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Crouching Party, Hidden Dagger: Sanders, the DNC and The Brokered Convention

America’s Dad Bernard Sanders looks increasingly likely to secure at least a plurality (if not an outright majority) of pledged delegates and thus the nomination. The corporate establishment is thus forced into a delicate situation. In the last few days, some have ‘bent the knee’, which warrants some discussion. However, there are also plans in the works to have what is called a ‘brokered convention’. This is a strategy designed to use Superdelegates to effectively steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. If he does not have a majority on the first nominating ballot at the convention, there is a second ballot. This is where the Superdelegates come in. In this piece, I want to discuss the establishment figures ‘bending the knee’ to Sanders, the issue of Superdelegates and the brokered convention and what such a brokered convention would mean for the future of the Democratic Party.

Many figures in the establishment have noticed that Sanders is where the power is. Like any other political invertebrate, they bow at the knee of power. Now, it is true that they damn with faint praise, but this is considerable progress. The establishment has been going through the five stages of grief around Bernie Sanders, and we now seem to be approaching the final stage: acceptance. But, as we will see, there is a catch.

Genuflecting at the Altar of Power, Part One: Nancy Pelosi for the Politicians

The news of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressing ‘comfort’ with Sanders at the top of the ticket first broke on The Hill’s Rising with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti. Pelosi had previously expressed opposition to Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and other parts of the Populist Left Agenda. Her political bona fides with the Left are thus rickety at best. In her most recent statement, she may not have explicitly endorsed Sanders, but her statement that ‘I think whoever our nominee is, we will enthusiastically embrace…’ speaks volumes. In particular, about the change in the establishment’s attitude toward Sanders. They now appear to be living their conviction of ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’. Their hostility to Trump is such that any Blue will do. Maybe. Below we will see how this looks to be a ruse to distract from the plans for a brokered convention.

Genuflecting at the Altar of Power, Part Two: Chris Matthews for the Media

As I discussed in my last piece, MSNBC actor Chris Matthews recently compared Sanders’ Nevada victory to the Nazi occupation of France. To his credit (how voluntary it was is unclear) Matthews did apologise to America’s Dad for his poor choice of historical analogy. This is yet another example of genuflecting at the altar of power. Anyone unsure of this should consider all of the other lies, smears and misrepresentations of Sanders in the media since 2016. This is the first time he received an actual apology. What could have changed from 2016 to now? Simple: Sanders is the centre of the dance, and if there is one thing the media thrives on, it is access.

Some journalists, because of their hostile coverage of Trump during the campaign, were denied access early in the administration. The media has no intention of allowing that to happen again. There is also the fact that MSNBC is losing the ratings war as well as the propaganda war. In my last piece I mentioned that woman who said she supported Sanders precisely because of MSNBC’s hostility to him. The network sees some sort of shift is needed (if only temporarily) and so they are playing the game. Also, as I said above about Mrs Pelosi, Matthews’ apology and promise to ‘elevate the political discourse’ could well be sleight of hand to distract from the plotted brokered convention. We turn to that now.

The Plot to Stop Dad, Part One: The Brokered Convention

The New York Times reports of a plot to use Superdelegates, along with the pledged delegates of other candidates, to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination. At the recent debate, the candidates were all asked if the person with the most votes should be the nominee. All candidates, Bernie Sanders excluded, said that ‘the process’ should ‘play out’. The ‘process’ to which they refer is that of a multi-ballot system and potential Superdelegates. Superdelegates are quite literally ‘beyond normal delegates’. The term refers to party insiders who are ‘wild cards’ and can vote as they (or more likely the party leadership) pleases.

According to the rules set up as part of the Reform Commission, Superdelegates would only have a vote on the second ballot. Such a ballot would only take place if a majority was not achieved on the first ballot. It must be noted that this was a compromise position: Sanders never wanted Superdelegates at all. But he compromised to have them on the second ballot only. If he only has a plurality of delegates, a second ballot would become necessary, and this is where things get ropey. The Superdelegates, party insiders (read corporatists) remember, would vote for some corporate candidate. This would, in a very real sense, overrule the will of the voters.

What is amazing about this is the fact that the media has said some version of this throughout the primary. If you combine the votes of Mayor Pete, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden, Bernie loses, they said. Ignore the fact that this is not how elections work and focus on the subtext. Combining the votes (and by extension the delegates) of the corporate candidates is, in the minds of the media, a legitimate strategy for defeating Sanders.

The Plot to Stop Dad, Part Two: Consequences for The Party

The Times piece comments that the Superdelegates acknowledged the risk of ‘intraparty damage’ if they tried to stop Sanders. It is almost as if they know that Superdelegates are by definition undemocratic. However, they also do not seem to care. The issue for the establishment is not, despite their seeming obsession with it, defeating Donald Trump. Rather, the issue for the establishment is maintaining their own power, wealth and control. They are also likely to be so naïve as to expect Sanders’ supporters to fall in line behind the chosen candidate.

This partially explains the notably tepid comments from Pelosi, Schumer and even Hillary Clinton. They have all said some version or another of ‘I will support the nominee’. People who are so openly hostile to one candidate are usually only willing to make such statements if they know that this candidate will not be the nominee. These comments also lay the foundation for the demand that Bernie supporters fall in line. We said we would support the nominee, why are you refusing to support the nominee? The sheer cynicism, manipulation and Machiavellian nature of this entire conjob is remarkable.

Finally, what would the consequences be for the Democratic Party were Sanders to be denied the nomination by Superdelegates? In short, chaos. Those who have supported Sanders and seen how the media has treated him would likely, in the words of Common Dreams, revolt. If the establishment uses an undemocratic process (Superdelegates) to overrule the will of the people, that would likely be the final straw for the Progressive wing of the party. Burn the f*cker down, they would likely yell – with some justification.

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Media Muppet: Chris Matthews Says The Quiet Part Loud

Chris Matthews of MSNBC said the quiet part loud recently. He asked his fellow panelists if ‘Democratic moderates’ (we will get to that) would prefer Trump over Sanders as President. This fascinating quip offers some insight into a question I have long wrestled with: in a hypothetical Trump v Sanders race, what does the media do? They hate both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump (for equally vacuous, non-policy reasons). So how do they cover such a race? Chris Matthews offered some insight into that question, and we will get to that, but for now, I think some analysis of his quote is warranted.

Matthews and the ‘Moderates’, Preface: Unscrambling the Corporate Speak

Chris Matthews offered the following statement on MSNBC

I’m wondering whether the Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be President? I mean that’s maybe too exciting a question to raise. They don’t like Trump at all. Do they want Bernie Sanders to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? He takes it over he sets the direction for the future of the party. Maybe they’d rather wait four years and put in the Democrat they like

Some unscrambling of his corporate nonsense is necessary before proceeding. When he uses the term ‘Democratic moderates’, he means establishment insiders (including the media) and corrupt corporatists. The phrase refers to Party Bosses and leadership. His comment does not refer to actual moderate voters (remember them, Chris?). Matthews, in addition to apparently not caring a fig for voters, cannot say that based on the facts. Bernie Sanders, as part of his recent crushing victory in Nevada, actually won among self-described moderates and even conservatives. Even accounting for the fact that that was a single state, and that voters know very little of labels, his base is by no means as narrow as these corporate hacks would have you believe. So, moderates, in Matthews’ mind, refers to party leadership and media insiders (rich people all) and not voters.

Matthews and the ‘Moderates’, Part Two

Matthews then asks if said ‘moderates’ (again understood as corporate and media insiders) want America’s Dad Bernard Sanders to ‘take over the Democratic party in perpetuity’. It is true, as Matthews points out, that a Sanders takeover would set the agenda for years if not decades to come. Matthews and his fellow rich corporate shills cannot handle the idea of a populist left Democratic party that would actually, you know, win elections since their own taxes might be raised a little. Cry me a river: you have officially become the conservatives we long suspected you were. Selfishness manifested as a political ideology describes you perfectly.

Matthews ends his rant with the idea that ‘moderates’ wait four years and put in a ‘Democrat they like’. That remark is best understood as one who knows that their role in politics is to increase funding for the military, cut corporate and rich people’s taxes and be left-wing on social issues. Such a politician would be an acceptable status quo manager, as a good corporate President is supposed to be. Returning to Matthews for a moment, it is actually not clear what he means when he essentially says that these ‘moderates’ wait four years. Are they to sit this election out (whatever that means). Does this amount to a surrender to Mr. Sanders and his movement? If they do nothing, would Sanders and his movement not take over the party precisely as Matthews fears? Mr. Matthews has been rather incoherent and flagrantly emotional on-air recently, but this is something else.

Sanders, Trump and The Media: What to Do?, Part One: Trump

The prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination leads to a discussion of the media’s treatment of such a general election. As mentioned in the opening, the media despises both of these candidates, but for different reasons. When it comes to Trump, the media’s disagreement is surface-level nonsense about ‘tone’ and ‘civility’. By contrast, for all their outrage, the media actually agrees with Trump’s policies on many economic issues, and on other issues, they ‘resist’ from the right.

As an example, how much critical coverage did you see on MSNBC of Trump’s tax law, under which 83% of the benefits went to the top 1%? Turning to resistance from the right, consider Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Trump withdrawing some troops from Syria. It was, say it with me now, done to appease drumroll – Russia. The media’s ‘criticism’ of Trump is not substantive because they agree with much of what he is doing.

Sanders, Trump and The Media: What to Do?, Part Two: Sanders 

Now, you might say that the media’s ‘criticism’ of America’s Dad Bernard Sanders is not substantive either. This is true however he is a true threat to the kleptocratic oligarchy that America has become. Trump said all the right things to different people at different times even if they were contradictory. Sanders has actual plans – sentences with verbs in them – to fundamentally change the increasingly oppressive and stagnant economic system under which the average American lives.

Even if the media hates Trump, I would suggest that they hate Sanders more. America’s Dad is not beholden to interest groups and he cannot be bought. Corporate influence means nothing to him: he represents, as Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski said recently ‘big poor’ [a play on big money or big pharma]. A truly diverse, multiracial working-class coalition backs this man, and the media and their fellow members of the insider cocktail circuit are terrified. Finally, much like his predecessor FDR, America’s Dad Bernard Sanders welcomes their hatred.

Conclusion: Out of Touch Media and The Gasoline Firehose 

The media does not seem to realise that the more they rage against Bernie Sanders and his supporters, the more popular he becomes. They have taken the mask off and proved the old quip about the media: that it is a group of billionaires paying millionaires to tell the middle-class to hate and fear the poor. I use this analogy often, but I do so because I believe it holds some truth: the media attacking Sanders, and particularly his supporters, is the equivalent of a firehose pumping out gasoline. It will explode in your face. Ignore for a moment the fact that petulant demands of ‘unity’ while slamming voters are mutually exclusive. The larger point is that attacks from the media make him more popular. When he is ‘attacked’ in these ridiculous ways, he raises more money. One SuperPAC running ads against him even stopped doing so because he raised so much money as a result of their hacky ads.

To bring this full circle, Chris Matthews said the quiet part loud: the establishment Democrats hate Bernie Sanders more than they hate Trump. As I hope I have shown here, that says much about not only the nature of the media’s disagreement with Trump, but how they would cover a potential Trump v Sanders general election.

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The Media Loses Control (Of The Narrative)

The bias of the media, but particularly MSNBC, against Bernie Sanders has seemingly reached its zenith. Host Chris Matthews compared Bernie’s win in the Nevada caucus to the Nazis entering France in June of 1940. You heard: Matthews compared an electoral win by a Jewish candidate, whose family members died in the Holocaust, to the Nazis. Stay classy there you political hack. In this piece, I hope to do three things. First, I want to look at Matthews’ remarks in a wider context, for he is hardly alone. Then I want to respond to calls that he should be fired for these remarks. Finally, I want to look at the great secret that this saga reveals.

Chuck Todd and ‘Digital Brownshirts’: Evidence Of A Larger Problem

Matthews is the current focus of the ire of the politically sane. But he is by no means the only pundit to make a Nazi reference about Bernie Sanders. Chuck Todd quoted an article wherein Sanders’ online supporters were called ‘Digital Brownshirts’, a reference to storm troopers in Nazi Germany. Todd went on to ask ‘what if you can’t win the presidency without an online mob’. That insidious remark requires some dissection.

What these petulant media types refer to as ‘an online mob’ is actually a passionate base of supporters. These people see ridiculous or uninformed takes that establishment types put on social media and they school them with the facts. These establishment types, not used to being people calling them on their lies, are lashing out because there is now a counternarrative. So-called Legacy Media (read establishment papers and TV) no longer have a monopoly on the flow of information. The advent of social media, for all its flaws, has broken this monopoly. Since Legacy Media cannot counter with facts, all they have is smear tactics and character assassination.

This explains the ‘Bernie bros’ narrative, where the media demonises Sanders supporters as nothing but angry white men. This is false as Sanders has a widely diverse coalition, but never let the facts get in the way of the narrative. But there is a contradiction at the heart of this strategy. The very voters they are demonising as ‘angry’ and ‘uncivil’ are the same voters they would demand fall in line and ‘unify’ around the media’s coronated nominee. Shaming voters for daring to support a non-corporate candidate then expecting them to fall in line behind a corporate candidate is madness. To demand unity after demonising voters is delusional. The Democratic establishment has clearly lost its mind.

The ‘Online Mobs’ Explained

To Chuck Todd and his fellow media midgets: why do you think Sanders and Trump have these passionate online followings? It is because, unlike you corporate shills in the media, these men have actual appeal. Now, who they appeal to and the basis of that appeal is totally different (no false equivalence here), but they are populist candidates who appeal effectively to their bases. These people are not ‘mobs’, they simply believe in their candidates and provide counterpunches to your deluge of corporate nonsense. Granted Sanders’ supporters are much better informed and their critiques of the media go beyond that great clunker Fake News, but the principle is the same.

HALT!: Chris Matthews and Cancel Culture

Matthews’ on-air antics have become increasingly unhinged following Sanders’ recent political success. The host infamously feared execution in Central Park under a Sanders Presidency in light of his wealth. Matthews looks increasingly like a child on whom it is dawning that some of their toys are about to be taken away. Matthews’ reaction is every bit as petulant as that child. He knows that part of Sanders’ agenda is a wealth tax, which is a small tax on wealth above a certain amount. The point of this is to partially pay for the populist reforms on which he ran. Taxing the good to benefit the poor?! The outrage!

Following the occupied France comparison, calls came thick and fast for Matthews’ termination from MSNBC. This has become standard in recent years: someone says something outrageous; the mob bays for blood and then claims moral superiority when the offender jumps or is pushed. This need not be the case regarding Chris Matthews. Instead, let him stay on the air and continue to expose the increasingly petulant oligarchy that America has become! Let him continue to make outrageous comparisons to gas chambers and other elements of the Nazi regime about a Jewish candidate! Let the corporate media structure commit suicide in public at the prospect of an actual populist candidate who wants to serve the people instead of the corporations!

In other words, my advice to anyone calling for Matthews to be fired is to play the long game. Between Matthews, the rest of the corporate media and the increasingly out of touch faux saviour Bloomberg, the establishment is doing your job for you! The establishment’s increasingly unhinged defence of their own privilege and wealth is a real-time political ad for revolution in America!

Conclusion: The Not-So-Hidden Secret

The petulant behaviour of the establishment, as well as the nature of their attacks on Sanders, shows that they are worried beyond measure. In addition, it shows that they have nothing of any substance to say in refutation. This is the great secret of this entire media tantrum: the peasants rejected your propaganda. They had the nerve to vote for the non-corporate candidate. You have no sway anymore. Hell, one woman even said she voted for Bernie Sanders precisely because MSNBC was so hostile to him. A useful real-time demonstration of propaganda rejection. The media has lost control of the narrative and they are lashing out like the thwarted children they are.

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Another John Clarke Inspired Sketch: Mr Saye De Pledge

In the Style of Our Late Master, Mr John Clarke

Brian: Now, your name is De Pledge?

John: My name is De Pledge, yes Brian, good evening

Brian: Have you got a first name?

John: Saye

Brian: Saye De Pledge. Is your brother Sine De Pledge?

John: That’s right Brian

Brian: Alright, Saye, your special subject tonight is nationalism

John: You mean, Patriotism, don’t you Brian?

Brian: No – it definitely says nationalism

John: Oh – alright then – basically the same thing anyway

Brian: Good luck, Saye, your time starts now. How did the parliament vote on Tanya Plibersek’s proposal to have school children pledge allegiance to Australia?

John: The right way, Brian

Brian: And what way was that?

John: They voted in favour of that great patriotic idea, Brian

Brian: Is it wise to have kids at school reciting some jingoistic slogans without understanding them?

John: I think it is, Brian. It gets them ready for voting when they’re older

Brian: Correct

John: Correct

Brian: Have there been any comments on the pledge or its content?

John: Well I did hear one bloke say ‘How good is a pledge of allegiance?’

Brian: Has anyone said anything critical of the pledge?

John: There actually was a fair bit of unpatriotic behaviour, Brian

Brian: Hang on – you just equated being critical of a pledge of allegiance with being unpatriotic

John: Correct. It’s good being on Team Australia, isn’t it, Brian?

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Destroying an Oligarch: Shooting Down the Bloomberg

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is running for President on the Democratic side. Mr Bloomberg, despite corporate media’s kvetching, is, in fact, an oligarch attempting to buy the nomination. He has spent more than $300m of his own money so far on advertising and plans to double that moving forward. Van Jones of CNN once said that Hilary Clinton ‘lit a billion dollars on fire’ in reference to her 2016 campaign. Mr Bloomberg is on track to do the same and more. But what is it that Bloomberg actually represents? What is his record? How did he govern in his former role and how does that translate to being President of The United States?

Refloating the Bloomberg, Part One: Stop and Frisk

It is perhaps useful to start with the most infamous aspect of Bloomberg’s record when he was Mayor of New York City: the notorious Stop and Frisk programme. This was a dramatic increase in the powers of law enforcement to stop citizens on the street and ‘pat them down’ in search of contraband. No warrant was required: looking suspicious (whatever that means) was grounds prima facia. Well, it turns out that there is, in fact, a definition of ‘looking suspicious’: having brown or black skin. If you think this hyperbolic or rhetorically charged, there is statistical data to back up the fact that stop and frisk was prejudicial and clearly racist. On average, 78% of stops from 2003-2013 were of black or brown-skinned people. Until quite recently (understood as just before he decided to run for President as a Democrat), Bloomberg defended this policy.  

Stop and Frisk Exposed: Attack of the Facts

Leftie commentator Benjamin Dixon has unearthed such a defence from as recently as 2015. The audio that Dixon exposed contains the following gem that would, in any sane world, render Bloomberg’s political career terminal

95% of your murders – murderers and murder victims – fit one MO. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities sixteen to twenty-five. And that’s where the real crime is… You wanna spend the money on a lot of cops in the streets. Put the cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighbourhoods.

So virtually all murders are committed by, and against, minorities. Not just in New York, but in every city. It is the definition of a hasty generalisation to assume that because a statistic holds in a particular location that it can be generalised to ‘every city’, and Bloomberg is a fool for saying so. Also, put the cops where the crime is, which means minority neighbourhoods? Wow. So minorities (read non-whites) commit crimes because that is just how they are. He either does not know or does not care what a total frickin racist he sounds like. As I said before the quote, in any sane world Mr Bloomberg’s political aspirations would be rendered terminal by such comments, but we do not live in a sane world.

Refloating the Bloomberg, Part Two: Which Party Is He Anyway?

This section comprises two parts: Bloomberg’s endorsement of Bush 43 at the 2004 Republican Convention and his financial contributions to Republicans in the 2018 midterms.

First, the GOP Convention in 2004. Mr Bush had been appointed President by the Supreme Court in 2000 amidst much chicanery in Florida where his brother was Governor. Bush started the Iraq war on false pretences and utterly politicised the fear of the post 9/11 world. He was, in short, a terrible President. Mr Bloomberg’s decision to endorse Bush in 2004 after all of his blunders in office suggests either rank partisanship, bandwagonism or woefully inept political assessment. His political affiliation also changed with the times. Bloomberg was formerly a Democrat until he changed his affiliation in 2001 to become a Republican to run for NYC Mayor. He then endorsed a Republican President in 2004, and now expects to be taken seriously as a candidate for the Democratic nomination. Spare us, Mr Mayor: you are a political weathervane.

The second example of Bloomberg’s political opportunism concerns the 2018 midterm elections, with particularly nasty consequences. Bloomberg spent more than $10m to aid in the re-election of a Republican Senator in New York. The candidate won by 1.5 points over the Democrat. The result was Republican control of the Senate. This led to the nomination and confirmation of right-wing ideologue Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. This shaped the Court for decades. In the future, all the 5-4 decisions that strip away, say, abortion rights, can be laid at the feet of one Michael Reubens Bloomberg.

Refloating the Bloomberg, Part Three: Rundown of His Record and Proposals

During his time in politics, Bloomberg put in place/supported some of the following policies

  1. He has taken diametrically opposite positions on the issue of the minimum wage. He both blocked an increase as mayor of NYC and recently supported an increase. Given that the minimum wage is one of the New Left’s major issues, it takes a great deal of nerve for Mr Bloomberg, with his record, to expect them to support him.
  2. He banned so-called ‘Big Gulps’, that is large servings of sugary drinks. It had a series of loopholes through which a truck could have been driven, and it was ultimately struck down by a court. A remarkable example of nanny-state authoritarianism on which the New Left would not support him.
  3. His own issues page says that as President he would ban so-called flavoured e-cigarettes as well as menthol-flavoured tobacco products. His rationale is that the companies who make these products are profiting off the health of America’s children. Will somebody not please think of the children! Mr Mayor, you are either shortsighted or silly: that same rationale could be used to ban many things! It is also noteworthy that he did not say he would ban all tobacco products. Consistency, thy name is Bloomberg

Conclusion: Be Gone, Oligarch! 

My message to Mr Bloomberg is as follows:

In an era of anti-establishment politics, the image of an oligarch (and that is what you are) attempting to buy an election through a personally funded media campaign will go down like the Hindenburg. Also, you have nothing to sell that will counter Trump. You are a standard corporate neoliberal running on values and all the other substance-free crap of which corporate Democrats are so fond.

To paraphrase Cromwell as I did in an earlier piece

Depart, I say, and let us have done with you!

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A John Clarke Inspired Sketch

In The Style of Our Late Master, Mr John Clarke

Brian: Now, your name is Reid?
John: My name is Reid, yes Brian, good evening
Brian: And what do you do, Reid?
John: I’m a Doctor, Brian. I work in the department of health
Brian: Right – and what’s your surname, Reid?
John: Alldebooks
Brian: Reid Alldebooks
John: That’s correct, Brian. Good evening
Brian: Now, I understand that the government is issuing a health warning?
John: Yes, Brian. The Minister thinks there’s not enough fear in the electorate to guarantee a coalition victory at the next election, so a warning about a non-existent threat was deemed necessary, and health is always a good target area. It was that or Muslims
Brian: Why would the government issue a warning against a non-existent threat?
John: Government research has found, Brian, that when people are afraid they tend to fall in line easier, and since the government doesn’t have any actual policy to crow about, fear was deemed the next best thing.
Brian: Right. And what is this threat, Reid?
John: Well Brian, it’s a fairly rare disease called Oppositionitis. It’s an inflammation of the Opposition.
Brian: Right – and what are the symptoms?
John: Symptoms, Brian, include protesting, particularly around traditional industries. Um – forgetting your place and not acknowledging your superiors, particularly in the religious and political spheres – that’s another major symptom of Oppositionitis. Symptoms also include social media criticism of the Prime Minister and the government generally
Brian: Like the hashtag scottyfrommarketting?
John: Are you feeling alright, Brian?
Brian: Yes, I’m fine, Reid. What does the government plan to do about this disease?
John: Well, they’re introducing laws to counter the symptoms of the disease
Brian: Such as?
John: Well the Religious Discrimination Bill for one. This establishes a clear religious hierarchy in Australia
Brian: I thought free exercise of religion was protected in the Constitution
John: It is, Brian, but it turns out that the protections don’t define religious exemptions to existing laws that are inconvenient to religious bigots
Brian: Right. What about the other symptoms? What is the government doing about them?
John: Well the government plans to introduce laws restricting protest, particularly against traditional industries such as coal and the horse-and-buggy industry
Brian: Restricting protest? People don’t have a right to voice their opinions?
John: Of course they do, Brian. Just in designated areas…far from where they can be seen or heard.
Brian: Reid, why doesn’t the government cure the overall disease instead of targeting the individual symptoms? The symptoms you describe could easily be cured by some policy changes
John: Brian, the body doesn’t adapt to diseases. It uses its immune system to rally the troops and excise the disease permanently. Whoever heard of the body adapting to a disease?
Brian: What does the government hope to get out of this?
John: As a result of infringing on the basic rights of Australians to criticise their government and generally be free, Brian, the government expects to be returned to office, of course.
Brian: Reid, thanks for joining us.

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Impeachment Post-Mortem: Beyond the Predictable Result

Preface: Background and The Result

President Donald Trump has, to no-one’s surprise, been acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. This was predictable since a super-majority of 67 Senators voting to convict is required for removal. There are 53 Republican Senators. The Democrats’ decision to file articles of impeachment knowing it was DOA in the Senate borders on the politically incoherent. The articles themselves were strange choices since far more egregious issues existed in the political ether. First is the Emoluments Clause, the idea that Presidents cannot receive anything of value from foreign governments. Trump clearly violated this with his hotels putting up Saudi officials and being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another far stronger article of impeachment was for the US sponsorship of genocide in Yemen. But no. Corruption forces these pseudo-resistance people to ignore the major issues.

Motivations for Acquittal: Partisanship and Fear

When historians analyse events, the analysis essentially boils down to cause and effect: how did this happen and what happened as a result. The President’s acquittal itself was foreseeable – the issue is why. The Republicans controlled the court (the Senate) and therefore simple partisanship likely played a role. President Trump is a member of the tribe, and we must defend him come-what-may.

However, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) penned an opinion piece in the New York Times that provides much insight into how partisanship, and ultimately fear, effected the impeachment trial. He notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

sought a quick impeachment trial for President Trump with as little attention to it as possible. Reporters, who usually roam the Capitol freely, have been cordoned off like cattle in select areas. Mr. McConnell ordered limited camera views in the Senate chamber so only presenters — not absent senators — could be spotted. And barely a peep from Republican lawmakers.

Nice authoritarian streak there, Senator McConnell. Controlling the media’s access to, and method of coverage of, a public forum? You are a fascist. Witnesses and evidence were blocked in pursuit of this ‘quick trial’. One would think that if the President were so innocent bringing forth evidence to prove that fact would have worked in his favour. But it is the last clause that is decisive. This authoritarianism was greeted with ‘barely a peep’ from Republicans in either chamber (with one exception – see below). What is it that these powerful men and women are so afraid of?

The Manifestation of Fear and The GOP Cult

Brown goes on to say that their chief fear was that

Mr Trump might give them a nickname like “Low Energy Jeb [Bush]” and “Lyin’ Ted [Cruz],” or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary. They worry:

“Will the hosts on Fox attack me?”

“[Or] Will the mouthpieces on talk radio go after me?”

In other words, the chief fear was that Trump would sick the dogs on them, both in the form of the rubes in the base and the right-wing media political death-squads. In the words of Monty Burns ‘release the hounds!’. Defiance of Trump is something to be punished. Loyalty to the President personally is fast becoming synonymous with loyalty to the nation and that much-vaunted Constitution. Fear is a powerful motivator.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Trump also knows how to play politics. The idea of having political heads on pikes in all likelihood did motivate many a Republican Senator to vote to acquit, whatever they may have actually believed. The Republican party has, since the advent of Donald Trump, increasingly taken on the form of a cult. Like any cult, it rewards conformity and punishes individuality. This brings us to the sole dissenting voice: former Presidential Candidate and now Senator from Utah, one Willard ‘Mitt’ Romney.

Dissent in The Ranks: Romney Votes to Convict

Senator Mitt Romney was the sole Republican to vote to convict President Trump on one of the articles of impeachment. In a speech before the Chamber, a visibly emotional Mr Romney gave his reasons for voting as he did. He accurately skewered one of the defences that the President’s attorneys offered, namely that the judgement of the President is synonymous with the public good by definition (seriously). It is worth quoting a small section of Mr Romney’s speech as quoted in The New York Times

Given that in neither the case of the father [Joe Biden] nor the son [Hunter Biden] was any evidence presented by the president’s counsel that a crime had been committed, the president’s insistence that they be investigated by the Ukrainians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit. There’s no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the president would never have done what he did. The president asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival. The president withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so… The president’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.

For all my policy disagreements with Senator Romney, in this, he is surely correct. President Trump used (and indeed abused) the power of his office for political ends. Senator Romney’s vote to convict on this article of impeachment is completely justified. But, like any other lone wolf, he is not popular with the pack. So we may ask why he voted this way, with a particular focus on why he was able to vote this way.

Dissecting Mitt’s Vote

Senator Romney is likely to receive much credit for this ‘courageous vote’ from the lamestream media. But is he the sole politician with a conscience, determined to evaluate the evidence on its merits and all the other highminded crap? There may be something to that, but it is more likely that Mr Romney saw no political risk in casting this vote. Impeachment is, whether we like it or not, a political process with political consequences. Senator Romney was elected in 2018 for a six-year term. If he foresaw any political consequences for casting this vote at all, he likely calculated that they would be far off in the future. He is not up for re-election until 2024, by which time the failed impeachment of 45 will be a distant political memory. Romney is also a Mormon in Utah. Say no more.

Conclusion: Where to Now

The Democrats have lost the argument on impeachment. Despite their threats of new investigations, the issue is a dead letter. The DNC needs to focus on being corrupt and rigging its own primary contests and putting forward another terrible corporatist candidate to lose to Trump. They then need to make up another conspiracy theory to cover their incompetence. As for the Republicans, they are in a dangerous symbiotic relationship. I would say it serves them right for kowtowing to this maniac, but the rest of society (and indeed the world) suffers as a result of their not having a spine. There is a glimmer of hope though: America’s Dad, Bernard Sanders. If he can overcome the massive rigging operation, smear campaigns and other shenanigans in the Democratic Primary, he will cruuuuush Trump in the general. Forward, Dad.

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Yes, Prime Minister: Government by Satire

The Morrison Government is in a unique state that combines chaos and suspended animation. The Prime Minister himself is, as David Speers pointed out, stuck in a holding pattern, unable to act if he wanted to. Speers, despite his previous work for Sky so-called News, has penned a useful piece for the ABC website. However, it does not quite go far enough and warrants some analysis.

First Serve: How is She Still Here?

Speers opens with this summary of the current situation involving Senator McKenzie

Bridget McKenzie, remarkably, is still in her job. The Minister won’t resign. Nor is she willing to publicly defend herself, leaving the Government bleeding over the sports rorts saga as Parliament prepares to return.

This is the basis for the ‘holding pattern’ claim referenced above. The Minister refuses to resign but refuses to be interviewed. Indeed, she turned down four requests in a fortnight from Leigh Sales of 730 on the ABC. There is an old adage that the rightwing loves to throw at the peasants when they protest the latest round of privacy encroachments: if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide. A followup to this is the suggestion that avoiding media interviews means you do not want to answer inconvenient questions. An obvious implication is that she does not have sufficient answers for these questions and so seeks to dodge the bullet.

Let, Second Serve: Speers and the Unspoken Truth

Returning to David Speers, he adds this reflection on the better times of the past

There once was a time when ministers causing this much obvious damage to their own side would see the writing on the wall and walk.

There once was a time when prime ministers would stem that damage, show some authority and give their marching orders to a minister who’s done wrong.

These days, however, staring down critics and refusing to give an inch is seen as a virtue.

These days, prime ministers outsource decisions on whether their own ministerial code has been breached.

We always remember the past as better than it actually was, but much of this criticism of Morrison and his Menagerie of Mental Midgets is true. In particular, the part about dying on the hill of your own political incompetence and alleged scandals. But there is one major factor that Speers is ignoring: the Morrison government is a tory government. Speers has either forgotten, or refuses to publish, the fact that tory governments are held to entirely different standards not only to the peasants over whom they rule but to the rest of the political class as well.

Changing Ends: Labor Misuses and Double Standards

Anyone unsure about this should consider the cases of Peter Slipper and Sam Dastyari, both forced to resign when it served the political agenda of Tony Abbott to bring down a Labor gubmn’t that should never have been elected in the first place. For misuse of what is, in comparison with the current scandal a pittance (which they either offered to or actually did pay back). These scandals are barely comparable, not merely in terms of the amount of money (roughly $2500 against $100m) but motivations as well. Dastyari and Slipper misused the funds, yes, but for purely personal use: travel mostly.

Senator McKenzie, on the other hand, politicised government grant money. Colour coding was used to identify marginal and safe coalition seats and the pork barrelling began. The applications were not even considered (she never had access to them) so the applications were not, by definition, based on merit. The corruption is amazing! This scandal makes the case for the creation of a federal corruption watchdog. Now you might say that all governments spend money (or promise to) in electorates to win votes. Perhaps, but not so blatantly.

Morrison’s Achilles Heel: The Report

Morrison’s decision, which is pretty standard for politicians, to hide behind ‘the report’ into the scandal has actually created serious problems. He cannot, as Speers said, pre-empt its findings by saying anything before it is handed down. He is therefore left twisting in the wind created by his own lack of leadership and sheer blockheadedness to stick by members of the tribe come-what-may. The government has officially taken the form of a Yes, Prime Minister sketch. The cynic in me is inclined to suspect that the reason Morrison is willing to hide behind the report (aside from the time it buys the government) is, as Humphrey said, never commission a report if you do not already know what it will say. Gathering facts is one thing, but at least put an argument forth. McKenzie’s decision to effectively go into hiding creates a dangerous vacuum for the government. What to do?

Yes, Prime Minister: The Government Changes Direction

Speers notes that the government has been using two chief talking points to respond to this scandal and both are crap. The first was the idea that all projects funded were eligible (which the colour-coded allocation referenced above renders nonsense). The second was a blatant attempt to hide behind gender politics by saying the grants were increasing female participation in sport. This latter claim was rendered absurd by the fact that many genuine applications for funding for this very reason were rejected and that some clubs that did get money for women’s facilities that did not have a women’s team.

The Prime Minister’s latest talking point is to say

You know, politicians, ministers, members of parliament, we’re part of our community. We know what’s happening in our community. We’re in touch with our community. We know the things that can make a difference in our community.

Really? This government is trying to argue that it is in touch with the community? The sheer lack of self-awareness in that statement is breathtaking. This has to be the most out of touch collection of elitist, upper-class twits trying to pass themselves off as a government in living memory. Perhaps Mr Morrison’s best course of action is to simply follow McKenzie’s advice and keep his increasingly foot-infested bazoo shut.

Speers Through The Heart: Journo Responds to Govt Crap

Speers takes a different angle on this nonsense, taking it apart in the following way

Is the Prime Minister really saying the Minister overruled Sport Australia’s merit-based recommendations and pumped money into marginal seats because she’s more “in touch” with community needs?

In a strange irony, yes. Morrison does not mean this, but McKenzie could be said to have done this because she was in touch with the needs of the community – the community of the Liberal Party. Speers goes on

Is he [Morrison] really suggesting deserving clubs in safe seats missed out because McKenzie had a better understanding of these communities than the experts at Sport Australia who weighed the merit of each application?

Strange, is it not, to think that Speers once worked for Sky so-called News? That statement was the equivalent of a shovel to the side of the head, not that Morrison does not warrant that in spades. The utterly political nature of these grants renders Senator McKenzie’s position, in both the cabinet and the parliament, terminal.

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Trump, Pikes and Politics: Media Misses The Mark

The media has made much in the last day or two about the allegation that Trump warned Republican Senators, who serve as the jury in the impeachment trial, that if they did not vote to acquit him, their heads would ‘be on a pike’. Like the elitist snowflakes they are, the media clutched their pearls and moaned about the outrage of it all. President Bad Man used naughty words again! Such a scandal!

Pipe down you increasingly irrelevant relics of a bygone era! In no conceivable way were Trump’s words a real, physical threat! To interpret his words as anything other than a metaphor for ending the political careers of those Senators who did not vote to acquit him is to be intentionally ignorant on partisan grounds! There is no reason or excuse for this. People talk in metaphor and analogy all the time, and for you not to see that borders on the ridiculous.

Hidden Message: How to Play Politics

Trump is, whether the media chooses to acknowledge it or not, playing hard and smart politics. He is immensely popular with the Republican base, and he is using that to his political advantage. If he supports a primary challenger to a sitting Senator, the incumbent would, in all likelihood, be turfed out. Trump’s popularity with the GOP base is such that if he so much as tweeted about a Senator who dared to vote their conscience rather than serving him, they would not be long for this political world. This is what Trump meant when he said that their heads would be on pikes. They went against an extremely popular President, a politically dangerous thing in a democracy. The fact that it is Orange Man doing this (and his motives – to save his own skin) is irrelevant: it is still hardball politics and smart politics. The President is counting on these shameless political hacks valuing their poxy political careers over following the much-idolised Constitution.

Watch and Learn: The Lesson for the Democrats

There is a lesson in this for the Democrats. A popular President can use his popularity to achieve political goals. Now Trump is using it for self-serving political ends, but the principle still stands. A President who is popular with the base can use this to convince Congresspeople and Senators to fall in line. Consider Medicare4All, for some reason a contentious issue. The so-called Blue Dog Democrats (Blue politicians from Red States) were the votes that turned Obamacare into the right-wing trash it ended up being. What Obama should have done, and what I encourage America’s Dad Bernard Sanders to do if he wins, was say

Nice political career you got there – shame if anything were to happen to it. I am immensely popular with the base. You were elected as a Democrat. Start voting like one. If you do not support my agenda, I will go to your state (or district) during the midterms and campaign for a primary challenger against you. How about that?

This is how you play politics. This is how you use the political capital that comes with popularity fresh off an election. You hit your opponents where it hurts by threatening their political careers and all the perks that go with them. This need not only apply to corporate Democrats. Many Republican voters support Dad’s agenda too even if their corporate streetwalker politicians do not. Presidential support for a Democratic primary challenger to an incumbent Republican politician could also work.

Advice to Dad: Observe and Take Notes

Senator Sanders, I encourage you to play hard politics like this if you are elected. As a life-long independent you are not beholden to either member of the corrupt duopoly, even if you must temporarily assume the label of one of them to run. Your independence works in your favour, Sir. You are able to play hard politics against both sides, strong-arming these corrupt corporate sellouts to do the bidding of the people if they will not do so voluntarily.

Now, such an approach to politics would, of course, generate no end of pearl-clutching outrage as the media reared up to defend the corporate structure. The solution is to attack them too if necessary. You are anti-corruption, Sir. It extends to the media as well. The symbiosis that characterises the relationship between politicians and the media is something you can use to your advantage. You (would) have the Bully Pulpit – use it. YouTube, Twitter and other non-traditional media can be, as Trump made them, your forum to communicate with the electorate directly. Legacy media is just that: a brat who insists on sitting at the adults’ table because their family has been around for a long time. Unearned, privileged access to the halls of power by virtue of their sheer awesomeness. That is what legacy means, certainly in the academic world (consider a Harvard Legacy with terrible grades but who gets in because their father went there), and the media is no different.

Conclusion: Pikes, Politics and the Way Forward

The outrage of the media is fuel for the fire of a popular President. This is partly how Trump came to power originally. The media was so outraged at everything he did and he played them like a fiddle. Trump exposed how broken the media truly was. Granted it was in a ridiculous way with that clunker Fake News, best understood as anything unfavourable to him, but it worked.

Senator Sanders, you would be (and are) treated in the same way. Your response is to combat the endless barrage of nonsense by focusing on policy and not engaging them. To get around the endless propaganda and sensationalised crap, go to independent media. Do interviews with Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinsky, TYT, Joe Rogan and others. Use your own platforms of Twitter and YouTube to break not only the media but the corrupt politicians also. Shame them with their votes. Tell their constituents about their Congresspeople’s votes against a popular agenda. You take their corruption and you break them with it! Put their political heads on the same pikes that Trump talked about and let the pathetic media rear up and defend the corrupt duopoly. Fighting against this approach will be the equivalent of fighting a fire with gasoline.

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The Dunning-Kruger Party: Modern Tories

It used to be said that conservatism was essentially selfishness manifested as a political ideology. This ideology took the form of the quip ‘for me and mine, not thee and thine’ in terms of the benefits of society. This defined conservatism, particularly in the three main western pseudo-democracies the US, the UK, and Australia, for some time. Whether Thatcher and Reagan, Howard and Bush or Morrison and Trump, these born to rule ideologues have become increasingly zealous in their self-serving and corrupt corporate socialism. The time has come to refine the definition of tory slightly. While all of the above is true, a new element requires focus. These idea-free ideologues also manifest what psychologists call the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Dunning-Kruger Explained

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias that is best understood in terms of perceived competence or ability versus actual competence or ability. Generally, people who are actual experts in a field have the humility to realise that they do not, in fact, know it all. Yes in the early days when they learn a little bit about a field (typically in first or second-year university) they become cocky and think they know it all. But as they continue to study and learn that there is far more to their field than what the first-year textbook (typically a surface-level introduction) told them, they settle down and learn some intellectual deference and humility. Indeed, the more study one undertakes, the less one realises one actually knows.

People suffering from the Dunning-Kruger Effect typically rate themselves as scoring far higher on tests and generally performing much better than they actually do. Boiled down to its essentials, Dunning-Kruger says that the stupid are too stupid to know how stupid they are. They double down on their beliefs come what may in terms of contrary evidence. They are always right and never need to learn anything since they are the smartest people in the room. Actual experts (particularly those who contradict the ideological narrative) are elitists and eggheads to whom no deference is due.

Dunning-Kruger in Action, Part One: Australia

Climate scientists, for example, have been telling the world for decades that the situation is worse than the worst-case scenario. But Australian National Party leader Michael McCormack knows far more about climate science and its effects on bushfires than some corrupt scientist. He knows more than the veteran fire chiefs who wrote warning letters to the Prime Minister seeking a meeting about what turned into the most destructive bushfires in living memory.

Lest we think this is limited to Morrison and his Menagerie of Muppets, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott once called climate change ‘absolute crap’. The fact that Mr. Abbott and his tribe of tin-eared tory troglodytes receive huge donations from the fossil fuel industry? Media bias! The more these people are proven wrong by research, facts and reality the more militant they become. Petulantly rearing up on their hind legs to protect the corporate structure that put them in office, they expose themselves.

Dunning-Kruger in Action, Part Two: The United States

Our northern cousins are by no means immune to the arrogant ignorance that is Dunning-Kruger. Whether it is Trump lying every time he opens his mouth or, in the most famous incident of Dunning-Kruger in recent memory, a Republican Senator brought a snowball into the Senate House to argue against climate change, they have their share. Corporate corruption is rife in the US as well, so it should come as no surprise that Dunning-Kruger is on full display over there.

The focus of the piece thus far has been climate change, and I do not apologise for that. The sheer destruction that this existential threat to the earth has caused recently has not shocked the non-existent consciences of these corporate streetwalkers into taking action. We continue to hear the same tired crap and observe the same feet-dragging. Conservatives are, as Buckley once defined them, those who stand athwart history yelling stop. In other words, progress is inevitable, and the job of the conservative, if they cannot prevent it, is to delay it as long as possible.

What these clowns either do not know or are ignoring is that progress has always happened and society has not only survived but thrived. Consider the movement from the horse-and-buggy to the automobile. Jobs related to the horse-and-buggy industry did become obsolete, that is true. But they were replaced by jobs in the new industry. The only reason these corporate whores will not legislate the move away from fossil fuels is that they are paid to preserve the industry. For this, they should be ashamed and consigned permanently to the scrapheap of history.

Conclusion: Dunning-Kruger and Political Discourse

The consequence of this ever-present cognitive bias for political discourse is marked. Sound political discourse should be about the facts. The Dunning-Kruger Effect, whose sufferers have their own facts that they cling to with an arrogance befitting an ill-informed child, is not conducive to constructive discourse. All humans have cognitive biases, but these men (and it often is men) are disconnected from reality to such an extent that conversation with them is no longer profitable. They are not open to facts either because they believe the uninformed drivel they spew or they are paid to say it. Unless and until corporate/private money is banned as a source of campaign funds, western countries will continue to be governed by their respective Dunning-Kruger Parties.

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Albo in The Lion’s Den: The Sky Interview, Part Two

We pick up with Mr. Albanese and the trained monkey already in progress

Interview, Part Five: Albo Stumbles 

Asked if his policy would involve a higher reduction target than the government (itself a nonspecific question – reduction from what year’s levels?), Mr Albanese offered the following non-answer

We will take climate change seriously

Nope – not good enough, Mr. Opposition Leader. Stick to your guns if you hope to be taken seriously. He then made the following extraordinary statement

I’m trying to be generous to them [the Morrison government]. Hopefully, they’ll wake up tomorrow and go, ‘There could be something in this climate change thing’ and take action.

Yes – and hell might freeze over too. The Tories will never take action on this issue because they are paid not to. Money talks, Mr. Albanese, and everything else walks. This is, I suspect, part of the reason people see you as weak. You speak of hope that these bought and paid for streetwalkers for corporate Australia will see the light because – what – one of them read something? The only way to get a Tory to care about an issue is for it to affect them personally! Until one of their (many) houses burns down, they will not care a fig for this issue! Play hard politics, Sir. Take their arrogant inaction on this global threat and break them with it!

Interview, Part Six: The Recovery

Asked about his support for the Adani mining project, Mr. Albanese said that it was a project by a private company and not the government. In other words, politicians’ opinions are irrelevant. An artful dodge, but in response to the trained monkey’s question about Labor losing support in Queensland for being ‘wishy-washy on supporting our [Queensland’s] coal industry’, Alabo did offer this very useful piece of insight

People in Queensland and everywhere else who are involved in the industry know that the industry…continues to provide. The questions that you had before about our target, be it our emissions reduction target or renewable energy target. If you have got a 50 per cent renewable energy target, by definition, there’s 50 per cent coming from fossil fuels. So, let’s be realistic there about what the framework is domestically and internationally. Of course, there will continue to be coal exports.

Right. This is a good retort to the strawman that climate policy seeks to eliminate coal by Thursday. The point is transition rather than immediate, radical action. The jobs that are connected to the coal industry would be phased out over time as the industry is phased out. Retraining and income support for those no longer employed in the industry would be a necessary element of the transition policy. But full credit to Mr. Albanese here: he reframed the issue, confronted the strawman and gave a truthful, punchy response.

Interview, Part Seven: International Influence 

The next question concerned international influence in Australian domestic politics, with a focus on China. Albanese noted the carious difficulties that the Tories have had with gifts from Chinese representatives, specifically the infamous gold watches. He then said it was a ‘both sides of politics’ issue. Respectfully, Sir, there is a difference between Sam Dastyari and a minor incident involving paid travel (which he repaid but was forced to resign anyway because Labor exists) and Gladys Liu and the scandal around her. Degrees matter, Mr. Albanese. Attempts to influence Australian politics may impact both sides, but it is misleading (and overly generous to your opponents) to say ‘both sides do it’.

Conclusion: Labor Rebuilds

The last political question was about Labor’s rebuilding after the election loss in May of 2019, which Mr. Albanese dealt with in suitably lofty terms. It was not a bad answer, just the standard ‘we took a hard look at ourselves’ line that you hear from many parties rebuilding after an election loss. No mention of the media. No mention of the complete snowjob that they did on Bill Shorten. It was an entirely internal assessment. Sad, really.

Overall, a terrible series of loaded, misleading and horribly framed questions which the Sky website mined for soundbites to quote out of context. This propaganda outlet has no place in Australian political discourse.

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Albo Enters the Lion’s Den: The Sky Interview, Part One

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese (Albo) has, for some reason, spoken to Sky so-called News. I want to do an analysis of both his remarks and the interview itself. I have dealt with every aspect of the interview except the last question on Mr. Albanese’s family life, which I consider irrelevant to political discourse. This post is a monster so I have broken it up into two (hopefully) manageable chunks.

Interview, Part One: Franking Credits and Negative Gearing

In case it was not clear, Sky so-called News conducted this interview. It started with the following horribly framed question

Let’s talk about some of the unpopular policies that Labor took to the election. Franking credits. Reform of that in any form? Dead, buried, cremated?

The policies of the Labor Party were unpopular, you say? Nice poisoning of the well from the start there. Mr. Albanese correctly noted that the next election is not for two years (at least) and that it is not the job of the opposition to produce policies now. He went on to say that Labor would not be taking the same policy to the next election. Asked if that meant he would ‘grandfather’ franking credits to existing shareholders, he simply restated his original position. Typical politician speak, but somewhat justified in light of the terrible and openly right-wing framing of the question.

The next question dealt with negative gearing. Albanese effectively batted it away by saying that policy is decided in the shadow cabinet and caucus rooms.

Interview, Part Two: Health and Education

The right-wing propaganda continued with the Health and Education question

Let’s talk then about these billions more for health and education. Because I guess that argument kind of didn’t work. Do you think that you will be moving away from that, ‘get the tax here, spend billions more on health and education’ type of policy?

The propaganda is strong in this one. The ‘argument kind of didn’t work’ because the media was quite openly partial towards the Liberal Party and against the Labor party. The COALition’s ‘campaign’ in the last election can be summed up, appropriately enough, in a three-word slogan: We’re Not Them. Also, what does ‘get the tax here’ mean? What an utterly stupid statement. Expenditure is a function of revenue. Anything that the government funds, including the private school funding on which the LNP are so keen, comes out of tax. It is not merely Labor policies that cost money, you Sky so-called News hack.

Albo quite rightly responded to the question ‘Would you envisage no new taxes, no increase in taxes, on the platform you run with?’ by saying

I don’t shy away from the fact that in a civilised society, you need taxation in order to fund schools, in order to fund hospitals

Amen. Taxation, unpopular as it is, and despite conservative propaganda to the contrary, is necessary to fund society. The hypocrisy of the conservative movement on tax is not difficult to see. They are quite willing to fund their priorities using tax, but anything that does not somehow benefit them or their corporate mates magically finds its way into the too-hard (or too hard to fund) basket. They are not anti-tax, they are anti-tax on them and their mates. Mr. Albanese is right and the tories’ petulant clinging to their ‘trickle-down’ lie delegitimises them as a governing party.

Interview, Part Three: The Economy and the False God Surplus

For the next question, it is worth quoting the exchange in full from Mr. Albanese’s website

CLENNELL: Do you believe in surpluses?

ALBANESE: I of course believe in surpluses, but over a period of time.

CLENNELL: Over a period of time, not every single year?

ALBANESE: Well, it depends on the circumstances. Were we right to respond to the Global Financial Crisis in the way that we did? Yes. Should there be a surplus this year? Yes. Had Labor been elected, would we be having a surplus? Yes, we would.

Incredible, is it not? The idolatry around the false god Surplus is beyond absurd. There should be a surplus ‘every single year’? Such blind adherence does not account for natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks or anything that requires a government to spend a dollar more than it takes in. Mr. Albanese’s response was nuanced when he said that circumstances should dictate whether a surplus is justified. He fell off the wagon a bit when he said that there should be a surplus this year: the conditions in the economy do not appear to justify that, Sir. Buying into the conservative framework does not serve your purpose, Mr. Albanese.

Interview, Part Four a): Climate Change 

The loaded and misleading questions continue with this gem

Okay, let’s talk about climate change. Now, Scott Morrison has a point doesn’t he, when he says that no matter what we do on our own emissions on this front, China will take up that slack in just a few days. I mean, if you believe climate change is a major cause of the bushfires, which you do, aren’t we in serious trouble, no matter what happens in domestic politics?

Is Scott Morrison not right when he says… – seriously. This is what passes for journalism? The bias of Sky so-called News is remarkable. Even if Mr. Albanese said that climate change ’caused’ the bushfires, which I seriously doubt, that is wrong. A cause is that which, in the absence of which, something would not occur. Essentially, the fires would not have happened were it not for climate change. Nobody appears to have said that. The right-wing noise machine made that up.

In addition, there is a difference between establishing conditions for something to be much worse than it would have been and causing the event. The fire season began earlier and was more destructive because of climate change – that is an aggravating factor, not a cause. Finally, the idea that Australia is such a relatively minor contributor to global emissions is seriously flawed, and a multi-pronged rebuttal can be found here.

Mr. Albanese’s response was to rightly criticise the government, specifically Angus Taylor, for being what he called ‘a handbrake’ on global climate action by his actions at the recent Madrid climate conference. According to Mr. Albanese, Taylor partnered with Saudi Arabia to argue for less action.

Interview, Part Four b): More Climate Change

The trained monkey then asked this whopper

Okay, fair enough. But what’s wrong with you just saying now, which you’ve been reluctant to do in recent days, ‘We are sticking to this 45 per cent reduction target by 2030’? Why are you afraid of endorsing that target that you took to the election?

Albanese’s response was quite good, complete with a humorous reference to Doctor Who

That was in 2015. That was a 2015 target established for 15 years’ time. Guess what, Andrew? There’s no Tardis. I can’t go back in time and say in 2022 our 15-year target will be very different, by the way, 15 years from 2022 is 2037, not 2030.

Albo is quite right: no TARDIS here. The question is also either intentionally misleading or just plain stupid: 45% reduction target from 2015, clown. Thanks to the last six years of tory government, Australia’s emissions have actually increased, so to meet the target set in 2015 would actually require a more aggressive policy than the ALP previously announced. Also, unlike the tories, Labor policy tends to adapt to circumstances rather than being taken as a holy writ to which reality must adapt. Counter-intuitive, I know.

More of Mr. Albanese and this trained monkey in Part Two

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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 should not. 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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