in the general tend to argue against this idea.

Conclusion: Warren as Corporate Compromise Candidate

As I suggested in July, Senator Warren is the ‘left gatekeeper’ of this Democratic primary. She is as far left as the corporations will tolerate. Her falling into line with the establishment, rhetorically and financially, outs her as an Obama-style Democrat. A corporate wolf in social-democratic sheep’s clothing.

At least Mr. Obama had the good sense to get elected before turning on his base and becoming another corporate Democrat.

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Brexit: An Outsider’s Perspective

This is more a reflective piece on a personal quandary than anything else, but I hope it provides some food for thought.

Brexit has become, since its inception in 2016, the issue of British politics. It toppled a Prime Minister and even brought the Queen into politics. It is such a divisive issue, with calls for second referenda coming thick and fast.  There is one aspect of the issue that has not been considered, at least that I have seen. This will be controversial, but I hope to provide maximal clarity for my position: Brexit needs to Happen.

Explanation, Part One: They Voted for It

This may seem like a copout, but the British people ultimately did vote for this. If the term Democracy is to have any meaning at all, its results must be carried out, no matter how terrible they may be. If the political class were to overrule the electorate and scuttle Brexit, what is to stop any other election result from being similarly overruled if the political class deemed it unpalatable? Politics, like the law, is built on precedent. Overruling an election result voted on by the people sets a very dangerous political precedent. A vote is a vote and a political class that overrules its people may well find itself on the receiving end of pitchforks and torches. Democracy is, as Churchill said, the worst form of government there is except for all the others.

Explanation, Part Two: Rebutting ‘They Were Lied To’ 

One argument you hear against Brexit is that the leave campaign was a tissue of lies, particularly around the NHS. It is true, the campaign deceived the people. But this also sets a dangerous precedent.

Think about it: every contested election campaign is, to some extent or other, based on lies. Strawmanning your opponents, inflated policy promises and so on. If dishonesty in campaigning is grounds for invalidating an election result, no government would ever be elected. I am afraid I do not buy the notion that since the leave campaign lied to the people, the result of the referendum is somehow invalid. The argument against ‘they were lied to’ boils down to ‘all politicians lie in campaigning and the result still stands. why is Brexit any different?’

Conclusion: Reflection

Detractors of this piece might see me as a Democratic extremist – and perhaps I am. However, I cannot get past the precedent that a second vote or simply scuttling Brexit sets. A Democracy where results only stand if the political class approves is a Democracy in name only.

To end, a disclaimer: like Smith in his Wealth of Nations, I am appalled by the argument that I have set out here. This is not what I personally want to happen, or even believe should happen, but principles trump any one man. If Britain claims to be a Democracy and not an oligarchy with meaningless voting, this result must be implemented.

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Woe To You, ScoMo: The Bible, The Poor and The Prime Pharisee

I have done this before: meeting Scott Morrison on his own biblical turf and ripping him a new one on how his pseudo-christianity is about as far from Jesus as it is possible to be. However, in light of the recent push for drug-testing of welfare recipients and broad discussion of extending the so-called ‘cashless welfare card’ to other payments, a refresher course is necessary. It is fair to say that the Prime Pharisee, as I shall now call him, would be chief among the goats of the parable. Depart from me, ye cursed.

The Christian Bible and The Poor, Part One: The Greek New Testament 

The christian scriptures are quite pro-immigrant as I have said before, but the poor also get a good showing in the text. Rather than simply quote these texts, I think some discussion is warranted also.

We start with the first epistle not written by (or to) John the Apostle, chapter 3, verse 17

Rich people who see a brother or sister in need, yet close their hearts against them, cannot claim that they love God

In other words, if you have means (the Prime Pharisee would say blessings) and do not use them to help the poor, you cannot claim to be a servant of the god you say you love. You might claim this Jesus guy as your saviour, but your attitude to those less fortunate refutes any claim that you have internalised his message. You represent that legalistic, judgemental and bigoted side of religion typified by the Pharisees of the new testament. Hence my new title for you: Prime Pharisee.

The Christian Bible and The Poor, Part Two: The Hebrew Bible

Lest we think that doing the right thing by the poor was a new testament notion, consider parts of the Hebrew text. We proceed with a couple of lines from Leviticus 19:9-10. That is right, Prime Pharisee, this book is good for something besides being anti-gay and killing every second person with whom you interact.

The text says

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God

This we might see as leaving some portion of one’s crops unharvested in case someone in need should come by. Applying this to the treasury of a nation, some insignificant amount of support for the poor should be something that you, as a self-professed christian, do with joy. Instead, you attach stigma and prejudice to it.

This – THIS – is how you treat the poor? If you would be perfect, he said, sell what you own and give to the poor. Even accounting for the idea that this was an interim ethic, a temporary state of affairs given that the world was supposed to end on Friday, the sentiment is still a good idea and supported by multiple citations throughout the text by which you claim to live.

A Modern-Day Pharisee

Perhaps some explanation of this new title for Morrison is necessary. The Pharisees, as depicted in the gospels, were strict legalists who memorised the Pentateuch (1st five) and were the religious leaders of their day. These were the guys who debated what ‘work’ was for purposes of the Jewish sabbath. A fun group to be around.

The blind legalism and adherence to tradition of this group of extreme religious conservatives is perhaps best demonstrated by the words put into the mouth of Jesus in the gospel attributed to Matthew, 23:23

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former

This we may see as paying attention to the little minor details of the law and not seeing the big picture that, as the epistle to the Romans would later say, love, is the fulfilment of the law (13:10). These guys are the type to quote the text at people saying how many steps you can take on alternate Mondays when the moon is full, but care not a fig for the poor. Ok, I might have made part of that up, but you get the idea.

These guys do the little things and (implicitly) say ‘how righteous am I’ while being as unrighteous as it is possible to be. Relating this back to the Prime Pharisee, he gives his 10% and raises his hand in the air every Sunday, sure. However, he then turns around and orders and implements the most callous, inhumane policies possible. This man is a hypocrite of the highest order. Prime Pharisee indeed.  

Faith, Works and The Poor

The epistles in the Greek New Testament have quite a lot to say about caring for the poor. The epistle of James, for instance, says the following (2:15-17)

if a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead

Ignore here the clear implication that you should only do this for your fellow christians (brother or sister has an implied ‘in christ’ attached to it). Regardless, the point is clear: if you claim to have undergone some form of christian transformation, the change cannot be mere words. Rather, it must be reflected in your deeds. Saying the right thing, without actually doing the right thing, is meaningless. Bringing this home to the Prime Pharisee, he says that he loves Jesus, but his actions do not reflect any form of fundamental self-change. Faith without works, as the text says, is dead.

Works Without Faith: The Other Side of The Sheep and The Goats

I imagine most are aware of this parable, but you may not have noticed this. When the king says to the so-called righteous

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me…

it is noteworthy that what these people believed is not mentioned. Rather, the issue is how they had treated, as the text says, the least of these my brothers. To bring this home to the Prime Pharisee, how you treat the least of these is how he will treat you.

Conclusion: Prime Pharisee

The man calling himself the Prime Minister is the very worst example of the political pseudo-christian. These clowns preach Jesus with their mouths, but their hearts are far from him to paraphrase the gospels. Callous behaviour towards those less well off members of society is in direct contravention of the faith you claim to have.

May I suggest dusting off your translation of the text and reading it once in a while, Prime Pharisee.

 

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Bolton for the Exit: The National Security Advisor is Fired

As I was editing this, I saw another post on this site on the firing of Bolton, and I encourage you to check it out. I hope to offer something unique in this post. Now to the point.

President Trump has fired his national security adviser John Bolton. I want to look at why and then consider the media’s response, particularly Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. We will see a complete lack of focus and concentration on the wrong issue, just for a change,

Trump Fires Bolton: The Facts 

The following is taken from tweets cited in an ABC article on the subject. Trump himself sighted strong policy disagreements between Bolton, himself and other members of the Administration as the basis for Bolton’s termination. The result was that the President asked for Bolton’s resignation – at least according to Trump himself. However, it would not quite be the Trump Administration without utterly contradictory information coming out whenever something happens, and this case is no exception. Bolton tweeted that he had offered his resignation and Trump said ‘let’s talk about it tomorrow’. This Administration could not lie straight in bed.

On the contradictory tweets, two things. First, I would speculate that Trump, long accustomed to power and having the final say, wanted to push Mr Bolton rather than have him jump. It is not anywhere near as spectacular to have someone fall on their sword when you can cut their head off in public. Second, this is yet another example of Trump and his Administration’s gaslighting of America. Gaslighting is a technique of psychological manipulation where, through continuously making the truth a moving target, the perpetrator causes the victim to doubt their own memories of events, and even their sanity. By constantly redefining reality to suit himself, and slandering anyone with the temerity to say otherwise by screaming fake news, Trump is clearly gaslighting the electorate.

Why Did Trump Fire Bolton? 

As with virtually any event, the natural follow up is to ask why. Bolton is an unapologetic warmonger who never met a war he did not like, chiefly because he never has, or will, serve in the armed forces. An armchair general in other words. Trump has not served either, and has a similar pro-war stance, but has been known to buck the established orthodoxy once or twice. The aforementioned ABC piece mentioned foreign policy disagreements between Trump and Bolton, specifically over the recent plans to meet with Taliban leaders to establish a peace treaty in Afghanistan. Translation: peace in Afghanistan would lead to less war, and Bolton hates that idea. There is money to be made: mineral wealth and the profits of war. Ok when Donald Trump is the voice of reason when it comes to the use of military force, you have a truly dangerous adviser.

The Reaction, Part One: The Administration 

The reaction to Bolton’s departure from inside the Administration was perhaps best summed up by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. When asked if Bolton’s departure came as a shock, Pompeo said that he was ‘never surprised’ at the unpredictable nature of the Administration. That says much about how accustomed to Trump’s erratic and capricious behaviour the Administration, or at least Mr Pompeo, has become.

A further interesting comment on Bolton’s departure came from a source close to the White House who said, referencing potential successors to Bolton, that

[North Korean envoy Stephen] Beigun much more like Pompeo understands that the President is the President, that he makes the decisions

The implication here is that Bolton tried to direct policy, seemingly overstepping his authority. That is something Trump could never tolerate. His mantra is know your place and never question the Dear Leader. Mr Bolton seemingly forgot his place, and was quickly let go. Now while it is true that harmony is necessary between a President and his advisors, Trump is not, contrary to his own perception, a king to be deferred to on all matters. The role of advisors is to advise, and an effective leader can take advice.

The Reaction, Part Two: The Media

We come now to the response of the media, specifically Dr Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. In the opening segment of her show recently, Maddow said that Trump’s relationship with Bolton had ‘ended as raggedly and chaotically as all the rest of them [with national security advisers’. Maddow also declared that Trump had a ‘new ex’ in terms of having ended his relationship with Mr Bolton. Setting aside the utter flipancy with which she is treating this issue, note the framing of her treatment: the issue is not whether this warmongering American imperialist should ever have been hired in the first place – that’s a given – the issue is the fact that Trump’s White House is chaotic.

I have said this before and I will say it again: Doctor, you of all people not only should,but do, know better than this. The issue is not the chaos (which has nothing to do with the average American), but rather the fact this this bloodthirsty advocate of American Exceptionalism was ever hired in the first place. You yourself played the clip of Bolton flagrantly dissing the United Nations under the Bush Administration. Bolton backed every war and tried to create new ones by pressuring Trump to take an increasingly hawkish stand toward Russia, a fellow nuclear-armed power.

Conclusion: President Broken Clock

Trump’s motivation for getting rid of Bolton are, as usual, unclear. However, I do think that it was the correct decision. Bolton was a truly dangerous lunatic who could only have driven American foreign policy in a more bellacose direction. Trump, like the broken clock, is right twice a day, and this decision, for all the media framing around it, was the correct one.

This line from above bears repeating: When Donald Trump is the voice of reason in a situation, the other guy was truly dangerous. 

Bolton will not be missed, and the ‘chaos’ element of the media narrative needs to stop. Administrations swap personnel. It happens. We should not let our (often well placed) contempt for Trump change how we view common occurrences.

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Once and Forever A Puppet: Turnbull, Sco Mo and Climate Change

In a remarkable series of statements, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended his successor Scott Morrison’s ‘approach’ to climate change. It truly is amazing that Mr. Turnbull can continue to defend the dinosaurs in his party. The statement you can take the man out of the party but not the party out of the man is truly vindicated. I want to delve into his remarks and deconstruct them, for they say much about the nature of the current liberal party.

Australia has, as we are all too well aware, created problems for Pacific Island nations at the recent forum by preventing consensus on climate action. This even led to the amazing criticism that Morrison was ‘putting politics ahead of Australia’s island neighbours’. Really? Nah. When has Scott Morrison ever put politics ahead of everything else? When, I ask you?

Malcolm Powder Speaks, Part One: Defend to The End

Seriously, Mr. Turnbull went on ABC radio and said the following

[Turnbull said Morrison] had to operate in the real world. Emissions reduction is a very difficult issue for the Coalition, and you’ve got to cut Morrison some slack on this, or give him some understanding. 

Careful, Mr Turnbull, your battle wounds are showing. The current Prime Minister has to operate ‘in the real world’: translation, he has to do as he told by the same right-wing nutjobs who dictated policy under your administration. There is something profoundly conservative about the fact that the same ill-informed troglodytes who dictated policy in one administration do so for the next. Nothing changes just the date. It is to the eternal shame of the nation that the ill-informed, politically (and financially) motivated minority dictate policy rather than, you know, experts!

Emissions reduction is a difficult issue for the coalition you say. I imagine it would be for a party that is so heavily funded by an emissions-intensive industry. You would not want to place in jeopardy that sweet, sweet corporate cash. Finally, for this quote, the fact that Mr Morrison values his poxy political career (or he actually believes the crap he spouts) over the future of the planet is not, in the strongest possible terms, not grounds to ‘give him some understanding’. The man is wrong on the facts; that he does so with a gun to his back is not important. We are not required to give him understanding or sympathy. He is (or claims to be) the leader of the party. The final decision, by that logic, is his. The buck stops with him.

Malcolm Powder Speaks, Part Two: You Say More than You Know, Sir

The former Prime Minister went on to speak more truth than has come forth from a liberal politician in some time. He said

Mr Morrison was “alert to the political realities”. “There is a very strong minority within the Coalition and the media and community that is ferociously opposed to taking action to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Alert to the political realities? Translation he knows where his bread is buttered and the line he has to toe in order to keep his political head. This is either a pathetic display of political weakness (an unwillingness to buck party orthodoxy) or he actually believes it. Neither resounds to Morrison’s benefit. Does that remind you of someone, Mr. Turnbull?

As for the ‘very strong minority…ferociously opposed to taking action to reduce greenhouse emissions’, the operative term there is minority. We live, for the moment at least, in a democracy. Democracies are about rule of the majority. If the majority of a population wants a policy, in a democracy it is done. The opinions of the minority are considered, but ultimately rejected. The minority, no matter how vocal it may prove to be, is not allowed to dictate policy.

Less diplomatically expressed, I do not care what the minority thinks! I am sure there are minority populations out there who would like to wipe out the Jews! But we do not allow them to dictate policy! Specifically, on the climate issue, the scientists, you know, the people with the PhDs, have spoken. There is a clear scientific consensus. The time has come for politicians, who are so obviously corrupt, to be excluded from the conversation. Their role is to pass the legislation experts formulate. No amendments, no corporate giveaways, no incentives to bring them on board.

Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Stockholm

We may ask why Malcolm Turnbull continues to defend the aforementioned ill-informed troglodytes even after he has left politics. I would suggest the answer is quite simple. Turnbull is acting like a classic abuse victim. In other words, he has Stockholm Syndrome. He has bonded with his captors and is now defending them, even in the face of ever-mounting evidence that contradicts what they say. This is happening even after the hostage crisis is over.

Conclusion: The Liberal Party as Hostage Situation

The fact that Turnbull continues to defend his former masters in the party says much about the Liberal Party. Their leaders are, in the modern era anyway, mere puppets whose lines are scripted and positions already formulated before they assume the leadership. The conditioning is so effective that, even after they leave, they still defend their former captors.

The cause of this is not immediately obvious, but I would place some blame at the feet of one Anthony John Abbott. Since becoming Opposition Leader in 2009, Abbott instituted a particularly vicious and highly rigid brand of politics that has not really left the LNP to this day. I have quoted this before, but it deserves repeating. The extent of the change in the party when Turnbull replaced Abbott was best summed in Abbott saying that Turnbull was ‘in office, not in power’. That turned out to be true, and Morrison is seemingly in a similar position. The difference is, he learned the lesson: he toes the line regardless of the consequences.

Long Live the Idiot King

 

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Abbott at CPAC: The Delusion Continues

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke at CPAC Australia recently, and his remarks deserve some deconstruction. His level of self-awareness is as high as ever, and he continues to live in a parallel universe from the rest of reality.

First, Some Framing: The Media

The opening lines of the sourced piece aptly reflect the state of the Australian media

At the first-ever Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Australia, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that what enabled the right-leaning Liberal Party of Australia to win the recent federal election is that they were “less ideological” than their left-leaning Australian Labor Party opponents

What utterly garbage framing. There is an amazing false equivalence here: the Liberals are ‘right-leaning’ and the Labor Party are ‘left-leaning’, so it is all a wash. No. The Liberals do not ‘lean right’, they are far-right ideologues determined to create a neo-feudal society of lords and serfs. The Labor party are only marginally better, being centre-right in their politics.

As for ideological motivation, the Liberal National Party (LNP) is quite possibly the most ideological government in recent memory. The party views every issue through the lenses of politics and personal gain. But the bigger issue here is the media framing. To portray the Australian Labor Party as ‘left-leaning’ is laughable. They are centre-right at best. Now, in fairness to the media, centre-right when compared to the hard-right LNP must look like ‘left-leaning’, but please be honest in your framing. The Labor party are not really left-leaning: the reality is that the LNP have shifted the conversation so far to the right that the tepid, centre-right Labor party looks left-leaning. But I digress from ranting about the media, and move on to Mr. Abbott.

Abbott Speaks, Part One: Delusion 

Mr Abbott took an interview at the conference and said the following

Look at the recent election campaign here in Australia. The Labor Party went into that election with a highly ideological agenda on tax, on climate, on unions, and on big government. We won the election because we said, ‘We’re not that,’ and because we weren’t obsessed with climate. We were able to address more meaningfully the cost of living pressures that people faced

The ALP went to the election with an ideological agenda? As opposed to the LNP who went to the election with nothing but complaints about the fact that the Labor party still existed? As for the issues he mentioned, tax reform and a climate policy are necessary. I know you will be dead before the most destructive impacts of climate change hit, Tone, but you could show some empathy for future generations. Your daughters have to live on this dying planet – do you not care for them and their future? Sociopath.

There was one element of truth in what he said, even if it was unintentional. He said that the LNP won the election ‘because we said we’re not that’. Indeed. The relentless message of ‘vote for us because we are not Labor’ was part of the reason you won the election. That, and brazen media bias, the power of incumbency, and the fact that Bill Shorten did not have good answers to some legitimate questions. The point is that he is right when he says ‘we’re not that’ was part of their election victory. But not for the reasons he says.

Abbott Speaks, Part Two: Lies and Spin 

Abbott went on to say the following – sigh

Because we are not ideologically geared toward big government, we are able to reduce taxes and reduce regulations in ways that make our economy stronger. And because we’re not obsessed with gender and identity, we are actually able to bring Australians together in a way that our opponents simply can’t.

Reduce taxes, you say? Notably, Mr. Abbott does not say for whom taxes will be reduced. An analysis penned in the Fin Review states the following ‘In pure dollar terms, people earning $200,000 and above will be the biggest winners’ out of this package. So, the well to do are the main beneficiaries of conservative tax policy – just for something different.

Reduce regulations, you say as if it is a good thing. Regulations in this context refers to environmental, wage, health and safety laws as applied to business. These inconveniences tend to get in the way of profits, you see. Forcing the Holy Big Business Conglomerate to not pollute the environment, to pay their workers adequately and ensure their health and safety is just such a burden. The Liberals believe in lifting burdens for business (while imposing them on the people – cashless welfare card anyone?).

The gender and identity bit does not deserve much attention, other than to note the amazing hypocrisy on display. The Liberals are not obsessed with gender and identity? Using Senator Cory Bernardi as but one example, the LNP has been all over these ‘cultural issues’ for a long time. You know we can see you in there, right Tone? Liar

Abbott Speaks, Part Three: Seriously!

Abbott also added this

As Liberals, I like to say we support smaller government, greater freedom, lower taxes. As conservatives, I love to say we support the family, small business, and institutions that stood the test of time. But above all else we are patriots. We love our country [cheers and applause]

None of these terms has any meaning attached to it whatsoever. Just a series of meaningless buzzwords that make the sheep bleat. Some translations though: when he says ‘we support the family’, that has a very precise meaning. It means the traditional (read heterosexual) family and nothing else. When he says they support ‘institutions that have stood the test of time’ I suspect he means religion (by which he means christianity). Finally, he actually appealed to patriotism, which, as Samuel Johnson said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Conclusion: Lack of Self-Awareness on Display

To end on a lighter note, Abbott said this in the same interview

If we are true to our instincts and beliefs, there’s no reason why we can’t be wonderfully successful

This from a guy who lost his seat at the last election. Sideshow Bob – meet rake.

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Orange Man Bad is Not A Campaign Strategy: A Warning to The Democrats

In a recent New Rules segment, HBO’s Bill Maher went on a rant about Trump Fatigue. Maher coined this phrase to represent the idea that people are fed up with Trump and it is this fatigue that will lead the Democrats to victory in 2020. Sigh. No substance, no policy, just Orange Man Bad. Democrats, take heed: Vote Blue No Matter Who and Orange Man Bad are not effective campaign slogans. I want to delve into Maher’s rant and explain why I think he is wrong.

Trump Fatigue

The setup for the Trump Fatigue line was a comparison between the ratings that the President drew for an interview as compared with some game show. Not a good start, but then it got worse. Quote Maher

Fatigue is the best thing we’ve got going for us [Democrats]. The majority of Americans aren’t tired of ‘winning’, they’re tired of looking at his fat f*cking face

In a strange irony, Maher is actually right in terms of fatigue being the best thing the Corporate Democrats have going for them. They sure as hell have no policies so they have to go with ‘aren’t you tired of this impolite and bigoted orange bully?’. This is a terrible approach to election campaigning. People do not wish to be told what (or who) you oppose, they want to know what you are going to do for them! Maher’s strategy (which many Corporate Democrats mirror – see John Delaney and others) is to essentially continue the status quo (with maybe some very minor reforms) as if Trump is the problem. If you remove Trump then everything returns to normal. Out of touch, elitist w*nkers.

Maher’s Elitism and Dig at The Left

Maher continued with this gem

The voters that Democrats need to win: moderates who have Trump fatigue will vote against the good economy I think just to get back to normalcy. But they won’t trade it away for left-wing extremism

76% of Americans live paycheque to paycheque. Half of American workers make $30,000 a year or less. Wages have been stagnant for nearly forty years! What good economy? The ‘good economy’ to which he refers is the unemployment rate (under 4%) and the stock market. Those figures are deeply misleading, since unemployment does not measure the type of jobs being taken, nor does it take into account those who have stopped looking. In addition, the stock market is only an indicator of how the shareholder class are doing. This is not a useful indicator for the wider economy. In other words, Bill Maher and his cocktail circuit friends are doing just fine.

As for getting back to normalcy, this was a term coined in 1920 by Republican Presidential candidate Warren G Harding, and it referenced a return to life as it had been prior to the Great War. Intentional or otherwise, in Maher’s comparison, Trump is the equivalent of WW1. You may think that a stretch, but Maher, as a history major, is informed enough to know the full context for that line.

Maher’s dig at ‘left-wing extremism’ is a reference to the policies that are now popular among the Democratic base (and even, in many cases, the wider electorate). He went on to say that to implement policies ‘you have to get elected first’. What he does not know, or willingly ignores, is the fact that, in a democracy, advocacy of popular policies gets you elected! It is remarkable how conservative this once liberal firebrand has become.

Maher’s Election ‘Analysis’

The crap continues

This election is about two things: fatigue and fear. We have fatigue, he [Trump] has fear: fear of socialism, fear of open borders, fear of getting rid of private health insurance, fear of higher taxes. He’s running on ‘the communists are coming! Sh*t yourself!’ We should run on ‘elect me and we can stop talking about him!’ All the Democrats have to do to win is come off less crazy than Trump!

These alleged ‘fears’ are all nonsense. Which of the Democrats has said an-ny-thing about socialism? Bernie calls himself a Democratic Socialist, but the order of the words there is important – Democracy first. Open borders? Once again, none of the Democrats said that! Maher is quite literally reading GOP talking points! As for getting rid of private health insurance (another Republican talking point), what Medicare4All actually does (and Sanders would know since he wrote the damn bill) is allow for supplemental private care to cover elective procedures. So no, private health insurance is not vanishing entirely. Fear of higher taxes is next. Sanders does plan to forgive student loan debt through a speculation tax on wall st. Extreme behaviour, is it not, Bill? Taxing wall st to forgive the debt of the majority?

Perhaps the greatest crime here is the last line: to win, all the Democrats have to do is come off less crazy than Trump. As I said above, no policy, no substance just ‘we are not him’. One of the reasons Mrs Clinton lost in 2016 was that she came across as entitled to the Presidency, as though the election were a mere formality. Trump was obviously such a clown that her victory was a foregone conclusion. This arrogance led to the election blowing up in her face. Learn from history or repeat it.

Maher and the ‘Unserious People’

Maher then accuses the Democrats whose policies lean more to the left of being ‘unserious’. Sanders and Warren have the simple intention of having America catch up to the rest of the developed world in having a single-payer healthcare system, to end the wars and the rest of their popular policies. It is, in no small irony, Maher himself who is unserious. He is violating the first rule of politics: do not abandon your base.

Speaking of the base, Maher then adds this gem

I’m sick of hearing how Democrats need to ‘excite the base’ – TRUMP EXCITES THE BASE!

Indeed – the Republican base. He is a constant source of red meat for those poor, dumb manipulated bastards as Keith Olbermann once said. But while Trump may inspire those poor rubes to vote for him, the policy-driven Democratic base is not excited to simply Vote Blue No Matter Who because Orange Man Bad. Trump might excite contempt and hatred from the elites because he rips the mask off, but the Democratic base wants to vote for policies. The last election demonstrated what happens when politicians take their base for granted. Hint.

Conclusion: Policy over Politics

It is a fact that the policies of the progressive left are popular with the electorate. The Democrats can run on them and win, or they can run another corporatist PC outrage campaign and hand this dangerous criminal another four years of power. The choice is theirs.

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Public Servant Loses High Court Case: An Analysis

A public servant who operated an anonymous Twitter account that was critical of Australian government policy has lost her high court case over her termination. The Court ruled that her conduct breached the Public Service Code of Conduct. It also denied her application for compensation.

Public Service, or Government Servants?

Let us first look at an example, which the ABC cites, of her Twitter activity. She tweeted the following in May of 2012

@ABCNews24 After the lies about 9/11 and Iraq, why would anyone give credence to ANYTHING said by those who have their own immoral agenda?

This is typical of the anonymous criticism of the government that came forth from her account. All she is doing here is questioning whether, after a government had provably lied, their claims about another issue should be taken seriously. Neither side of politics was mentioned, but for the record, the government of the time was Labor. This is the most tepid criticism you are likely to read, but apparently any criticism of the government is grounds for termination as a public servant.

Defence in Depths: Freedom of Political Communication 

The public servant appealed her original termination to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which ruled that her ‘implied freedom of political communication’ rendered the firing illegitimate. This was a strange ruling, since, in our infinite wisdom, we never quite got round to the whole Bill of Rights thing. Hence the High Court’s ruling that no such freedom exists: because it does not. Suffice it to say, if you need to put the word ‘implied’ in front of a freedom, it is not real.

Implications of the Decision

Outside the Court, the public servant’s attorney said the following, again per the ABC

The implications don’t stop at the boundary of public servants. The implication is that for any employee-employer relationship, if the employee is critical of the employer’s position on some politically relevant social issue, they can be sacked…[Mr Anforth said today’s High Court decision effectively meant anything a public servant did had to be] “with loyalty to the government” and not critical of it.

Sounds very damning, but it also happens to be true. There are restrictions on what people can say on social media based on their job. A dear friend of mine is a mental health practitioner. If he were to make posts on social media disparaging his employer, or worse, advocating suicide to the depressed, he would hardly be long for his job. Such restrictions on speech (ignore the ethics of the suicide suggestion) come with the territory, and he knew that going in. He would have precisely no grounds to oppose any termination. This leads into a brief recap of the Folau mess and contract law, leading back to the issue at hand.

An Inconvenient Suggestion: Contract Law and the Folau Comparison 

To briefly raise the ugly head of Folau again, his contract was torn up because he breached its terms. It really was as simple as that. As I suggested in another piece, contract law cares not a fig why you breached the terms of your contract, merely that you did so. It is for this reason that Folau’s religious persecution claim is such crap. A contract is a contract.

Why is this case any different? This woman presumably entered into a contract with the public service. This contract would have contained the equivalent of a ‘don’t be a dickhead’ clause which generally means to not blacken your employer’s name.  Now, even if we agree with what she said (I do), her contract, like many others, prevents her from criticising her employer or blackening their name. Are we suggesting that there is a different standard when the employer is the government? What is it that is different about this case of contract law as opposed to the Folau case? Like Folau, this woman appealed to a non-existent legal freedom to justify breaking her contract (intentionally or otherwise)

Brief disclaimer: do I necessarily agree with the implications of the two previous paragraphs? No. But like Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations, I merely observe the situation and report what I see.

Further Implications and a Slippery Slope

A little more from the attorney for the public servant

It [the decision] is basically saying that if you take the Queen’s shilling, you surrender your rights to participate in the political process

This idea of loss of political participation was even taken so far in one Facebook meme as to question whether public servants would be allowed to vote soon. This is clearly a slippery slope, as all public servants can vote like any other citizen, but you can see the basis for the question too. Voting against the incumbent government is criticism of their policies. The difference is that, while social media is public, the ballot is secret. Voting does not bring the public service (or the government they serve) into disrepute.

Silence and A Strawman: The Reaction

The silence of the right-wing free speech advocates who defend Bolt and the rest of the Bigot Brigade is deafening. Crickets. Where are you now, you bellicose belugas? Seems freedom of speech, like any other legal protection is, as is so typical for conservatives, for them and theirs, not you and yours. One wonders if their reaction would have been any different if the partisan makeup of the parliament were different, but I digress.

As for the strawman, Nadine Flood is the National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). She issue this statement in response to the decision

The notion that the mum of a gay son who happens to work in Centrelink can’t like a Facebook post on marriage equality without endangering her job is patently absurd

That example is not comparable to this case, and is a strawman of the facts, even of the government’s position on the issue. Contrary to the conservatives’ 10,000 men put forth in defence of ‘tradition’, marriage equality is the law of the land. So this claim is wrong on the facts. But even so, liking a facebook post is quite different from sending thousands of tweets, some of which contained the type of inside information that only a government employee could possess.

Conclusion

The true implications of this case will play out over time. But at the moment, based on what I have read, this is a case of contract law. She violated the terms and suffered as a result. As a case of black letter contract law, the Court is right on this – as much as I hate to say it.

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Problem Industries and The Way Forward

The industrial revolution, for all its flaws and all the misery it caused, was a major step forward in human civilisation. Goods were now available cheaper than ever before and greater movement of population took place as people moved to what would later become factory towns in search of work. The creation of industries around producing certain goods created competition to build a better mousetrap. However, the extension of industry, with its desire for profit, to encompass essential elements of society is part of the reason we are in the situation we are now. From healthcare, to prison to the very defence of the nation, the involvement of industry in society’s essentials is a true problem.

Problem Industry One: Health Insurance

Perhaps the most egregious example of private industry involved where it is not wanted is for-profit health insurance. When there is a direct link between company profits and people’s health – you know, their continued existence – we have a problem. America is the most serious example of this, where rapacious, for-profit companies make money by, to paraphrase Bill Maher, screwing people out of coverage. It is in their interest to deny as much coverage as possible, because paying out claims is a running cost, and those tend to eat into profits. The very purpose of business is to make money, and as much of it as possible for the precious shareholders choir.

I am not advocating for banning all insurance companies, but merely limiting their scope. Supplemental care – that is optional extras (usually voluntary procedures) – is a good place for the private sector. In this context, all fees, premiums and other outlays are voluntary. But there should be a baseline of essential care that is provided by what is currently being advocated by Bernie Sanders and the pretenders auditioning for the part: Medcare4All. This is essentially a massive national health insurance plan where costs are largely (if not completely) covered by tax revenue. The average amount of money paid into the scheme is actually less because the insurance pool is so much larger. Unlike the private insurance company, a government run system does not answer to shareholders and has no desire to turn a profit.

Problem Industry Two: Prisons 

Only marginally less egregious than a profit motive around healthcare is one around keeping people incarcerated. Those with such a motive are part of what is called the Prison Industrial Complex. These are businesses whose profits are tied in with the size of the prison population. This is not merely those who run the actual prisons. It is the security firms, those who manufacture the weapons, the uniforms, the clothes and meals for the inmates and all the associated items. All of these have to be paid for, and the more people in prison the wider the profit margin.

The very idea of linking profit to taking away people’s physical freedom is almost as outrageous as linking it to their health. This is a true perversion of the very idea of industry. Industry was intended to produce goods quickly and cheaply for commercial products. This refers to products like mattresses, video games, squash rackets and so on. Actual commercial goods. There is no place for the government in any of those items and their design, production and distribution. But when it comes to certain essential elements of society, if there is to be a place for private industry, it must be heavily regulated due to the profit-motives that are built in.

Problem Industry Three: The Military 

The final industry worthy of mention is the military. In his farewell address, former US President Eisenhower warned against allowing undue power and influence to what he called ‘the military industrial complex’. Clearly, the Prison Industrial Complex mentioned is derived from this. During the war, the creation of a permanent armaments industry was seen as necessary, with factories being converted to the production of tanks and planes. However, it never actually stopped following the end of the war. US foreign policy post WW2 has been highly interventionist, with many countries being invaded, some multiple times, for purposes of extracting resources and installing corporate friendly governments.

As just one example, see the coup in Iran in 1953 to install the Shah. The immediate context for the coup was the previous government’s moves to nationalise the oil industry and distribute the proceeds to the people. Western corporations could not tolerate that, so the coup was staged and a tyrant installed. Remember, this is from the society that claims to be in favour of democracy and human rights. Indeed is all I have to say to that.

Conclusion: The Way Forward

You can see the problem and its solution coming, can you not? The issue is corruption: money in politics. Corporations would never have been granted the degree of influence they have were it not for our corrupt politicians. The deregulation and increasingly fascist relationship between corporations and government would never have been allowed to happen if it were not for corruption.

The purpose of this piece has been to outline three main industries were profits are determined by negatively impacting people’s lives: health, prison and armed combat. As long as these facets of society remain subject to the rationales of private industry (profit at all costs) there can, and will, be no progress.

To end, two quotes from people who get it

Jailing people, really, when you think about it, turned out to be a for-profit industry. I don’t know how we didn’t see it all these years

Bill Maher

But my favourite has to be Star Trek DS9’s Quark, who said

No-one ever went broke selling weapons

Horrified to Learn Islam is a Religion, ScoMo Backtracks on Religious Discrimination Act

SATIRE

Upon being informed that ‘something called Islam’ is also a religion, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has decided to abandon the proposed Religious Discrimination Act ‘pending further review’

‘I had no idea that there were other religions’ Morrison told BS News

‘I mean – everyone believes in Jesus, right? He died for our sins, praise him’

‘I had never heard of this ‘Islam’ before, and I had no idea that it would be protected under our Christi – no – sorry – Religious Discrimination Act. This policy is now suspended pending further review

Corporate Compromise Candidate: The Rise of Elizabeth Warren

A couple of items from the establishment media in the last few days have led to the suggestion in the title. Senator Warren appears to be the ‘left-extreme’ among the Democratic candidates. This is a highly relative term given how far to the right the American establishment is. I define ‘left-extreme’ as follows: she is as far left as the corporate establishment is willing to tolerate. It looks like the establishment is setting up Senator Warren as a sort of ‘left gatekeeper’ against the actual progressive candidate in the primary, Bernie Sanders. Please note that I am not criticising Senator Warren herself. Rather, the problem is the media outlets and the establishment using her in this way.

Item One: The Politico Article

In a remarkable piece of condescending propaganda, Politico recently tweeted this

In poll after poll, Sanders appeals to: lower-income and less-educated people, men and younger people who vote less frequently. While Warren’s camp consists of: people with postgraduate degrees, women, and seniors who follow politics closely

The contrast in how Politico depicts the two camps could not be more stark. The poor and less educated (mostly men) who are less engaged in politics are likely to support Bernie. There is a distinct tone of elitism there that is dismissive of Sanders’ supporters. To paraphrase Jimmy Dore, if you are an idiot who does not ‘really know how politics works’ (read you do not know your place), you will support Bernie. There is a definite air of deligitimisation of Bernie and his supporters in that statement: as if it is the dregs of society, the lower orders, the peasants who support him. As someone with a PhD, I support Bernie Sanders, and I am not alone.

Turning now to Warren’s supporters, these are people with more formal education, women and seniors who pay more attention to politics. We might understand this group as those favoured by the elites: the right kind of people. People with postgraduate degrees are likely to earn more money and be less worried about the issues of concern to Sanders. It must be noted that possession of a degree is no indicator of your level of intelligence, how informed you are about politics or anything else. The political opinion of someone with an MA or a PhD carries no more weight than that of a tradesman. The bias on display in this comparison of the two candidates’ respective supporters is thus clear.

Item Two: The MSNBC Segment 

On a recent segment on The Contenders on MSNBC, Mimi Rocah offered the following statement on the comparison between Sanders and Warren

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren next to each other will really highlight…because – for me as – again I’m not a political analyst, but just – as a woman, probably considered a somewhat moderate Democrat, I…Bernie Sanders makes my skin crawl. I can’t even identify for you what exactly it is, but I see him as a…not pro-woman candidate. So, having the two of them there – like – I don’t understand young women who support him, and I’m hoping that having him next to her will help highlight that, because those are the people that, if I were her, I would want to say ‘why are you supporting him and not me if you’re gonna choose between the two of us?

Wow – where to start? First, if you are not a political analyst, as you yourself admit, what are you doing on a political talk show? If you have a personal opinion, go on social media and display it for the world to see. But if you are not a political analyst, why should I take your opinion seriously? Second, she admitted there was absolutely no substance to her criticism of Sanders! He ‘makes my skin crawl’ – what does that mean? Pathetic, substance free, feelings based crap. Third, he is a ‘not pro-woman candidate’ – Hitchens’ Razor: that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Having feelings-based verbal diarrhea does not constitute a political argument. Fourth, she says she does not understand young women who support Sanders, the implication being that there is a perfectly good female candidate right there in Warren.

Identity Politics Rides Again

If you think that last point a stretch, look at her next sentence ‘why are you supporting him and not me’; she said that directly after she said she does not understand young women who support him. I do not think that is a stretch: support her because woman; if not, you sexist. I have intentionally used caveman style broken English there to convey the simple-minded garbage that is this brand of politics. Policy substance did not even enter the discussion! She clearly implied that Warren should be the candidate of any self-respecting woman based, appropriately enough, on dick!

A quick question for Ms. Rocah and those who agree with her: how did that work out last time you tried it? This was the precise strategy that Hillary used in 2016. Remember ‘I’m with Her’ as the red arrow pointed to the right (a great political Freudian slip)? You have tried the ‘support her because woman’ approach before, and you lost! The electorate does not like being told who to vote for based on gender, or race, or sexual orientation. They care about policy! 

Contrary to your insulated, buble-world opinion, these women (or anyone else for that matter) who support America’s Dad are doing so because they agree with his policies! They do not care if he is the dreaded straight, old, white man. His policies would help them in their day-to-day lives much more than screaming Russia Russia Russia!

Conclusion: Warren as Corporate Compromise Candidate

The point of the respective treatment of Warren and Bernie here seems clear enough. The corporate elite have seen that the energy in the Democratic party is in the populist wing. They have thus chosen a compromise candidate: one who is populist enough to excite the base but who will ‘play ball’. Senator Warren is also a woman, so identity politics becomes a viable weapon against her detractors.

To end, I reiterate that this is not a critique of the Senator herself; she is merely running her campaign for the nomination. It is the media who are to blame here, cynically manipulating her campaign in an effort to bring down Bernie Sanders.

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